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Basics

Patience is a virtue. One you must posses if you're ever going to get anywhere in Frontier: Elite 2. This basic guide has been designed to help beginners start the game, as the first time you load it up it can all seem a bit complicated. Sections on this page:

Control panel

Most of the game options in Frontier are selected through the icons on the control panel. The numbers of these correspond with the F keys on your keyboard, though most people just use the mouse to click on them. Below is a table of the first icons you are likely to see. They're pretty simple. Some of the options will present you with further menus, such as the galactic map. Once you've been playing a while you'll soon get to know what each icon does.

Viewing options Galactic map Ship status Communication link
Select between three views of your ship: internal towards front and rear, and external. Select the galactic map to reveal associated options. Ship status: toggles between your information, crews, missions, cargo etc. Contact anyone in the near vicinity, or the port you're docked at. If docked, leads to the shipyard and stockmarket, amongst others.
Engine modes Hyperspace Undercarriage Text option
Engine mode select icon. The hyperspace icon. Will be blank if a jump isn't possible. Undercarriage options. Can be raised or lowered. Option for displaying identifying text on nearby space stations and ships.

The rest of the information is self-explanatory. The 'fast forward' settings represent your stardreamer to speed up time on lengthy trips. The central scanner and HUD is controlled with F5, and as you fit weapons to your ship the respective icons will appear there. The HTML manual for Frontier contains much more detailed explanations of all the icons.

Ship's meters

Ship's meters

The cabin temperature meter should rarely even register. Only if you attempt to exit or enter a planet's atmosphere without atmospheric shielding will you begin to feel the heat.

Amount of fuel in your internal fuel tanks Temperature of your laser(s) Cabin temperature meter

I'll now walk you through Frontier, from the moment you load up the game. My suggested starting off point is always Mars. You'll feel at home in the Sol system.

Familiarise

The starting menu

'Start screen'

After the intro movie subsides, this is the start menu that you are presented with. Quite simple really. Ross 154 is the recommended start point, and the Lave one is a homage to the original Elite. At Lave you'll start with a far superior craft to the other two options (a Cobra Mk. III) but you'll have other worries. The Starting off page will help you out when it comes to getting established. For now, select the second option.

Initial view

'Initial view'

You'll now see clear blue skies, and the green grass of Mars (terraformed in the 2290s). This is the Solar System, home of humanity. Since it's the Federal capital of the known universe, it's pretty safe. There are no pirates here. Your ship is an Eagle Long Range Fighter (Mk. I). Not the best ship there is, but still capable of some decent speeds. The crosshairs represent two things: your direction of thrust and the target of your laser(s). Notice how icon 7 has a warning sign on it. This is because you haven't been cleared to launch. To get clearance, use the telephone icon.

Clearance granted

'Clearance granted'

Now that clearance is granted, you may take off. Thanks to the wonders of modern computing this is a simple task. There's no chocks to be cleared away. Just activate your engines with F7 and you'll blast up to a safe distance. Angle your craft towards the sky, raise your undercarriage and thrust away. The Enter key will control forward thrust. 'Manual' engines basically means that your ship will control thrust according to the speed you set (see the 'Set Speed' reading). This in effect stablisises your ship somewhat. 'Engines Off' is a slight misnomer. All engine activity does indeed cease, but you now have full control over the thrusting. Enter and Shift keys control forward and backwards respectively. Personally, Engines Off is a much more fun way to fly around, especially near planet surfaces. However, you're far more susceptible to gravity without the balancing effect of 'Manual', so make sure you maintain altitude.

Panorama

'Panorama'

Once you've been flying a few seconds, switch to the rear view (F1) and take in the scenery. Nice, simple graphics reveal some cloud formations. Possibly cumulonimbus. Try taking your ship down again, above the space port.

Illegal fire

'Illegal fire'

If you fire your lasers (Space Bar or combination mouse buttons) in the vicinity of a populated here, whether it's a space station or a space port on land, you'll be fined. Since it's such a dangerous thing to do, the Police will probably launch to take you down.

Having fun with the Police is my favourite activity in Frontier.

RIP

'RIP'

Sooner or later you'll be dead. It's quite easy to take at least 20 Police Vipers with you but eventually a lowly Eagle can only take so much punishment. Let's start over. This time, don't ask for clearance. Look around the services a space port offers.

