A screenshot showing a ship docking in the space-based video game Elite: Dangerous.
© Frontier Developments

9 tips to get started in the massive world of Elite: Dangerous

Starting out in Elite: Dangerous is a daunting task, but with these pointers you can be a space master in a matter of hours.
Written by Mike Stubbs
6 min readPublished on
Elite: Dangerous is a truly massive game, one that we've spent more hours than we would care to admit in. Even then, there feels like there's so much left to do. There's literally a galaxy to explore and a ton of ways you can go about it, whether you opt to be an evil space pirate or just a peaceful explorer looking to discover some new planets.
For those of us who've played a lot of Elite: Dangerous, it's easy to think about what we want to do next. We might want a new ship, we might be trying to uncover aliens or even embarking on a journey to the edge of the galaxy to try and save a doomed comrade. But for those players who are just starting out in this massive world, it's easy to feel a little daunted.
There's little in the way of guidance for most new players and that can often mean some don't really know where to start, what to do or what the unspoken rules of the galaxy are. That's where we come in. If you’re just starting Elite: Dangerous journey, we've got you covered with these tips on how to play and what to do in your first few days.

1. Your first task is the tutorials

Elite isn't the friendliest game to newcomers, but that doesn't mean you should be skipping the tutorials. They may not give you an exact guide on how to do everything, but they do teach you the basics and a lot of this is stuff you'd never figure out on your own.
Sure, the tutorials can be a little slow and we all want to get into the main game as soon as possible, but it really is a good idea to do them first off. The last thing you want is to end up in some kind of dog fight only to realise you have no idea how to actually fire a weapon or lock onto a target.

2. Learn to dock

There's an auto docking computer available for you once you get into the swing of things, but that takes away the fun of learning to dock. Docking is something you'll do thousands of times across your journey and for the first thousand times you'll probably suck. It really can be quite difficult and the penalties for a bad dock can be high. Once you manage to master it, though, you start to feel like a god of space. We're also really weird and quite enjoy docking, but even if you hate it with a passion, learning to do it in the early days makes it a lot easier to get around safely. Do not put this off.
A screenshot of a ship docking in the video game Elite: Dangerous.

Docking can be a tough task

© Frontier Developments

3. Get into some combat

You can theoretically play Elite and never engage in combat, but there's a good chance that at some point you're going to have to do just that and it can become quite a profitable business should you pursue it. That's why you need to get used to combat from day one. Search for some low level bounties, engage a few foes and if you get interdicted by some evil pirates, maybe try and take them out. Much like docking, learning to fight well is a good idea.

4. Go exploring

In the early days of Elite, exploring the galaxy meant that you could find planets and solar systems no one else had ever seen, and that would bring in some serious cash. But these days a lot of the galaxy has already been discovered so the cash bounties are diminished. That doesn't mean you can't make some money just pottering around and taking a look at the different planets and suns. Elite can be really pretty, too so this is well worth a go.

5. Use the mission board

So, you've learnt to fly, dock, kill bad guys and have looked at the sun, but now what? Well that's simple: when you feel like you need more direction in your space-faring life, you head to the mission board in a Star Station and look for something you can do. Some missions will involve moving cargo, others may need you to get a resource or take someone out. This is an easy way to make some money and give your early play time some purpose. Keep doing these until you start to see the path you want to take.

6. Trade

If you can get good at trading, then you can become very rich very quickly and doing missions pretty much gives you all you need to get started. When you head to a space port, look at what they produce in this system and what's very common. These items will be pretty cheap to buy so stock up if you can. Then you just have to take them to a system where that item is rare and you can make some good profit. 
In the early stages this is pretty limited, as the short distances you can travel rarely change what's common and what's rare, but getting started on the trading ladder will set you up well for the future.

7. Get yourself a cabin ASAP

Regardless of the career path you choose when up in the stars, there's no doubt that a lot of your time will be spent going from space port to space port and that's especially true if you plan to trade. This means that you can also kill two birds with one stone and effectively become an intergalactic taxi as well. The mission board will offer you contracts to take people from one place to another and these can become very lucrative, but you'll need to get a cabin before you can take advantage of these. A lot of the time you can get a taxi contract and then make some extra money by trading when you get there, so this really is a win-win.

8. Learn to use the map

Once you start out on these missions, you're going to need to travel to other systems. But with just a Sidewinder to get you there, you may hit a few snags along the road. The starting ship has a pretty small jump distance so sometimes you can find yourself having to take very long routes to get to your destination. So before you accept any contract, make sure you head to the map and plan a route to the destination. If it's going to take you days then pass that up and look a little closer to home.

9. Set your goals

We can sit here and say that by the end of your first week you should have seven billion credits in the bank and every ship known to man, but that's unrealistic for most people. To really get the most out of Elite, you have to set your own goals. They could be as simple as making a few credits by the end of the week or they could be loftier goals, such as buying a new upgrade or even a new ship entirely. After a few hours of pottering around, you should have a feel of what kind of thing you want to do so set an achievable goal and aim for it.