Cobra Mk 3
September 19, 2009 9:51 AM   Subscribe

This month marks the 25th aniversary of Elite, the groundbreaking 3D space trading game. The making of Elite. More on the making of Elite from The Backroom Boys. Emulate the original BBC Micro version. The Dark Wheel.
posted by Artw (29 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Though the BBC B Microcomputer is of course the proper platform for playing Elite Ian Bell actually recommends the NES version. I'm not usre playing it on a game console would have quite the same illicit thrill as misusing educational equipment to play the game (you'd have to be some insuferable posho knobend to own your own BBC, of course, real kids had the Speccy or the C=64).
posted by Artw at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2009 [3 favorites]

you'd have to be some insuferable posho knobend to own your own BBC

I heard that, you horrible plebeian. Enjoy touch-typing on your rubber keyboard.

25 years, and still nothing quite like it. Oolite's a pretty good GPL'd version, BTW.
posted by Leon at 10:14 AM on September 19, 2009

Elite. What a game. A long trek, fleeing trouble, searching for a place to trade, practising docking. Then a friendly star cluster, with some nice price differentials between certain goods. A routine, buying and selling, plying the same route - the earliest game I knew that felt like a job, before I knew what a job was, and yet I still wanted to play. Eventually, the credits built up, and you could buy better lasers, autodock equipment, some nice toys ... and then you could get your good for free, with the old directed-plasma discount, firing into a fleeing ship retroburners, listening to the burbling electronic noise of the weapons and the harsh buzz of contact against a target hull, waiting for that sweet moment when it burst like a ripe seed pod. Accelerating into the expanding cloud of debris, chasing those hexagonal cargo containers from the destroyed ship, watching the screen for other targets, or the police. Eventually, a jump, each time with the lurking thought ... what if I end up in Witch Space ...

Just a perfect game.
posted by WPW at 10:34 AM on September 19, 2009 [4 favorites]

The C64 version of this kicked arse over everything else at the time; arcade games included. I remember being impressed as hell that that many lines could be rendered so smoothly in realtime. Of course the processors at the time had clock speeds measured in MHz rather than GHz, so it was impressive then. You kids with your voxels and your shaders and GPUs and subpixel doodads, don't know what REAL coding is, etc. etc...
posted by Hardcore Poser at 10:44 AM on September 19, 2009

25 years, wow! No other video game has ever quite matched the experience of docking in Elite. Getting lined up, matching rotation, slowly easing in. Getting the auto-dock capability was a big upgrade, worth spending your hard-earned money for. Eve Online is in many ways just a really fancy version of Elite. Docking's too easy though.
posted by Nelson at 11:07 AM on September 19, 2009

The BBC disk image is 52k...
posted by Artw at 11:09 AM on September 19, 2009

Although I've never played the first Elite (I once found it on a disc and tried it, but could never figure out the controls), I've spent countless hours playing its sequel, Frontier. Now that was a kick-ass game. It had fucking realistic physics - meaning that if you turned your ship around while going 100 000 km/s, you would still be going in the same direction at 100 000 km/s, except with your back towards the direction you were moving in; all planets and stars had realistic gravity, and so on. On top of that, there was, I think, and infinite number of stars and planets to visit, spaceports on the planets and so on. It was also a very beautiful game, I must add.
posted by daniel_charms at 11:28 AM on September 19, 2009

"you'd have to be some insuferable posho knobend to own your own BBC, of course, real kids had the Speccy or the C=64"
"I heard that, you horrible plebeian. Enjoy touch-typing on your rubber keyboard."

Ah, the 8-bit rivalries will never die! I played Elite for hours on the Spectrum, it managed to be fairly easy to get into yet at the same time made space feel vast, cold and hostile.
And the docking was fantastic, just the right level of difficulty.
posted by malevolent at 12:00 PM on September 19, 2009

Plus the speccy's horrible colour clash and lack of sprites wouldn't be a problem...
posted by Artw at 12:08 PM on September 19, 2009

Best. Game. Evar.

When people release space sims, Elite is still the gold standard to which they are compared.
posted by rodgerd at 12:36 PM on September 19, 2009

I'm starting to get paranoid: between this and the ROM post, it seems like MeFi is somehow in contact with 12-year-old me.
posted by Dr Dracator at 1:35 PM on September 19, 2009

After all these years, the only thing I can remember is the theme song and the stick-figure graphics of the ships. I remember it was pretty good when I got it in June 1986 for my C64 and played around with it a lot, then one day I got hooked on Ultima.
posted by crapmatic at 1:47 PM on September 19, 2009

Acorn Electron for the plebean with taste but not dosh!
posted by lalochezia at 3:33 PM on September 19, 2009

Alas, I missed the boat on Elite. In my household, the Apple IIe was frequently used to boot up another space trading sim, SunDog. Not quite as deep as Elite looks, but still a ton of depth in a shockingly small amount of floppy disk space. (As a wee lad, I always found the idea of trading frozen bodies to populate your own little city to be cool but kinda morbid.)

