Development will continue on Elite: Dangerous after the 16 December release date, and one of the earlier priorities will be player wings. That means they won’t be in at launch, but according to developer Sandro Sammarco, the feature “should hit early next year.”
From what I can gather, player wings are a more advanced form of basic multiplayer grouping. The intent when people are in a “wing” together is that they behave as a single entity and make travel jumps together. It would presumably remove ‘friendly fire’ penalties too. Potentially (though this isn’t confirmed,) wings can also function as a way of splitting bounties between members of a group.
Here’s a summary of what Frontier has planned:
* enhanced matchmaking for wingmen
* enhanced/clear feedback for who and where wingmen are
* shared information within the wing
* shared bounties and mission rewards
* on-going mission support for wing gameplay
Earlier design documents for Elite: Dangerous also implied that AI wings would be a hiring option for single player mode (and that some might even betray you.) That part isn’t confirmed for release yet. These multiplayer “wings” are more like alliances.
Sammarco also says that an increased ship roster will be one of the first post-launch areas to get some attention.
In related news, the 52nd edition of the Elite: Dangerous newsletter has been released today. It contains a very short Vine-based teaser for the upcoming ‘launch’ trailer. You can view that over here.
That’s accompanied by a hefty bit of lore about a possible war of succession in the Imperial faction. It implies that there’ll be in-game repercussions from this in-fighting:
“On 16 December, the first shockwaves from this battle for the Imperial succession will finally hit the galaxy at large. How you choose to respond will have a direct bearing on the ultimate outcome.”