The terrain would be different than planets without atmospheres due to erosion.
The atmosphere would consist of volumetric clouds. Some planets would have fluids on the surface such as seas, lakes and rivers.
Volcanic planets and gas giants would require some form of atmosphere. The outermost portion of a gas giant has a hydrogen atmosphere with many layers of visible clouds that are mostly composed of water and ammonia.
Many thin atmospheric planets would be lifeless and uninhabited. There could be primitive plant life such as mosses, fungi, lichen and bacteria. Some atmospheric planets would have alien ecologies with diverse colored flora.
On colonized planets there'd be cityscapes. This could be added with procedural generation for procedural cities.
On December 14, 2012, David Braben explained the development plan “What I want to see down on the planet is interesting things, cityscapes, even animals, live trees, being a big game hunter. All of the things that we’ve been very ,very excited about for a long time, we want to be able to realize. The amount of work required to create those things is so huge we want to do it properly. What’s really important is we do each of these things really well. So that sort of thing won’t be included on day one. We don’t want it to be a dull experience where you just go down, you get essentially exactly the same experience wherever you land." “we’ve designed the game with that capability in mind going forward and at a later date we’ll gradually add more functionality to allow you to do that and the game’s richness will gradually increase."
Newsletter #29 confirms that "Accessing richly detailed planetary surfaces" is part of the development plans. In Newsletter #32 confirms "Major new features will include planetary landings and even walking around inside ships, stations, and planet surfaces with time."
In 2016, during an AMA with David Braben, this question was asked "Is there a small team doing any preliminary work on atmosphere landings / walking (in stations etc) currently being looked at? As it is almost there for walking in station..." Braben said "Yes. We have ongoing work on planets, including atmospheres, planetary life, walking about and lots of other very exciting things for the future."
During a Charity Livestream, David Braben commented that atmospheric planets won't be coming "anytime soon".
On June 15 2017 community manager Dale Emasiri said "Having spoken to our team at E3, atmospheric landings remains something we are still working towards and the whole studio, including David, is very keen to implement. We'd like to be able to give you an idea of the rough timeframe for it, but unfortunately that’s not possible at the moment - we don’t want to make potentially empty promises to you."
- ↑ Elite Dangerouss Development Plan https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EM0Gcl7iUM8
- ↑ http://us2.campaign-archive2.com/?u=dcbf6b86b4b0c7d1c21b73b1e&id=1824c0b05a#Lifetime%20Exps
- ↑ http://us2.campaign-archive1.com/?u=dcbf6b86b4b0c7d1c21b73b1e&id=ac1081437f&e=0439f6773e#launch%20and%20beyond
- ↑ https://www.reddit.com/r/EliteDangerous/comments/4l4f3c/ask_him_anything_david_braben_cocreator_of_elite/d3k7yei/?st=j35wmw0a&sh=095f6542
- ↑ https://forums.frontier.co.uk/showthread.php/357883-Gamerevolution-com-5-Important-Things-I-Learned-about-Elite-Dangerous-at-E3-2017-Including-Atmospheric-Planet-Landings?p=5615953#post5615953