But this is why the FSM created emulators!
posted by dgbellak at 7:11 PM on September 19, 2009

SunDog was a great game, too. In many ways it's more complex than Elite, certainly broader if not deeper. I particularly liked the way you'd have to leave the cockpit and go back in the engine room to repair burnt out components, replacing them with crappy shunts if necessary. Another feature vaguely echoed in Eve Online, although you can't reconfigure ships while in flight.
posted by Nelson at 8:35 PM on September 19, 2009

Blue Danube burning in my brain!
posted by BrotherCaine at 12:35 AM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

I remember playing Elite with a friend - can't remember the platform, as it wasn't my computer - but the only way that we could manage to dock was for one of us to control the roll, and the other to control the velocity...

Frontier on the Amiga used to be one of my favourites, though; as daniel_charms mentions, the physics was awesome and really made the game (apart from the "jousting" style combat).

Haven't tried Oolite (downloading now) but the only thing that has ever come close to the Elite/Frontier experience is X3: Reunion - a totally awesome and involving experience
posted by Chunder at 2:26 AM on September 20, 2009

you'd have to be some insuferable posho knobend to own your own BBC

You'd have to have been an insufferable posho knobend to own a Commodore Pet, an Apple II, a TRS 80 or one of those horrendously expensive Hewlett Packard machines -- the cheapest of which would have been around £600 at the time. But the cheapest BBC Micro at release was only £235 -- just twice the price of a shitty Spectrum. C64's didn't come out until several years later. The next real rival was the horrible Vic20

Unless your mum was paying, buying a Spectrum made no sense at all.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:59 AM on September 20, 2009

That's some quality platform warring.
posted by Artw at 9:49 AM on September 20, 2009

C64's didn't come out until several years later. The next real rival was the horrible Vic20

to be fair, the c64 came out in late 1982, and the bbc in late 1981 - that's hardly "years". And obviously, the BBC and the C64 were in similar weight classes, whereas the vic20... not so much. Though that said, a vic20 with the memory expansion was not that far off a BBC....
posted by jaymzjulian at 7:06 PM on September 20, 2009

(indeed, the model A only had 16k of ram - but, like the 16k spectrum, no-one cared about that model :))
posted by jaymzjulian at 7:07 PM on September 20, 2009

I'm pretty sure, metafilter being metafilter, that if we dissed some random computer like the Dragon 32 or some weirdo Osborne"laptop" thing within hours some user of said thing would pop up to defend it.

The Commodore 16 - what the fuck was that about?
posted by Artw at 7:24 PM on September 20, 2009

The Commodore 16 - what the fuck was that about?

David Haynie and Bill Herd actually did a video (for commvex 2005) a few years ago explaining this - essentially, it was supposed to be a tiny computer that competed with the zx81/spectrum. Surprisingly, I could not find this on youtube though - but the mpeg is around.
posted by jaymzjulian at 9:22 PM on September 20, 2009

also, it was supposed to sell for $49
posted by jaymzjulian at 9:26 PM on September 20, 2009

also: here is the video that has the justification for the commodore 16. it does acutally make sense.... it's around 7 minutes in.
posted by jaymzjulian at 9:29 PM on September 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

£235.00?? That was an absolute fortune. I had to work my arse off for months to afford my spectrum. And then I only got 16k.

Count me in the non-posho rubber key brigade.
posted by seanyboy at 12:32 AM on September 21, 2009

Actually my rich friend had a BBC Micro. I can still half-remember that BBC Micro smell. Somehow, it seemed quite suited to large houses with pianos.
posted by seanyboy at 12:35 AM on September 21, 2009

Hey Hey 16K

My mate had a Beeb, he was the doctor's son...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:36 AM on September 21, 2009

My mum recently told me how we ended up with a BBC (with a 5 1/4" 40/80 double disc drive, no less). My dad was working for one of the big defence contractors at the time, and they were offering discounted 32K BBCs to employees.

It was still more than we could really afford, and her attitude was "why on earth would we spend a godawful amount of cash on this thing?", to which he replied "just you wait, one day you'll be reading books and ordering your shopping on one of these".

Prescient, at times, my old dad.
posted by Leon at 4:12 PM on September 21, 2009

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