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Sunday, 27 February 2011

Being a virtual Space captain.

Its been a long standing dream of mine to get into the original Elite on the 8 bits. Playing it back in the day it seemed such a chore, the promise of deep space exploration with the actual reality of that it'll take massive amounts of effort to get anywhere.  

But still I keep trying, and trying various emulated versions to see if there is a bearable version but no dice.   We heard about Oolite a while back but thought it far too nerdy to bother with, it is pretty geeky but those that have played the original Elite should be right at home here.  Other folks well...

It does capture the magic of the original space series, with options to have either wireframe graphics on or off, and as a milestone, its the furthest I've been in any of the original Elites, (making it as far as the target planet and rather stupidly dying whilst docking).  Oolite isn't bad but there's 2 problems with it. 

1. It takes an ice age to get to the object planet.  I put it on full speed and set it toward Diso, and went for my dinner to find that, not only by the time I came back that we were in range but the space station was slightly visible on the main screen.   I estimate I was away for 10 minutes and  it took another 7 or so reach (and crash into) the Coriolis Station.  Let alone vast distances of space, it seems that they couldn't implement the far superior time dilation controls from its follow up Frontier. 

Don't get me wrong, Oolite isn't bad at all, but with Frontier controls, it would be miles better, and meant that I'm not drawing my pension whenever I make it to Earth.

2. There's a heck of a lot of controls to learn, but you can remedy this.  Open whatever PDF viewer you use and pull up the player sheet from the Oolite package.  You can then use this as a background while playing Oolite.  You can switch between the to while playing if you forget which key is for targeting space ships, and which is the Witchspace jump button.

In fact as you may have gathered my affection for the whole series only took off with Elite 2 Frontier for the Amiga.  Pitching up to prospect the farthest reaches of the galaxy with an Imperial Courier and an MB4, or simply ferrying people between the more populated planetary systems once we had expanded enough.  We dedicated 13 game years and never made it to Elite status, (its been ages but I think I'm at dangerous level).

So imagine my surprise when someone on Metro's Gamecentral pages suggested that there was a remake of Frontier too.  Called Pioneer its still in alpha, but its already looking like Frontier on steroids. 

Sure it has its problems, there are far too many thrust buttons for starters and the background themes aren't  the best.  You seem to start out with too much fuel and a weedy hyperdrive too (we got 8 light years out of my old Eagle mark 3 now its more like 4 and a bit).  But the magic is there, you can speed up time to your hearts content and even autopilot to planet's vicinity {or vacinity as the game would have it}.

We'll  try and arrange some audio stuff if I remember it, but for now, I' m off to dust down the Eagle and trade to my hearts content.

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