The Writings
A Collection of Short Articles (last updated Dec 2002)

The Elite Authors
The FFE Universe
A Spacer's Journal
The Game Experience

The Elite Authors ~ Writings from the Fans of Elite
When Innocense Prevails278k by Miriam Judith Kaye ~ Word .DOC format ~ 41 pages.

The FFE Universe (c1995)
by George Hooper

    Finally...after a year of searching and talking to lots of salesmen about a game they never heard of, one single, dusty Frontier First Encounters box was found.  It was tucked in behind the other 400 games on display at a local computer store in Southern California.

    Home I go, pop in the CD-ROM, and am greeted to USA v1.01.  Yep, all the bugs one could ever want in a game, if one wanted bugs... No real problem though.  As the new purchase makes me a bonified GameTek customer, a quick call to their 800 number has a U.K v105 in the mail and heading my way.

    I read all the buglists, the interviews with the authors, the FAQs, reviews, patches, and hacks.  I know what works, and what doesn't, and how to deal with each of the bugs as they occur.  The one thing I did not know, or gain from all this reading, is the look and feel of the FFE world.

    It's Playtime.  The sound is setup, startup files are configured, and the game is launched.  The opening fly-bys are impressive, if somewhat jerky at times.  Then its into the game mode for hours...setting up the options, trying all the controls, flying with the mouse, joystick, keyboard, and comparing all the reactions with the three other Elite games I've played.

    The game is so familiar, and yet so different, at the same time.   I think there is a word for that feeling other than deja vu.   Once again I'm back in the stratolounger, the reassuring hum of a Faulcon DeLacy drive system in the background.  The ship is on course, and the silence of space is upon us again.   The controls are all there, they just look different, with a few new features.   The craze of ergonomic designs is still with us in the 33rd century.

    The point is that, for all the bugs and complaints, the intention of putting the player into the Elite universe was a success.  The displays, controls, and the complex interaction between ship and player, all combine to give one the experience the authors intended.  The time, effort, and devotion to making a great game better is there for the viewing.

    So the mouse is a little slow, the screen sometimes jerky, recalibrating the joystick at every startup, no class III military drives or Falcons to be had, no visitor permits, or an autopilot that sometimes makes double-runs into a system. The Frontier Elite II game seems so much smoother in flight, and more responsive to the inputs.   Yes, for some unknown reason, the technical composition of the game failed.   Was it the complexity of adding so many new features to an old platform designed for earlier hardware?  Were there contractual agreements to provide a product on time, and a rush to complete?  How about trying to add too much to a limited and vastly different PC compatible world?  Whatever the reasons, the technical execution had lots of problems.

    But the virtural execution, and the suspension of reality for a vastly complex universe, is there for all who enter.  I once again became a part of the universe on the other side of the CRT.  The ship and equipment list is updated, and once again a profit/combat career awaits.  A couple of hours time, and the Asp Explorer is fully loaded, with a few million in credits.  Then I hack an Eagle Mk II and fly around the universe on a gigantic scenic tour...I just treat the bugs as a higher difficulty level, for the existence of the virtural universe is what it is really all about.

    I applaud the authors for their attempt at perfection, and hope the problems only excite them to a higher level.  So many space simulations games have come and gone since the introduction of Elite in 1984.  Many were no doubt inspired by this game, many are superior in execution and style.  But I'll stick around Mars High for awhile...It's home.

A Spacer's Journal (c1996)
by George Hooper

     It's been a long five years since first making that nervous exit from Old Curie on Hope.  How odd it seems that winning the Wiccan Ware race was so exciting.  So many adventures have passed across the displays of my control cabin since then.

    The journey is always the most exciting in the opening of a new career in space.  The first few flights to get your flying skills adapted to the perils of space, making some modest credits at first.  Then buying that first upgrade ship, the Viper, and watching the credits mount as your cargo capacity increases.

    Many a new spacer has dreamed of fame and glory, only to be a wisp of laser light from an exploding ship in their rush to success.  The old spacers got that way by being careful, knowing when to fight, when to run, and respecting the real power of the universe they travel.  It's a simple axiom that one cannot properly fight without good shields and effective weapons, and getting the credits to buy them requires the tedious journeys in the safer trade routes.  A patience that is rewarded with the tools of the trade.

    But above all the equipment and credits, experience is the commodity to which no price can be placed.  Knowing the gravity wells around Bernard's Star, how ship size will effect a lateral high G turn, the right combination of hull size, shield strength, and laser mounts for combat.  All of this, and a hundred more lessons to be learned in the coldness of space.  Mistakes are tolerated only once.   Profit usually wins over mercy in the space lanes.

    A year passes and I'm still alive, so I guess that is what really matters in the credit counts of the day.  The Panther Clipper "paid the way " in both credits and kills, with its time now past.  The fast Eagle Mk III now rules the space lanes, carrying military traffic to distant systems.  How fast time travels now with speed at a touch of the powerful main thrusters.  The first unnerving runs with pirates closing fast are now almost amusing, as my flying skills lead them on to futility, while I peacefully dock at the next port of call.

