Once upon a time there was a game. No, it was more than a game; it was a whole universe where you played a lowly starship captain free to do whatever you wanted. The gamespace covered multiple universes, 4,000 worlds, countless enemies and fellow traders. It was a game where you felt like just one player in a massive, nigh-infinite realm.
The game was Elite, and it was – and still is, I believe – the best game ever made. It was the first computer game I ever played, on a BBC Model B of all things. It was the first game I played on a Commodore 64. Unsurprisingly, it was also the first game I played on a PC. Yes, I’m a creature of habit.
Two sequels followed, each changing the controls and physics for space travel, and added more features to the game. While they were good, it’s impossible to improve on perfection. The original Elite was the best.
This is Oolite, a re-imagining of the Elite bringing modern graphics magic to the wonderful game. Given that the original used wireframe or solid shader graphics and still managed to fully immerse the player into the universe, this is a huge step up which looks great, and plays wonderfully. Even on my no-brand graphics-crippled laptop, I get gorgeous 1280×800 resolution using OpenGL under Linux running at full speed, so “modern graphics” doesn’t mean “stupidly high-spec”. It runs on a Mac, Linux and WinXP, so there’s no excuse not to play. No, really.
If all we had was great graphics though, that’s not a lot of incentive to play this rather than the original under emulation. So, there’s more.
Oolite is Elite, but with a completely open framework. Yes folks, it’s Elite, with plugins. OOSAT offers extra ships (including Star Wars X-wings, Y-wings and Tie Fighters!), missions and equipment to expand the game in potentially limitless directions. It is very satisfying to destroy Darth Vader’s Imperial Shuttle using just a Pulse Laser.
Everything that has been said about Elite stands for this game. Trading is a slow, methodical affair while pirate hunting is fast, furious and fraught with danger. It’s not a game where you play a superhuman unkillable machine, but one more cog in the wheel trying to make a profit. That said, it’s amazing just how much the power boost military lasers brings a grin to your lips!
It’s great to see a game which works this well under Linux, even full screen. It’s even better that this is one of my favourite games of all time.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ve a trip to Isinor scheduled………