Im new to Elite so sorry if that suggestion will annoy you by some randy trying to change the game, I recently got into space games and really liked the idea of diffrent type of drones, AI helping playing out in diffrent activities (mining/salvage drones in games like EVE). What if devs would improve AI system and add new mechanics to NPCs and give us more supporters and companion in our journey?
Atm we only have fighter pilots with very limited usage imo, you deploy them and they fight till they are alive / you want them too, there is little interaction / progress to training them other than few combat ranks and simple command system.
Maybe adding more specialized drones or ship lauchned ships with pilots / AI operating them would be nice idea?
For example your mining ship could carry smaller mining ship inside which could be managed by NPC whos specialized in mining, you would get these NPC like you do now but they would specialize at diffrent things and flying diffrent ships, you could add leveling system so there is progression to it and more content, for example your mining buddy starts as little laser miner, mining slow and not really efficient, wasting limpits etc but if you decide to level him up he gets better at it, than you can expand it even more like make him continue laser mining or start learning and specialize in deep core, that could also add more costumization to types of ships used by ur buddy and maybe even ability to outfit/engineer them.
These support ships could do diffrent roles like:
• collector ships – which would get salvage, materials, stuff you mine etc
• mining ships – assisting you in mining
• emergancy ships – refueling / field repairs (something for fuel rats)
• discovery ships – for exploreres scanning stuff, thargoids, helping at guardian sites etc
• fighters – helping in combat
• electronic combat ships (debuffers) – combat support not doing direct dmg but maybe decresing targets sensor power for example etc
each type of ship would require NPC pilot specialized in each type, leveling would allow them to use more advanced versions of ships / modules and improve their effectiveness at doing these jobs.
These pilots would be optional system/additional grind for people who choose some automatization (I love NPC followes in games), also adding simmilar system with drones but these wouldnt have levels/grind they would be less efficient but working instantly simmilar to limpits with some improvements so you could choose grind n effectivness or instant little help.
Ofc these things would require a lot of balancing, we dont want fleet carrier type builds spamming these AI guys/drones breaking things such as combat or any activity or breaking economy by making AFK farmers etc. Stuff done manually should be more rewarding and efficicient in the end as player spends their time, effort and skill to do these things. Fully maxed out NPC pilot in good build ship should be slighlty less efficient/as efficient as average/above average/good player) reaching that point of maxed NPC would require lots of grind so that should keep things balanced.
This shouldnt be must or meta, just another way to play the game, you should be able to ignore entire system and still not miss on anything like being less efficiient by ignoring system.
(also place for new ship producers company specialized in making ships with bigger hangars, drone carriers etc = more ships for players + more lore 😉 )
What do you guys think? Stuff I suggested seems really impossible to implement now when I look at it but maybe some dev will randomly read part of it and make even super simple version of it 🤪