For those of you wandering when the next installment of my EotE campaign will be up: It might be a couple of days.
The reason: I got hooked again on the one game, the game of all games for me, and that game is Elite. The space-trading game that started a genre in 1984.
I don’t know how it happened but maybe because of the highly anticipated (by me at least) Elite: Dangerous or the related internet “research” I decided to start a new commander playing the Amiga Elite version on the WinUAE Amiga emulator. And BAM! There I am, hooked again to that game. So what better to write a post and share with you my musings on Elite. In a way that relates distantly to solo RPGing as well, which I will explain further in a second.
First, a little bit of personal history why I love this game so much.
I started playing Elite on my C64 in 1989. I was twelve years old at that time. I already loved Star Wars and had already an affinity for spacer smuggler types like Han Solo. He was (and still is) my hero.
So along came Elite which gave me the possibility to step into Han’s shoes and build my own souped up space transport while shooting pirates and smuggling contraband. I played Elite and Elite only. For hours and hours and days and weeks and months and years. When my family and I went on a camping trip with an RV I took my C64 and a TV (yes!) with me and, now comes the really nerdy part, copyed my floppy version of elite to a tape and took a datasette with me because the floppy disk drive took up to much space. So I actually loaded Elite from tape and saved to tape as well. When we reached our destination I set up my cockpit in the driver’s and passenger’s seat of the RV and guess what I did, yes, I played Elite.
I played Elite on the C64 until I got an Amiga 500 sometime in the early 90s. The first game I started playing was Elite. I really like the Amiga version up until this day because of the dynamic dogfights.
So what is so great about this game:
The manual is written in such a great style, with all the story elements about the Elite universe (like the GalCop, asteroid hermits, Thargoids, the novellas) that it really furthers immersion in the game. As a result, because of the openess, my imagination started filling in all the details. I actually imagined myself as a cool space pilot hanging out in a spacer’s bar in a coriolis station (I was twelve years old, so give me a break). It gives you the possibility to be who you want and do what you want if you are willing to stretch your imagination a bit (more on that later).
Then, in 1993, came Frontier: Elite 2. I got that game for christmas in 1993 and again I was instantly hooked. After getting used to the newtonian flight engine I soared away. Now I could land on planets and do missions for the military, great! At that time I was living in the US for one year with an American family doing a one-year student exchange and I remember my host father and brother getting addicted to the game as well. We took turns on the computer, playing Frontier. I still have my savegame from that time. The in-game date is 3230, that means I played 30 years in-game, and I have more than 30 Million credits and a fully crewed Panther Clipper which is a slow flying fortress. However I am only Dangerous. It takes forever to go from Dangerous to Deadly, not to mention Elite. Still, I perfected my pilot skills. Manual flying to planets and landing on them was no problem. As were photo missions for the military and such.
Never once have I used a cheat playing Elite (also, no pausing the game during dogfights selecting targets in Frontier). All my commanders are built from the ground up.
After Frontier the saga ended for me. First Encounters didn’t happen as far as I am concerned.
So what would be the perfect Elite?
For me it would be a blend between Elite and Frontier: The non-newtonian flight engine and the dynamic dogfights combined with the completely simulated solar systems and the possibility to land on planets with randomly generated bulletin board missions. I have my hopes up high for Elite: Dangerous.
Great, but what does all this have to do with role-playing?
Well, first of all, building your commander and improving your ship and combat rating can be seen as role-playing. Instead of advancing your character gaining XP in this case you advance your ship with credits. And you advance your commander’s rating by killing pirates instead of dungeon monsters.
And now comes the geeky part, I am almost afraid to tell you but hey, at first I thought solo-rpg was strange. Now it is my prefered method of playing rpgs. I wrote a few paragraphs up that my imagination started to fill in the details. So what am I doing at the moment playing Amiga Elite on WinUAE?
I am doing missions. Those of you that know the game probably go like: Well, there are only five missions in the game and they take a long while to trigger with no real control over it by the player so how is he doing missions?
I “created” my own missions by using the rich detail this early game provides (no programming involved). I created the Combat Support Citizen Reserve Programm (CSCRP), an imagined in-game programm by the GalCop military.
Here is the story:
The GalCop (Galactic Cooperative of Worlds, the omnipresent insitution in Elite) military is not allowed to pay civilians because they are not allowed to hire mercenaries. However, they always have a demand for capable pilots to do certain discrete tasks or to support them. So they circumvented this restriction with the CSCRP.
Citizens can do missions for the military but they don’t get paid. Instead, they can earn military ranks. For every 10 missions completed, they are awarded a rank. The ranks are: None (zero missions), Corporal, Sergeant, 2nd Lieutenant, 1st Lieutenant and Captain.
