DescriptionElite is a free-form space trading and combat simulation, commonly considered the progenitor of this sub-genre. The player initially controls a character referred to as "Commander Jameson", starting at Lave Station with 100 credits and a lightly armed trading ship called Cobra Mark III. Most of the game consists of traveling to various star systems, trading with their inhabitants, gaining money and reputation. Money can also be gained by other means beside trading; these include undertaking military missions, bounty hunting, asteroid mining, and even piracy. As the player character earns money, he becomes able to upgrade his ships with enhancements such as better weapons, shields, increased cargo capacity, an automated docking system, etc.
The game utilizes pseudo-3D wire-frame graphics; its world is viewed from a first-person perspective. It has no overarching story, though a race known as Thargoids play the role of antagonists: their ships will often attack the player-controlled ship, forcing the player to engage in space combat. Combat is action-oriented, taking place in the same environment as the exploration. The player must use various weapons the ship is equipped with, as well as manoeuvre the ship, trying to dodge enemy attacks. The player can also choose to attack neutral ships; doing so will decrease the protagonist's reputation, eventually attracting the attention of the galactic police.
Elite is notable for its expansive game world, consisting of eight galaxies and 256 planets. The player is free to travel to any of these planets, provided his ship has enough fuel for the trip (the ship's fuel capacity is limited for a journey to the distance of seven light years).
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BookThe book Game On! From Pong to Oblivion: The 50 Greatest Video games of All Time contains a chapter on Elite.
ControversyElite's two creators, Ian Bell and David Braben, were not on the best of terms for a long time, ever since development on Elite 2 was cancelled. This erupted into open confrontation during 1999-2000 when Bell decided to release all versions of Elite as freeware. The dispute was settled and all files relevant to Elite and Braben's version of the matter can be found in Ian Bell's website.
Copy protectionThe ZX Spectrum version used Lenslok as copy protection. Lenslok was a physical device with a lense unique to the game which had to be used to decipher a code (more information here). The first few hundred copies of the game were delivered with a faulty Lenslok device, rendering the game unusable.
DOS versionTwo versions were supplied with the DOS release, Shaded and Line Drawn. At the selection screen this message is displayed regarding the shaded version: "...but unless your machine is powerful (6MHz 80286 or greater) it will not run very quickly and you should select the line drawn version."
ExtrasThe package came with a novella about how your father sacrificed himself and saved you by dumping you in the lone escape pod in the ship, and how you managed to "acquire" this ship that you are driving at the beginning of the game.
Fan clubThis was apparently the first game, or among the first games, to have a fan club.
Game On exhibitionElite is being exhibited as part of the "Game On" exhibition in places like the London Science Museum. David Braben also gave a lecture as part of the exhibition in 2006.
MusicalIan Bell's brother, Aidan Bell, enjoyed a spell of success writing for musical theatre; sooner or later his muse led him to his brother's enormous success story, which (believe it or not) resulted in 1989's completion of Elite: the Musical, furthering the storyline set forth in Robert Holdstock's novella The Dark Wheel. The book and lyrics, with mp3 recordings, (c) Pink Hippo Productions Ltd, can be perused.
Whether or not this musical has ever been produced on the off-Broadway stage is unclear, though one figures the chances are slim to nil.
RecordsElite (as of 2009) holds fours Guinness World Records. These are for the most format releases for a space trading game, being released on 25 different formats, the first space trading game, the first game to use Lenslok copy protection (the ZX Spectrum version) and the first space game to use procedural generation.
ShipsMost of the ships, which can be cycled through in start-up with F9/F10, in the game are named after snakes. There's a few exceptions such as the Moray and Gecko.
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Terok Nor (17653) added Elite (BBC Micro) on May 14, 2010