Welcome Commander

'Welcome Commander'

Believe it or not, the miserable git looking at you is sincere in his greeting. Salutations aside, there's the shipyard (with a showroom, repair facility, spare parts and the local police desk), the bulletin board system (BBS) and the stockmarket. All are interesting, so let's explore more.

Transactions

Shipyard

'Shipyard'

In the shipyard you can upgrade your ship with new parts, whether utilitarian, luxurious or aggressive in their intent. You can have your ship serviced (and washed, I hope) or you can even trade in your vessel for a different model. Shipyards vary in the parts they offer and the quality of the fitting and repairs. The more affluent systems will offer a wider range of fittings for your ship and better services. Always service your ship at a reputable shipyard. For example, Mars High (Sol) or Peters Base (Facece). Your ship and its equipment will last longer. Ships should be serviced about twice a year. Don't worry, you won't have to pass an MOT to get your ship space-worthy.

Crew hiring

'Crew hiring'

Every day at midnight (Galactic Mean Time) the bulletin board is updated. If you're waiting to hire crew members, their ads may appear. In Frontier, you have a reputation. Such acts as giving to charity will increase it, as will diligently performing your duty (for example, delivering a passenger on time). However, it is a very bad idea to fire a member of your crew. Your reputation will suffer badly. If you repeat this several times, it will take you a very long time (sometimes years) to hire crew members again.

When it comes to hiring crew 'give them what they want'. Always pay a 20 Credit wage. It seems this gal isn't stimulated by cargo runs. Many crew members post ads laden with innuendo. If you read between the lines, this crew member is offering her 'services' to you very discreetly, providing you pay her the maximum wage. Maybe you should take her to Riedquat for a damned good time? Sometimes, getting crew members can be a long and tedious process. Since it's related to your reputation, donate a few thousand to a charity of your choice if you're having trouble finding willing applicants to join your ship's company.

Donating

'Donating'

Your reputation, as aforementioned, is based on how you treat people and how well you perform services. Delivering a package six weeks late or sacking 12 crew members won't do your reputation any favours. A reduced reputation means people aren't willing to trust you with missions or even work for you. Increasing your reputation, thankfully, is easy enough. No need to go off galavanting trying to deliver people everywhere. Just use a quick fix method, but be prepared to open your wallet.

All you need to do is donate money to a good cause, such as the 'Historical Buildings Fund', 'Save Our Species' and other such charities found on the BBS of many starports. You need to donate a lot of money - at least a 10,000 payment - for it to have any affect. It does work though, and if you ever find people denying you something just do this and they'll accept. Once people trust you, a good reputation will bring other benefits. You may be able to get 10% more money for delivery missions or ask for half the money in advance. If you succeed in transporting passengers by their requested time somewhere without taking too much damage to your ship your reputation will also grow considerably.

Passengers

'Passengers'

Passengers want to be delivered to their destination in one month or less. If they get impatient, they will tell you so, leave at the next starport and refuse to pay. The main problem is that your reputation will suffer badly and future passengers may even refuse to be transported by you, although you can persuade them sometimes by asking several times. You should be careful with passengers that tell you that they owe someone money. Likewise don't trust someone who tells you they are being chased since they will most probably refuse to pay at the destination port.

For three systems you will need a permit to enter. The only way to get a permit is to transport a passenger or parcel to such a system; the military authorities always assume that you already have a permit.

Sometimes, passengers may stay occupying your cabins if you failed to deliver them. This means you cannot sell your ship or remove the cabin and the only way to get out of this situation is to launch an escape pod from your ship and re-dock. You'll lose your ship but at least you'll be able to buy a new one.

Ships old & new, bought & sold

'Ships old & new, bought & sold'

Buying ships is a similar affair. Choose correctly and check you have, or can easily get, sufficient crew members to man it. Make sure that you have enough money to properly equip it. Choose one with a vibrant colour and a catchy registration, like a silver Cobra Mk. III I once owned with registration SX-101. The Lion is a pretty daft ship. However, this metallic blue XI-353 will make a fine purchase. Don't judge a ship by the size of its guns but by the skill of its crew!

