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The History of Elite: Space, the Endless Frontier
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The History of Elite: Space, the Endless Frontier

April 7, 2009 Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

Flight sims, of course, offer a much different but still similarly complex and open-ended gameplay: specifically, the freedom to fly through a fully three-dimensional space in real time (see book Chapter 8, "Flight Simulator (1980): Digital Reality").

Although some flight sims offer a campaign mode or even a linear narrative structure (take for instance, Cinemaware's 1990 Wings for the Commodore Amiga), most also offer a "free flight" mode that allows players to simply pilot the aircraft and explore the virtual world.

The best flight simulators are very realistic and detailed, and, like the space trading games, take a good deal of time and patience to play well.

Naturally, developers were quick to adapt the traditional flight sim to represent space flight, including Activision's Space Shuttle: A Journey into Space (1982; Atari 2600 Video Computer System, Atari 5200, and others).

Other notables include Edu-Ware's Rendezvous: A Space Shuttle Simulation (1982, Apple II), Mindscape's The Halley Project (1985; Apple II, Atari 8-bit, and others), Access's Echelon (1987; Apple II, Commodore 64, PC, and others) and Microsoft's Microsoft Space Simulator (1994, PC).

Games like Access' Echelon (box back for the Commodore 64 version shown) tried to not only build off the successful Elite model, but also to offer their own flourishes. In Echelon's case, these flourishes took the form of three different modes of play: Scientific (exploration), Patrol (exploration with combat), and Military (combat). Note that the LipStick voice-activated control headset was included to provide additional support for the Commodore 64's standard one-button joystick and acted as a second button.

The genius of Elite was to combine these two genres into a single coherent game: a space trading game based on a space flight sim. This blending of the two genres would quickly gain the new label "space sim," and it has spawned dozens of popular derivatives. A few recent releases include Digital Anvil's cut-scene heavy Freelancer (2003; PC), Dreamcatcher's Space Force: Rogue Universe (2007; PC), and Egosoft's X3: Terran Conflict (2008; PC).

Perhaps the most notable of the current generation is EVE Online, a massively multiplayer space sim released in 2003 for the Apple Macintosh, PC, and Linux platforms. Of course, older classics such as Origin's Space Rogue (1989; Apple II, Apple Macintosh, Atari ST, Commodore 64, and others) and Wing Commander: Privateer (1993, PC) are musts for fans of the genre.

Like Echelon, Origin's Space Rogue tried to put its own unique stamp on a genre popularized by Elite, this time by adding significant role-playing elements.

On a more basic level, Atari's Star Raiders from Doug Neubauer, first released in 1979 for Atari 8-bit computers and covered in its own upcoming bonus chapter, set the tone for Elite's overall presentation more than any other game before it.

With its groundbreaking, real-time, simulated 3D space combat, Star Raiders featured smooth graphics scaling, particle explosions, a rotating sector scanner (map) and an optional rear view of the standard first-person perspective action. That Bell and Braben were able to so profoundly expand Neubauer's classic vision is a testament to their ambition.

Article Start Previous Page 2 of 5 Next

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