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elite: pretty much the best game ever

Friday, January 12, 2007

The classic game Elite has been enjoying a bit of a renaissance in my home lately. I’ve been giving the PS3 a break since (quickly) beating (the average) first person shooter, Resistance: Fall of Man, to enjoy some good retro-gaming (plus, I’m not about to fork over sixty bucks on another game that’s just ‘meh’… get on the stick with those true next gen titles, Sony).

Anyway, I’m fortunate enough to have a full copy of Elite for the 8-bit Apple //c — box, docs, and all. Having only superficially explored this game as a teenager, I never really appreciated the size of its virtual universe or the depth of its gameplay. It is truly Grand Theft Auto: Space in shear size and open-endedness.

Elite spans 8 galaxies, has 250 planets per galaxy (that’s 2000 planets!), and fits on one side of a 5.25-inch disk. That just blows my mind. Plus, the gameplay is astonishingly well-balanced. I’ve found myself consistently challenged and have graduated from one goal or strategy to the next in a very organic way.

At any point in the game, I may pursue the path of a trader, smuggler, bounty hunter, or pirate, or some combination thereof, and must deal with the challenges that each path presents. While these aren’t new roles in the space-faring genre, Elite implements them with incredible fluidity, particularly for an 8-bit game. You’ll find yourself shifting gears based on a number of factors like ship capability, storage capacity, money, and desire to achieve the ultimate space pilot status of ‘elite,’ naturally.

So, basically, this old game still holds its own and I highly recommend you dust off an old copy and give it another go for old time’s sake… back when games made up for hardware limitations by actually being fun and unique.

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Anonymous John Forsythe ...


5.25 inch was like 360k or 720k right? And Double sided, high density could get up to 1+MB. Tons compared to the Atari you were making games for.

You may want to consider this title when it is released:

Blogger Lee ...

Check it, yo. One side of a DOS 3.3 formatted 5.25" disk, which is what Elite is, has about 130K of data storage capacity. Elite appears to use half that (based on Disk Map utility in Copy ][ Plus). That means this seemingly endless game fits comfortably in about 65K.

All the planet names (and most likely, their locations, economies and political climates) are generated using a Fibonacci algorithm. It's amazing that mathematical sequences can generate such playable worlds. (River Raid for the Atari used a similar algorithm to create a sequence of levels that gradually increased in difficulty.)

Apple II FAQs
Elite: Before the Frontier

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