Wednesday, November 07, 2012

The return of ELITE, because I haven't got anything planned for the rest of my life

Elite - the classic BBC Micro computer game from the 80s IS BACK. All the developers need is a trifling £1.25m, and the greatest 8-bit game ever developed by man or machine will make a return to our computer screens, and not a moment too soon.

Yes, I'm excited by this, mainly because the original Elite was one of the major reasons I failed my A-Levels, and I fear I haven't destroyed my life enough as it is. Elite to blame, plus Samantha Fox Strip Poker. And pubs.

Elite was a huge step forward in computer gaming, and cemented the Model B's reputation over and above the crappy Spectrum and C-64s of the day. With the disc-drive version, you didn't even have to wait half an hour to load the game, and once you knew the hacks, you could update your craft to insane levels of weaponry. 

I eschewed the joystick and played the game through the keyboard AS GOD INTENDED. In spaceflight, this meant all ten fingers and thumbs active at once as vital command keys controled direction, speed, weapons, navigation and defence systems. This - I am certain - gave me (I am told by the wallahs at Biggin Hill) the best ever score they had ever seen on their computer-based pilot aptitude test, while the fact that I failed on the interview says everything you need to know about the people skills I failed to develop thanks to Elite, Samantha Fox Strip Poker, and pubs.

While I was in my bedroom hacking naked, grainy pictures of Samantha Fox and shooting up aliens, other people were out there, doing normal things like revising for exams and getting a life. But then, none of these people achieved the sought-after rank of --- E L I T E ---. The words "Right on, Commander!" mean nothing - NOTHING - to them. They've never been to Bixein.

Also, they don't have a Cobra MkIII space cruiser under a tarpaulin on their drive, awaiting the spare parts that will get it through its MoT.

The one thing which might blow your mind about Elite is the fact that they fit an entire space trading game with passable wire-frame graphics and real-time shoot-em-up into a tiny 32kB of memory. In these days of memory-hungry applications, that is approximately 0.8 seconds of music (the exact time it takes to sing "Scaramouche!", I am told), or the amount of brain-power required for the average YouTube user to leave the words "You faget" as a comment.

While emulator versions of Elite already exist on the internet, this new version - built by the original team that sapped all the time out of my teenage years - looks like its going to add multi-player functionality and whole new ways of accidentally crashing your ship into the docking bay doors. And heaven knows, I haven't got anything important planned for the next three decades or so.

So: The Computer Nerd's Prayer: If you build it, they will come (in their pants).
(The ELITE connoisseur may notice that the BBC report shows - and possibly condones - illegal attacks on police space craft whilst flying in "Safe" space around a space station. Is this the kind of behaviour the BBC wants to encourage? I am disgusted)

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