Nostalgia and theory, that’s what this post is all about.
I’ve written before that some games require the player to be almost like an actor. You need to follow prompts given by the game, do the right things at the right time and the story will develop the way the developers wanted it to. Some other games though provide you with a stage and let you get on with it. The basic structure will be there but how you end up using it is entirely up to you. Your own stories are generated from this setting.
A couple of months ago we took a family trip up to Glasgow for a couple of days. The city was on a slight comedown from The Commonwealth Games which had finished two days beforehand and various locations were being dismantled. A trip around the usual places to visit whilst shopping in Glasgow City centre saw me in G-Force, a games shop on Union Street. Towards the counter they have a cabinet full of stuff that’s slightly off the beaten track. It was there that I saw a copy of Elite. Not just any copy either but the version for the Nintendo Entertainment System, the very same as the one I sank so many hours into back in the early 90’s.
Elite looks simply now, the wireframe graphics off the time were more driven by the limitations of hardware rather than any artistic direction. This game however crammed so much into such a small amount of memory. You started alone in the universe with nothing but a few credits to your name and a basic ship that has a small cargo hold. There were no missions as such, the game had absolutely no main story which stuck all the part together, you were left to your own devices. The first thing any self respecting space pilot needed to do was make money. The task of identifying trade runs was a primary task in Elite, the entire galaxy was connected by an economy. Buying up food supplies that an agriculture based planet had in abundance meant you could sell them for vast profit at a nearby industrial base. Taking machinery back the other way meant you could make a fair amount of money even after the price of fuel was taken off. Repeating this process between different areas soon enabled you to afford bigger and better spacecraft and the decision had to be made if you wanted your cargo hold bigger to fit more items in or equipping guns to fight off those who might like to steal what you have.
This was far before online aspects came into gaming. Elite was played alone
The game had an ever expanding universe as planets were created by the game as you went along.
I resisted any purchase firstly because the £29.99 price tag seemed steep and that fact remained that I lack the console to play it on. The biggest reason was also that I don’t think I could face starting the game again. The vast amount of time, which I no longer really have anymore, I’d put into the game previously would be void. Part of me is happy at the thought that somewhere in the attic of my parent’s house is the cartridge with my save on. My ship, now armed to the gills with various missile launchers and laser cannons is docked at some remote planet and has been for the last 20 years or so. I usually forget controls to most games after not playing them for a month or so, I can only image how lost I’d be if I returned to Elite after a two decade long absence.
Elite has had sequels since then of course, the latest is the crowd funded ‘Elite Dangerous’ which is due out on PC fairly soon. The beta version was the subject of many a video play through from Jamie Trinca over on Videogamer.com. You can check out the first part right here. Sadly I dropped out of the PC gaming arms race a long time ago so I won’t be partaking in what looks like a rather fantastic reboot of the franchise but I’m pleased to think that it’s being brought back into the modern day complete with all the online multiplayer gubbins we’ve come to expect.