Welcome to Tesco

'Welcome to Tesco'

Before any flight, get 'stocked up'. Your first priority is to work out how much fuel you need for your trip, and then add a couple of tonnes for good measure. Make sure you refuel your internal tanks before buying. When I was a young Commander I was racked with paranoia and used to always carry a couple of tonnes of spare oxygen and water "just in case". Notice the range of items on offer. Imagine if they were all thrown into your cargo hold pell-mell. You'd have slaves floating around in liquor shooting at each other with battle weapons!

The stock level indicated on the console is that on the stockmarket, not the private market which has its own separate holding. Prices are brought to you by Zebulon Intergalactic Trading Corporation (ZITCO), and are updated each midnight Galactic Mean Time (GMT). Prices are changed every midnight which may be a bit frustrating. If you are in a hurry use the time control icons to activate the Stardreamer and speed up time. Playing the stockmarket is the easiest way to become rich. Always check the major imports listed of your destination system, and if they match the major exports of your current system, then load up to sell them for a profit once you arrive. Simple eh?

Don't forget the basics!

'Don't forget the basics!'

Always remember to fit your ship with atmospheric shielding. It isn't a standard fitting on any ship. Attempting to fly without it when on a planet with an atmosphere (like Earth) causes your hull to disintegrate after exposure to the engines of your ship. Unless you fly extremely slowly your ship will just burn up on entry, or exit. Notice this in the picutre. The cabin temperature meter is rising as the the heat increases, causing the ship to smoke.

Escape Pods

Escape Pod launched

'Escape pod launched'

An Escape pod is a prudent upgrade to your ship. Many prefer to just reload their game when something tragic happens, but the real thrill of combat is the inherent risk that you'll yourself lose your ship. All is not lost. If you can find your way to a space port in that system (Escape pods have an interplanetary drive only) you'll receive an Eagle as part of the pod's insurance policy. (There is always an Eagle available at the nearest starport whenever you use your escape pod. Small world huh?)

Should you find yourself in a sticky situation (think Sticky the Stick Insect stuck on a Sticky Bun) you can abandon ship by pressing X, or clicking the appropriate icon on your Heads-Up-Display. As shown in the picture, your pod will then clear the vicinity of your ship and announce its presence to all and sundry with a large flashing yellow beacon. Escape pods do come fitted with atmospheric shielding and an autopilot, but if you find yourself in a system without habitation, you're stranded forever. Escape pods are not capable of breaching hyperspace. They are also designed to launch automatically when your craft is destroyed.

Escape pods can be purchased at most affluent starports, but can carry one passenger only. ("For the love of God there are two seats!" "I like to put my feet up.") Once you eject, your ship (and crew & cargo if you have any) are lost forever. It's a harsh universe.

Be careful when launching the pod. It is easy to crash back into your own ship!

Military Drives

Military intelligence

'Military intelligence'

Please excuse the oxymoronic nature of the title. The picture shows what is actually a damn fine craft. A military spec Viper, with a Class 3 Military Drive and all the trimmings. It will be capable of a mammoth 27 light year jump range. It's the ultimate craft to hunt anyone down, which is why the Police use them.

Are military drives worth it? Well, it depends really. The advantages to them, as you can see from the pic, are quite useful indeed. A military drive is faster (useful if you are involved in a lot of police chases and need fast acceleration), lighter and offers a greater jump range. The main advantage here is that a smaller ship can carry a Class 3 Military Drive which offers the same jump range as a Class 4 Standard, with it only taking up half the space. With regards to the Viper, a Class 4 Standard wouldn't even fit in the ship.

Despite this, powering your ship with a military drive has its drawbacks. The fuel they consume is of a higher specification and is therefore more expensive. Military drives are also not available in the outer systems, and subsequently you won't be able to get yours serviced, or even refuelled. Also, when one tonne of military fuel is consumed it is converted into one tonne of radioactives, the waste product of the reaction. Radioactives are not only illegal in many systems (you'll be heavily fined if caught), they're also hard to get rid of. To jettison them is also illegal (though you won't get caught if far enough out) and you'll have to pay to have someone take them off your hands, whether it's a legitimate stockmarket or a black marketeer.

So, are they worth it? It's up to you. Pilots who stick to the core systems and are employed in military missions are advised to use one. Otherwise, use a standard drive. You can refuel for free if you use a fuel scoop.