When the individual reaches 60 standard years of age, he is then paid a pension for the rest of his life set by his rank. It’s a good deal for both sides: In most of the cases the military does not have to pay anything because the normal space trader is usually killed before 60 on the other hand, the old trader, that is getting slow and does not want to prowl the space lanes anymore can retire and have a decent life.
This way, I have an in-game explanation why I don’t get paid and still have a story reason, a motive, to do missions (besides the out-of character reason of giving myself a purpose once my ship is all souped-up) in game.
You can obtain a mission at every space station. Just pick one of the following missions:
Thargoid Raid:
The Thargoids are always looking for opportunities to invade human space and create a presence here. That task is made easier, the less military forces are present. That is the reason you encounter so many Thargoids in an Anarchy system.
Your mission is to fly to the nearest Anarchy system and destroy 8 Thargoid battleships. After you destroyed the last ship, return to the station where you got the mission. There, your accomplishment will be recorded. If you manage to scoop up at least 20 tonnes of alien items in that system from the Thargoids and sell them to us here, you will be awarded an extra accomplishment.
OOC: You have to destroy the Thargoids in one go. No docking, saving or repairing is allowed during the mission, only after the last Thargoid vessel is destroyed. If you dock after entering the Anarchy system but before you destroy the last of the 8 Thargoids, the mission is a failure. If you succeed at the bonus task (scooping alien items) the mission counts as two missions.
ASP Containment Raid:
As you might know, the ASP vessel was designed for the military. However, because of a traitor in the engineering departement the schematics found it’s way into the hands of pirates. Now these pirate ASPs are a real scourge to spacefarers. It is our responsibility to do what we can to contain this menace. This is the reason we placed a bounty on every ASP encountered.
Your mission is to fly to the nearest Anarchy system and destroy 8 ASP vessels. After you destroyed the last vessel, return here for your accomplishment record.
OOC: The same rules as for the Thargoid Raid apply.
Humanitarian Aid:
Official help is needed everywhere, but our resources are spread thin.
Your mission is to transport one cargo hold full of medical supplies (in the Amiga version, if you don’t have the Amiga version, take food instead) to a system that is suffering from a disease or plague, ravaged or cursed by civil war, or suffers from frequent earth quakes (use the planet descriptions to find an eligible planet). That target system must be at least 30 light years away from here. You have to buy the food/supplies here and transport it all the way from here to the target system. As soon as you unload the cargo at your destination, your accomplishment will be recorded.
OOC: You can save in between and replace lost items normally. However, the cargo must be carried from the starting system 30+ light years to the target system. If you loose the cargo on the way (by using an escape capsule or by getting it destroyed in combat) the mission is a failure.
We need somebody to assassinate a notorious pirate captain that we located. Your mission is to fly to an Anarchy system that is at least 10 light years away. There you will approach the space station and lie in wait until a Cobra MK III launches from the station. You have to kill the first Cobra MK III that leaves the station. The police there are all corrupt, so don’t beat yourself up over killing them, since they will come for you. However, you have to leave station space before you are allowed to engage your hyperdrive, otherwise they will be able to track you. Return here to record your accomplishment.
OOC: Inspired by Frontier this is a classic assassination contract. You are not allowed to use the docking computer and have to approach the target station manually and you are not allowed to dock at the target station. You have to wait (this might take a while) for a Cobra MK III to launch and destroy it. You are not allowed to dock at the station afterwards and you can only hyperspace out after you leave the station space (as marked by the “S” in the radar). So plan your jump into the target system from a nearby system, so that you have enough fuel to get back, since you can’t dock in the system you assassinated the target. As always, return to the system in which you decided to “pick up” the mission.
Transport Military Official:
We need safe transport of an official negotiator to a distant anarchy world. You are the pilot we had in mind for that.
Your mission is to transport our official to an Anarchy system at least 30 light years away. He will board your ship here and as soon as he disembarks in the target system, your accomplishment will be recorded.
OOC: This mission is similar to a Humanitarian Aid mission. The official is represented by 5 tonnes of food, that you have to buy in the start system. You have to carry these five tonnes all the way to the target system, but you are free to trade normally during the journey (since you have cargo space left). However, if you loose the five tonnes of food, the mission is a failure. The five tonnes food represent passenger space taken up as well as provisions during the trip etc.
So there you have it: Because of the rich detail of Elite and because I am a solo rpg gamer, I created pretty much my own (almost) perfect version of the game, just by using what is in there and by setting story wise logical limits . Only the planetary landings are missing. But because of the richness of the universe, the game made it easy for me.
I just created a commander’s file document (online on quip) and there I record my completed missions and military rank for my commander. Of course you can do every mission category several times.
All of a sudden, Elite became so much richer. But why did I even bother? Because it is such a great game to begin with.
So, I am off to transport some military offical now. Clear skies to you and don’t worry, Cal and Ash will return.
P.S.: “Transporting computers to Isinor since 1989” would make a good bumper sticker…..hmm…or “I got my license at Lave station”… to look into this…