Elite 25

Via-via, I heard about the 25th anniversary of the computer game ‘Elite’ (Wikipedia), indeed as Wikipedia calls it, the seminal Space/Trading/Combat game released in September of 1984. It was first released for an Acorn BBC and over the years it was (succesfully) ported to other 8 bit systems, like, in our case, the MSX computers.

If I remember correctly, we found out about the game in a popular tech magazine, which detailed the addictiveness and open-endedness of the game. The graphics for the game were pretty much advanced too, that is, for the early Eighties: I mean, who would have thought of using vector graphics to draw 3D spaceships and celestial bodies?

Eventually, a lot later than everybody else, we got our hands on a copy of the game and found out that ‘docking’ at space stations was a nearly impossible task. We weren’t the only ones who thought it was impossibler: Twenty five years later, David Braben (co-designer of the game) admitted:

Pt2. I might want to make docking a bit easier – but we did try at the time – we had no more memory to make it any more sophisticated.

Et tu, David?

That didn’t stop us from playing the game though: in fact, we managed to reverse-engineer the savegame file format. Which meant that we were able to give ourselves a whole bunch of credits, specialty upgrades and the inevitable and necessary ‘docking’ device (of course). Not bad and I wonder if that part was the foundation for the “file-format studies” I eventually embarked on in my career as a programmer.

I personally never made it to the rank ‘Elite': I can’t even remember how long I played it but it definitely wasn’t for years. Like all other games, it eventually wore out. I don’t think we ever discovered the proper bits to set this rank in our savefiles (we assumed it was heavily encoded with checksums). That is, until recently, I hear that the magic word was 0x1900.