Information on dumping radioactives.

(Making a) Hyperspace (jump)

Selecting a system

'Selecting a system'

Make sure you have sufficient fuel for a hyperspace jump, and the necessary drive fitted to your ship. You can hyperspace out of a system anywhere as long as it isn't too close to a space port or station. Select a system by moving the selector (using the cursor keys) and hovering above it. When a system is selected it will become highlighted and the required fuel will appear on screen. As this happens, an extra icon ('System info') appears. Press F6 or click the icon and information on that system (such as population, allegiance etc) appears. It is here that you can check a system's imports and exports, and illegal items. Very useful indeed.

System information screen

'System information screen'

As you can see, lots of information is available on the systems, especially the core ones. With Sol, shown here, a brief background paragraph is included. Select the other icons to access political and economic standings as well. Outer systems won't be documented as thoroughly, if at all.

Prepare to jump

'Prepare to jump'

Now that your desired system is selected, and providing you have enough fuel and the correct drive, you are almost ready for the jump. Launch your ship (remembering to ask for clearance) and fly up towards space. At around 11,000m altitude the hyperspace icon (F8) appears. Activate it. You will now enter hyperspace (a.k.a 'witchspace').

Hyperspace

'Hyperspace'

This is what you will see as your ship travels through hyperspace. Once you exit hyperspace, and providing your jump was successful, you will arrive in your desired system. Now you will need to fly safely to the nearest starport. To do this, press F2 (the system icon) twice and you will be presented with the profile of the system, where you can select a planet to fly to.

Information on hyperspace mis-jumps.

(Using the) Autopilot

Select a planet

'Select a planet'

Use zoom to locate your desired planet (or space station, which orbit planets). Double-clicking on a target zooms there instantly. Here I will zoom in on Birminghamworld. What a strange name for a planet. Let us hope there is no relation in appearance.

Select a target

'Select a target'

Press F10 (or click the icon with the red shape on it), and you can then select a target for your autopilot system. Click, say, a starport and you now have it programmed in to your autopilot. Press F1 or click the ship view icon to return to the standard view.

Autopilot engage

'Autopilot engage'

You can now select an extra engine option, that of 'Autopilot'. Once activated your ship will automatically fly you to your destination. If it's a space port, you'll automatically be cleared and docked. Once autopilot is engaged activate the stardreamer to accelerate the passage of time.

Many autopilots are known to be buggy. They will often crash you into planets, burn you up in atmospheres and simply malfunction to fly you around in circles. Autopilot will always try to reach a target in a straight line. If there is a planet between you and your target, the autopilot will happily try to fly through the planet, crashing you in the process. If you don't want to risk crashes because of high gravity or other mishaps that could confuse your autopilot you should always reduce time acceleration when nearing the target. Once you're competent with Frontier you should try not to use the autopilot at all, but for beginners it is an essential piece of equipment, no matter how flawed.

If you are over 7AU from your target (that's my recommended distance for doing this), try coasting with engines off and thrusting (by pressing Enter). You will speed up dramatically-- this method is useful for making military mission deadlines. Make sure you switch back to autopilot in time to slow your ship down, ideally right near the planet on approach, or you can grind to a halt manually by turning your ship round and giving maximum thrust. You'll then suddenly slow down and make your destination, usually at least a day or so ahead if you'd let the autopilot fly you. This is because the autopilot will start decelerating you halfway to your destination point, whereas this trick accelerates you all the way there, and somehow you can still get to your target by quickly engaging autopilot. This method is in fact cheating.

Saving & Loading

Saving your game

'Saving your game'

The Golden Rule of the Elite games is to save often. Ideally, try and save at least after every hyperspace jump. Or before, in case it misjumps. Pressing Escape twice will bring up the screen to save and load games. F8 will save, or clicking the appropriate icon (the one with arrow writing to the disk). Name your game accordingly. The game name should appear, as in the picture, in your list. Remember to create in your Frontier game directory a folder called "commandr" for save game storage. Of course, you may save to floppy disk or whatever, if you so wish.

Game saved

'Game saved'

Your game is now saved, and you may resume your game by pressing F1. To load a previously saved game, simply select it from the list by clicking on it and press F7 (the icon showing an arrow reading from the disk). The game will then load up, if it is a valid file.