Elite: The Game
Where to find it and how to play it!
The definitive repository for the different versions of Elite is at Ian Bell's website, so I will not try and reproduce his master works here. Click on the link to go there and see!
Instead, this area will look at the different versions of the game I have played personally and some of the hints and tips that I found useful whilst playing.
1: Spectrum Elite
This was the first version I ever played, and was responsible for getting me hooked. I borrowed the 128K tape from a friend.
Speccy Elite was good old vector graphics, with stars and stuff visible through the planets and stations. On the good side of the coin, Speccy Elite had more missions than the versions before, including one with a full-scale Thargoid invasion!
Docking on the Speccy was easy - slow right down and line up with the docking bay - no need to match roll, as it docked no matter what angle you were at.
Combat was basic: fly in loops or follow the leader. Missiles were pretty hard, but you could survive one hit as long as your shileds were intact.
I made Elite with a little bit of help. There was a POKE cheat published in Crash that gave you infinite energy bombs, stronger shields and practically eliminated laser overheating. Very useful.
2: Amiga Elite
I got an Amiga 500 for christmas one year and ensured that I got Elite at about the same time. I actually got Elite for my birthday (8 days before xmas) so had the box in hand for over a week before actually getting to play it!
Anyway, Amiga Elite introduced solid graphics and music into my world of Elite. It also sparked the first of my fiction writing efforts. I decided that I was carrying my pilot name over to the new version, so had to work out a reason why he had gone from Elite to Harmless. The story, Tribunal by name, used the fact that I had cheated and dealt with the commander being busted for using illegal tech (like repeating energy bombs, radioactive laser coolant etc).
So, I started again. Elite for Amiga was a little harder than the Speccy version. For one thing the AI of the pirates was better - they jinked and used evasive maneouvers to avoid your laser long enough to get back in line for a shot. This could be countered by looking at what way the ship was facing or turning, but didn't work for Thargoids due to the fact that the damn ship looks the same all over!
Missiles were less damaging, and it was possible to survive two direct hits. Lasers, however, were less damaging.
Docking was nice and simple. Full speed approach, timed to make sure that the docking bay entrance was near level as you entered the bay.
Again, I made it to Elite. Months of play, no cheats and a damn nice feeling at getting to Elite without cheating this time.
3: Elite Plus
I bought this not long after getting my first PC back in 93. I found it on one of those budget labels.
I didn't play it for long, because I couldn't get used to the icon driven layout. Graphically nice, but not actually as good as the Amiga version, mainly due to the fact that PC graphics in those days were really crap. Sound was minimal and not very good either.
5: BBC Elite-A
A rather good rewrite and expansion of the original BBC version. This was written by Angus Duggan some years back, and adds all sorts of goodness to the original game. The most notable changes are that you can buy and sell ships (meaning that you are not tied to the Cobra Mk III for the entire game) and the universe is no longer player-centric - essentially meaning that other ships are attacked by pirates too!!!
Unfortunately I can't find a BBC emulator stable enough to run it to my liking. I use ModelB at the moment but it is a little flaky with the key maps, and reports a lot of errors during play.
The little I have played is good though, and if I ever feel the need to spend money on a BBC emulator or can even find a BBC computer then I will definitely be firing this one up!!!
5: Elite: The New Kind, GBA version
This is a ground up rewrite of the BBC code originally embarked on for the PC by Christian Pinder. Unfortunately some rather underhanded dealings by people who nicked Christian's code meant that this and his other project, Elite: The Darkness Falls, were both stopped and removed by order of David Braben.
However, the code was revamped again, this time for the Gameboy Advance, by those kind chaps at Quirky Remakes, and what they have created is a faithful representation of BBC Elite for the handheld system! It could well be the only available handheld version of Elite!!!
Although it is still in a beta state, the gameplay is intact and the system is practically flawless. The only niggle is that docking is a little flaky, perhaps due to some problems with the 3D geometry of the station mapping, but with a little care and experience it isn't a problem.
Playing the game is simple enough. The functions are accessed by using Start to show an icon list. This is much better than the icon system used in Elite Plus, and is intuitive to use.
Missiles are best avoided in this version - a single hit can kill you if it hits you on a downed shield. Rammng small ships to kill them works, again if you have full shields, but don't try it if your shields are down and don't try it on anything bigger than a Mamba - although you might get away with it on a Gecko.
Thargoids are easy to kill in this version. They only release one or two thargons at a time, and then only if you have damaged them a fair bit. They circle endlessly whilst trying to get a bead on you, and are big enough to be an easy target.
Docking, can be a delicate matter. Get between planet and station and make little adjustments until the station is PERFECTLY lined up. Accelerate towards it, making sure that the docking bay is completely lined up by the time it starts hitting the little targetting lines on your viewscreen. Accelerate gently towards it and slow to a dead stop as you get to the bay. You may notice that the angle of the bay seems to be a little hairy, as if you are way off angle. IF you were perfectly lined up on approach, do not worry about this - it is a problem with the 3D plotting. Time the entry into the slot so that the slot is near horizontal as you enter. You may get a little scraped, but you should dock before it gets too bad. This was a bug when I was playing the game, and it's possible that Rich at Quirky games has fixed it by now.
Note: the screenshots on this page were obtained from somewhere, but I can't remember where. If you know where they are from, please let me know and I'll include attribution.