23 Comments

  1. Very good. A short read that answers many questions for all fans. I’ll be featuring this in my next demo and on our site.

  2. It was an interesting read up until I saw “Adam’s” (in reference to Douglas Adams (<– no apostrophe)). Then I just had to quit reading, lest my head explode. So long. Thanks for all the fish. πŸ˜‰

    • Fixed. Have a fresh cup of really hot tea as an apology. πŸ™‚

  3. I am very curious about the 1991 PC version “Elite: Plus”. I remember picking up a copy as soon as I saw it on the shelf and being overjoyed to be reunited with “an old friend”. “Elite: Plus” came with an entirely different short story, Imprint. Does anyone know why they didn’t just reprint “The Dark Wheel”?

    Imprint was okay but it didn’t have the same feel of scale to it. Players of “Elite: Plus” would have had no idea about The Dark Wheel or Raxxla unless they had played one of the older versions.

    • Elite: Plus had a few extra bits and pieces. I think it was effectively a ‘relaunch’ as there was a PC conversion of Elite which used CGA mode. I’ll do a bit of digging into that πŸ™‚ I’m not a fan of Imprint, I have to say!

    • I bought them both when they 1st came out (and I’m sitting here looking at the boxes as I write this. I have the Firebird Elite Plus Gold edition of the original game, for the Tandy 1000/PC in the US. It has a ship id chart, the “Dark Wheel”, a “Quick Key Control Guide” and, of course, the game on a single 5 1/4″ diskette. Circa 1985.

      Elite Plus is the Microplay edition and contains just the 3 1/4″ diskette and a bunch of marketing material from Microplay. The box says it contains a free game offer inside worth $49.95. No dates anywhere on anything in the plus box. The elite.exe file, on the diskette, is dated 20 FEB 1991, so that would jibe with your 1991 date. I thought maybe there’d be a darkWheel.txt file, but no such luck.

      I distinctly remember playing the game on my T1K in 1987, which would have been the 5 1/4″ version, but I’m not sure if I ever played the plus edition. I think, by then, I’d moved on.

      I picked up Frontier when it came out, also, but could never get it to run on my PC.

      • I vaguely recall all the mucking about with EMS and XMS memory in config.sys and autoexec.bat – the horror! πŸ™‚

      • Lucky you, I went home in 1989 to learn that my mum had sold my BBC b along with 60 odd games including the original elite. I was speechless.

    • “Does anyone know why they didn’t just reprint β€œThe Dark Wheel”?”

      Microprose didn’t have the rights. The Telecomsoft 8-bit versions were allowed to reprint it only because we gave them a licence.

  4. What about the other hardware? I was a beeb enthusiast, so I already had disc drives for it. Was there a tape version or was it disc only? Also, I was very lucky because I had some sort of analogue joystick for it, which made it much easier to play. Most joysticks of the time were digital, so lacked the precision you needed, but were better for games like Pacman. Colour monitors were still pretty expensive then, so I used a 12″ portable TV as a monitor.

    • There was a separate tape version without all of the features of the disc version. There was also a later version for the BBC Master too. Analogue joystick back then though – very envious! πŸ™‚

  5. I think it might be Decca not ‘Decker’ of Beatles not signing infamy. Sorry.

    • You’re quite right – will fix. πŸ™‚

  6. BBC B micro was the government choice for schools in UK back then, so pretty much all schools had them. Atom was more a precursor than a cut-down version (the Electron was the cut down).
    Tape was the default loading mechanism really, and you had to save your games to tape too (unless you were rich and could afford a disk drive). I’ve still got loads of cassettes in the loft with my saved Elite games on (because tapes aren’t that reliable). Happy days.

    • Many thanks for that – updates made! πŸ™‚

  7. PS. Acornsoft wasn’t that small. Back then games on the Acorn platform pretty much only came from them and Superior Software. There were a handful of smaller firms but they were the big two on the platform.

  8. Suggestion:

    At that stage, Ian was working on a game known as “Freefall”, which was later published by “Acornsoft”, a relatively small publishing house, compared to Thorn EMI, in 1983.

    (http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/freefall/index.htm)

  9. There were some interesting similarities to a late-70’s pen and paper RPG called Traveller which featured a wedge-shaped entry level scout ship, a sample protagonist named Captain Jameson (your name in Elite) and a wide open world with endless star systems, bases and options. In that game you could also choose to trade or pirate, engage in combat or escape, take missions for patrons. You could also get out of your ship and explore starports, planets and ancient ruins. I’d like to see Elite eventually allow all that as well.

  10. I worked for Acornsoft and was present during many of the meetings ( including the first). The initial scanner was two circles which scanned ant 90 degrees to each other and the pilot had to merge those two in his/her brain. Not easy. Even Alan Bellingham who was the chief play tester on elite (and as I recall, unsurprisingly, the first to achieve the rank of elite) had a hard time with it. The suggestion of the ‘periscopes’ cane during a brain storming session on methods of overcoming the confusion
    I think Alan and myself first came up with the idea but Braben and bell caught on quickly and had a working demo inside of a day.
    Incidentally as I recall there was a constant shortage of ram available in the 32k memory of the bbc micro for the game. I think the final version used every single available byte.

    • Thanks Edward! Fascinating detail! πŸ™‚

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