Living Dangerously

Elite (Sinclair ZX Spectrum 1984)

A long time ago, in a bedroom far, far away, a sixteen year old boy sat in front of a computer. The computer had 48k of RAM, a color palette consisting of 8 colors, and a single channel multi-tone beeper for sound. In spite of these limitations, the boy was able to explore the galaxy in his spaceship, making money by selling goods between star systems, taking on the role of bounty hunter and eliminating wanted bad guys, and ultimately upgrading his ship along the way.


The experience was unlike anything that had preceded it, and was to be unlike anything to follow for a good number of years. This computer, with its rubber keys and no joystick, was the flight deck to a star ship. The transition, from the boy’s meager school life into the fantastic, was provided by a very special computer game. The computer was a Sinclair ZX Spectrum, the boy was me, and the game? Elite.


When Ian Bell and David Braben collaborated on the game Elite, it is unlikely that they had an inkling of the profound effect that it would have on video game culture. Elite was the beginning of a whole new genre in gaming, setting the scene for many others to follow. From Wing Commander, and the Star-Lancer/Free Lancer series, through to the “X” series of games, the game world of space trading, combat,and exploration would not have been quite the same, or perhaps never have existed at all, had it not been for Elite.


When the two collaborators parted ways, David continued with the series, releasing Frontier – Elite II in 1993, and Frontier – First Encounters in 1995. Each game added more realism to its predecessor, taking advantage of more powerful processors and graphics. After 1995, the void was filled with other games, but my friends and I, who often relived our memories of the first game, talked of how wonderful it would be if we could fly in Elite, but in a common universe, collaborating (or not) in a shared experience.


As the internet became common-place, those conversations never died, only returned, until, one day two years ago, I heard through one of my friends of “Elite : Dangerous”. Elite Dangerous is everything we had imagined and more. It has the most breath-taking graphics, representing a 1:1 scale version of the Milky Way, in which every known stellar body has been recreated, and many more besides. It is massively multi-player, and with the release of the “Horizons” expansion pack, allows you to land on each and every planet, driving around in a Surface Recon Vehicle (SRV).


The game is simply vast. It is immensely detailed, and contains a rich story-line that evolves organically with the actions of each player in a global, shared galactic experience. If you haven’t yet seen the game, I will be reviewing it in more detail over the coming weeks. I will also be providing hints and tips on how to get the most out of the game, and how to leverage third-party addons to take your game experience to new levels.


Watch this space!

Frontier : Elite II (Commodore Amiga 1993)

Elite Dangerous (2015 PC)