Saturday, June 1, 2013

Elite: Dangerous

In 1984 Firebird released a game for the Acorn called Elite.  It was quickly ported to other platforms, including the Commodore C=64, and it just as quickly secured it rightful place in the history books as one of the best computer games, well, ever.  I am not just saying that because I read it somewhere - I can distinctly recall entire weekends that were spent crouched in front of my C=64 playing it.

Why was it so good?  It sure as heck was not its game graphics, which were polygonal lines, ray-tracing, and text.  Part of the answer to that question has to do with the fact that it took a completely different and even new approach to game design.  Another part is the proven theme of immediate and long-term gratification.

What Elite was in simple terms is a space-trading game in which the player starts out with practically nothing, and through hard work and shrewd trading, begins building wealth, expanding their ship's capabilities, and eventually trading up into a new ship.  That is a simple description, sure, but there is a bit more to it.

The new approach to gaming that Elite took was to force the player to sink or swim.  That in an era during which the basic approach to gaming mechanics was to make things as easy on the player as possible.  Can't dock your ship at the space station?  Most games would do it for you.  Not Elite!

Docking involved developing a bit of skill as well as a basic understanding of physics.  You approached the space station then flew past it towards the nearby planet, then when you got between the station and the planet, you spin the ship around and head back towards the station, matching your ship rotation to the stations, and matching locks to dock.  Sounds simple enough, but it wasn't.

Fail to dock at the least you would damage your ship - at the most you would destroy it.  Succeed and you were safely docked at the station and ready to repair or upgrade your ship, sell and buy cargo, and otherwise better your lot in life.

After a while of docking manually you could purchase a docking computer to do it for you, but by then that is a blessing since you wanted to point your attention towards combat skills and finding really good trade routes.

The game was more than cool - it was addictive as hell, and serious fun. Sadly the sequels to it somehow lost the direction of the original, and the noise that they created drown out something pure and good.

Well it seems that the fan base that Elite held never really went away, and what is more, that a dev team wants to resurrect that most excellent game and its mechanics, but in a modernized and updated interface.  Well, wanted to, but could never quite get the details to mesh to the point that a game studio would fund the project.  So instead, after a decade of delays, they ended up crowdfunding the project, and surprise!  It quickly hit the funding target and then surpassed it!

Elite: Dangerous

The bad news is that it is not going to release until some time in 2014, the good news is that it is going to release sometime in 2014.

Here are some links for you to check out:

Check it out.

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