Elite Dangerous' long-awaited multi-ship Fleet Carriers are, after many delays, almost upon us – and better yet, their eye-watering running and upkeep costs, revealed last month, have now been dramatically reduced, following push-back from players during the current beta.
Fleet Carriers, for the uninitiated, function as "mobile starships and trading hubs capable of transporting multiple allies", and can accommodate up to 16 players. They don't, however, come cheap and will cost a Commander 5,000,000,000 credits for the privilege of owning the basic model – placing them firmly in the domain of cash-rich players only.
And as if that initial outlay wasn't enough of a financial drain, players are also expected to pay weekly maintenance fees for operating Fleet Carriers, plus running costs for Optional Services, and still more money for the likes of restocking and commodity purchasing.
Making matters worse, as per Frontier's initial reveal, those unable to keep up with these massive payments risk seeing their initial 5,000,000,000 investment vanish forever as Fleet Carriers are deleted under the guise of outstanding "debt" after only a handful weeks. Suffice to say, Fleet Carriers as originally announced sounded more like a time-hoovering live service nightmare than an even remotely enjoyable piece of game design.
However, following feedback accrued from players during Elite Dangerous' first Fleet-Carrier-focussed beta, Frontier has made the decision to dramatically reduce upkeep and running costs for the new vessels by a combined total of 85.5%. That's an 80-90% reduction of upkeep costs for all additional services and a 50% reduction for core running costs. Total upfront activation costs of certain services have also been reduced by 35-45%.
"Fleet Carriers represent a big investment, with a lot of crew and resources involved," the developer wrote in a new forum post outlining beta changes due this week, "After hearing your concerns, we've reduced the upkeep to a more sustainable level."
In addition to a reduction in costs, Frontier has also made adjustments to the debt threshold. Fleet Carrier owners can now go much longer – 10 weeks rather than the initial 4 – without paying upkeep before a final warning is issued. The developer says this should "relieve the pressure of carrier management, leaving more time for focus on other activities."
Players will be able to experience all these changes – plus a reduction in the time required for jump preparation and cool-down (which fall to 15 minutes and 5 minutes respectively) – as part of the ongoing Beta 1, which wraps up on 20th April.
Two additional sought-after changes – the addition of Universal Cartographics as an optional Fleet Carrier service and the doubling of Tritium fuel efficiency – will be implemented for the second beta, which will be open to console players as well as those on PC, in May. All being well, Fleet Carriers are expected to arrive in the live game in June.