By David Braben and Ian Bell

Spectrum Conversion by Torus

Originally released on the BBC Micro in 1984 Elite was to become one of the most important titles in gaming history.

Elite is a space trading/combat game. You start in your Cobra Mk III docked at a Coriolis Space Station in the Lave system. You have 100 credits (cr). The game is completely open ended and it completely up to the player what they want to do and how they want to make a fortune.

The game takes place across eight galaxies with 256 planets in each galaxy. All of the galaxies and planets are procedurally generated by running a single see through a fixed algorithm a specific amount of time to fully generate the planets and galaxies. The algorithm produces a series of numbers that are used to calculate each planets galactic position, what resources are available, the planets name and also the planets description.

Starting at Lave the player has several options – Do you want to just launch your ship and get flying or should plan where your going to go and if your going to take any cargo with you? Bringing up the short range chart gives you a local map of the surrounding star systems and also how far you can travel on your fuel limit – 7 Light years maximum. So you choose your star system, Diso for example , perhaps purchase some goods to trade and then launch yourself into space from the Coriolis.

This is where the fun begins. Diso is a relatively safe system for your first jump and you won’t encounter too many problems getting to the Coriolis but you might come across one ship that want’s to kill you so the chance to cut your teeth in combat and get your first kill might occur. I wouldn’t worry if it does as your first few encounters, while risky as your still new to the game and the controls, shouldn’t be too hard and you’ll be taking out much meatier opponents in no time.

What will kill you the first few times though is docking.

Yes, docking with the Coriolis is an utter ****. I can not stress enough how important it s to practice docking. I highly recommend spending at least your first few hours exiting and then docking with the Coriolis at Lave before you do anything else. At first just launch from the station and accelerate out a full speed for 30 seconds and then bring yourself to a full stop. Turn around and level yourself up with the entrance. Then approach the station, when you get close slow yourself right down and match the rotation of the station. If you do this correctly you can and will dock successfully.

Do it wrong and it’s game over.

Later in the game you will be able to buy a docking computer – this is a life saver and a highly valuable purchase.

Ok, you can dock, you can kill things and you can trade. Time to make some money. In the early game it’s best to setup a safe trade route between an agricultural system and a technological advanced system as you can trade well between these systems. Once you have become proficient at dealing with the targets you come across you can expand your trading routes.

Of course to venture into more dangerous and deadly star systems means that you’ll need to upgrade your ship and there are quite a few ways in which that can be done – additional and more powerful lasers, extra missles, electronic counter measures (ECM), cloaking devices and galactic jump drives are all available some of them can be bought others can only be acquired by completing missions.

That sums up what Elite is all about, but it’s much much more and you’ll never understand how engrossing the game is unless you play it. This game drags you into it’s world and just doesn’t let go – ever – and you don’t care as there is much to do, much to see, missions to be done and Thargoids to kill.

Elite is a way of life.

The urge to visit a more dangerous system, the urge to increase your status – which starts at Harmless – to Elite was very compelling along with the urge to seek out and establish a successful trade route. You wanted to be the best and you have a fully open game world in order to do it.

I did say that Elite was to become one of the more important gaming titles of all time and it true. While it isn’t necessarily the Spectrum version as it was converted to a huge range of systems, it was a game that would have far reaching and long lasting effects;

  • Golden Joystick Award for Best Original Game (1984)
  • Best Overall Game in the Crash Readers Awards (1985)
  • #12 on IGN’s top 25 PC Games of all time (2000)
  • #1 Top Retro game by Retro Gamer (2004)
  • #3 most influential game of all time by The Times online (2007)
  • #6 Greatest game by Stuff magazine (2008)
  • #1 best game of the 1980’s by Next Generation Magazine (2008)

So there it is, Elite. My all time number one game. Play it. Love it. Live it!


About Phendrena

Father, Retro Gamer, PC Gamer.

3 responses »

  1. […] the Sinclair ZX Spectrum with a 7-part blog post tribute- Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.  A must read for fans of this great computer, trust […]

  2. My favorite Spectrum game ever is Laser Squad. Turn-based tactical strategy at its best, from the masters Julian and Nick Gollop who later went to program the all-time classics UFO Enemy Unknown and Terror From The Deep. Wide variety of scenarios and objects, different tactics to be employed and various levels of enemy AI make the game deep and always replayable in a different way.

    On the other hand, I only played Elite on the Spectrum thanks to emulation – I remember trying it once on a mate’s ST – but never really got into it. Probably I should try it with more attention – provided I have time to play, that is!

    • Phendrena says:

      After properly completing the first mission, The Assassins I enjoyed just loading up with Rocket Launchers and blasting the base and Sterner Regnix to high heaven! It was a great game, massively superior to Rebelstar and when I was pondering over my own Top 30 Laser Squad featured very very highly. A quality game.

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