When I was a kid, I was pretty heavily into computer games. I got my first computer – a 386SX PC – in about 1992; I missed the BBC Micro/Spectrum/Commodore era, just a few years too young for that time (though I would encounter the BBC Micro in secondary school; they didn't disappear until 1996 if memory serves!) and I still remember that old beast fondly. Naturally, this was long before the arrival of the internet as anything like a standard feature; I didn't get a modem until I was 16, when they began to get more mainstream. Which of course meant that I spent most of my time on it playing games!
Now I managed to hit a lot of the high points on that machine; in fact, I think most of my favourite games date back to that period. X-Com, Wing Commander I and II, Eye of the Beholder, Civilization, SimCity...I think you get the general idea. Sid Meier's Pirates, the very original version. I spent a while playing a game called Omnicron Conspiracy, largely because I bought it around the time I got the computer. (And my only game on 5.25 inch disks, as I recall...yes, that first computer had 3.5 and 5.25...) However, there was one game that still stands out above the rest, somehow. I am speaking of Elite.
Not the original Elite, I must add – I missed out on that one well and truly, though I do have vague memories of playing Elite Plus in a PC World at one point. Frontier: Elite II was my 'Elite', the one that set the tone, and I spent weeks playing it, trying to build up my character, working trade runs and performing missions, trying to get into better and better ships. I still remember my main trade routes – Robots from Sol to Barnard's Star, Luxury Goods and Animal Skins back to Sol, with occasional detours to Ross 128 when I got bored. In a few hours I could build up from the starting ship to the Cobra, and then off to Imperial Space – not to Achernar, but to Facece...yes, I remember this game far too well. And there was the stuff that came with it. A book of short stories, and descriptions of known space...and at some point I got hold of a copy of 'Dark Wheel' as well. It made the universe come alive to me, and I suppose if there is one real foundational inspiration for Battlecruiser Alamo, it would be that game. The use of real star locations was impressive, and being able to fly around from planet to planet was just tremendous fun, even without missions, or anything really happening in the background.
Frontier: First Encounters was essentially the same, but that I suppose was a problem – it was the same, and it felt as if I had already done it. (I ran into this problem with Civilization. I played Civ 2 to death, and since then, I've never been able to get into any of the subsequent ones. Feels too...samey.) I have a feeling that some of you will have guessed where I am going with this. I pre-ordered a copy of Elite: Dangerous this morning.
I missed out on the Kickstarter for this one, but I've been looking at it a lot, and finally decided to jump in – and am now regretting that I missed pre-ordering in time to take part in the Gamma, but if the rumours of a save wipe before the launch are correct, not that much; it would be infuriating to have to start again! I know about the 'offline play' controversy, but for me, I must admit that it doesn't really register. I've never got into an MMO before, but I've played a few, and having a constantly online game doesn't bother me. Nor does the knowledge that there are still features to implement; I think, just for once, I'm happy to get in on the ground floor of something.
My little fears were wiped out when I finished playing through the first couple of tutorials this evening. While you can't yet play the game itself, the combat training is open, and I'm taking the opportunity to get used to playing the game, to controlling the ship, and I think that will be a valuable investment. Here's hoping that they do docking tutorials as well, maybe a few others along those lines – I'd like to get off to an early start. I'll be honest, this is one of the games I am really excited about. I practically lived in Frontier for most of one summer, and while I – hopefully – won't get quite that immersed, I am looking forward to hoping into a Cobra Mark III and seeing what has changed in the universe since I was last there!