Elite (1984, Acornsoft)

Elite box

Let me be perfectly clear about one thing. I personally consider Elite as one of the most important milestones in the history of videogames.
Why? Well, consider that back in 1984 the videogame industry was still mainly driven by arcades. When you played an arcade game, you slid a coin in, you had 1-3 lives at your disposal to perform a conceptually basic task in a relatively limited game world. Only a very limited set of actions at your disposal. Having a limited amount of time to complete a level was common practice. "Limited" being the keyword here.
This mindset reflected heavily in games for home-entertainment systems. The biggest titles were still arcade conversions after all.

In my most humble opinion, Elite changed all that. It was the pebble that started the avalanche.
In Elite, missing is the concept of lives. Enter the possibility to save the game and start again just where you left. An entire procedurally-generated galaxy to explore. No monkey-brain tasks to be performed. You were free to do whatever you felt like doing in that galaxy. Taking whatever amount of time you needed. Sandbox. This was huge. A Copernican Revolution.
I'm not saying that Elite introduced all this innovations single-handedly. But it was, to my knowledge, the first title to put them all together.

My main complaint when talking about videogames was missing on all that. I never played Elite when it was first published in 1984, but only several years later, when its revolutionary concepts were already common ground.
So I had to make up for it somehow: adding Elite to my retrogaming collection seemed like the right way to go. As a token of respect to David Braben and Ian Bell, the game creators.

I looked for a long time for the original BBC micro edition at a price that wouldn't require applying for a mortgage, but to no avail. So I settled for the C64 Firebird edition. Which is really good anyway.

Elite Box contents

Elite Box contents

The box contains:

  • A juicy game manual. This probably started the era of treasuring a game's paper manual, of reading it over and over again. It was part of the gaming experience. For more complex games (e.g. Civilzation) it was required.

  • The dark wheel, a 40-pages short novel set in the Elite universe. First time ever a novel was found inside the box of a videogame. Although not an exceptional read, it really helped to set the mood. In case you're interested, here you can find a transcription. This was also a right step in the direction of consistent worldbuilding.

  • Ship identification poster displaying the various ship classes. They're basically very crude and elementary polygonal shapes, but we're talking C64 here. We're talking 8 bit. Seeing a wireframed polygon spin on the screen was a big deal.

  • Paper keyboard control overlay for the C64. There were quite a lot of key commands to memorize, so I suppose this really came in handy. How cool that was, anyway?

  • 5.25" floppy disk. Because I've got a fetish for 5.25" floppies. I really do.

  • Summary of controls sheet. Again, I suppose this was really useful.

All of this for about 60 euros. Not cheap, but still reasonable, considering the historical value this box holds.
I am really happy with my new acquisition. I consider this the gem of my (rather small to be honest) retrogaming collection.