    Two years in the books.  The lines of space aging are distinct in the face before me.  The sparkle in the eye reflects the knowledge of the universe and my surroundings.  Quietly I make improvements to my Rank and Ratings, as the 4 Mw Beam on my new ship is very effective in the right hands.

    The Thargoids are here!  But I knew this meeting was inevitable.  Too many legends, too much press, it was only a matter of time, and the crossing of paths, before I would face the horror, and the wonder, of the adventure before me.  Jo Merion tried, but too much desire, and not enough wisdom, was her downfall.  Only experience, careful decisions, and effective control of my surroundings will help me now...

  Three years, and my Thargoid War Ship rules the space lanes.  My ranking to Commodore is only a heartbeat away, and the Elite Federation of Pilots awaits.   Many more wonders and unusual systems have passed across my eyes, many more to come.

    Then to be ELITE - not just a kill rating on some distant GalCom computer, but a combination of thought, actions, tools, and a way of life in a universe containing both wonders and adversity.  Living on the edge of reality, putting it all on the line, again and again, in a lifestyle that is challenging and rewarding.   Respect and praise comes to those who make Elite.  They become one with the universe, in command of their surroundings, while the universe moves them onward to their ultimate destiny.

    Today I enter the dimly lit cabin.  The palmprint ID activates the controls and the CRT glows warmly once again.   The Pentuim II processors activate, and the hum of the engines, similar to a hard disk drive in ancient times, provides the security of knowing the power is there and ready to use.  I check the GalCop for current credit ratings, then check the personal messages on the A.F.E. board.  Alas, another new spacer ready for adventure, without the patience to survive it.  Then the comments from those Elite, with the same twinkle in their eye...It's a good day to fly...

The Game Experience (c1996)
by George Hooper

     The game experience. Always searching for the elusive entertainment that captures your emotions and desires, and inspires you to want more. A good game is not only program, coding, interface, action, and reaction. It touches us on deep personal levels, releasing endorfins in our brains to excite and pleasure us during the game play. One can feel the sounds, touch the objects, breath the air. The screen action generates real emotional responses inside us. We become one with the computer, lost in a virtural world for the moment, living a virtural life impossible to duplicate in the real world.

    The Elite series of games provides this environment. Simple in the early versions, more complex in the latter. Once you have experienced Elite, your games senses are heightened, and you set new standards for what a good game is supposed to be. You become disappointed at the 'kiddy carnage' arcade type games on the Sony Playstation and Nintendo 64. The PC releases are better, as they have a element you can relate to. But all too often they seem to be missing something. Doom, Quake, Terminal Velocity, Star Wars, Renaissance Evil, Myst, Raven, and Tomb Raider all have these emotional elements. But where are the games that have all these elements in one great program?

    They are not available in today's marketplace. It's the 90s now, with a game costing millions in departmental development, design, production, marketing, and distribution. A bad game now can bankrupt a small company, and drastically effect the reputation, and sales, of a large one. There are still pockets of creativity (try the PC game Killing Cloud by Konami), but they are often missed in the mass of game releases. Companies are scared to take excessive risks, and rightly so to keep a sound business in a highly competitive market.

    But there was a time when many programmers and game designers, from corporations, to a guy in a garage, were making applications for the ultimate game machine. They were taking risks, trying different approaches, interfaces, object designs, and themes. These great people were putting their heart and emotions above the profit line to see how good a game could get. The result was some of the best games ever designed, many of which are still a quantum leap above anything being released today. The time was ten years ago. The machine was called the Amiga by Commodore Business Machines.

    Of all the two hundred games I've played on the Amiga, here are two games which stood out as having 'the right stuff' in player interaction. The games were StarGlider II and Damoclese. These games surpass just being good, and effect you in personal emotional levels, which is as good as it gets.

    StarGlider II was a perfect example of a mission game, with some creative and risky attempts at a new gaming environment. It had 'whales in space', a 3D light panel for controls, and unusual sound effects. The mission was set in a planetary system where the bad guys are assembling a weapon to blow away your home planet (e.g. Star Wars). You fly to different planets, assembling a bomb to use against the weapon. Temperature, and danger, would increase as you flew to hot planets near the sun. You had a limited amount of time to do this before your home was toast. Along the way the bad guys would provide some nice space battles for you to survive. The bomb parts were in underground bases, and you would have to fly through a maze of tunnels (e.g. Quake) to get to them. You would also have to replenish your ship power, and you flew along power lines (just like UFO sightings) to do it. The graphics were smooth, and the virtual flight effect was very realistic. Overall, this game touched your emotions, and added depth to the experience. Many of the engines in this game are present in today's releases.

    Damoclese was a basic asteroid going to hit the Earth. You had to fly to different planets, assemble a bomb, fly to the asteroid, detonate the bomb, and alter the asteroid's course. It started in space approaching our galaxy. The resolution expanded to show the flybys of the planets, approach to earth, entering the atmosphere, seeing the land masses, cities, more expansion to buildings, roads, and finally landing at a starport. It's not over. You then entered a land vehicle, drove on the streets, stop at a building, get out and enter. Inside the building you would find furniture, objects which you could pickup, buttons you could push, and books you could read. In many ways, this game added to the basic interaction one finds in Frontier Elite II and Frontier First Encounters. It combined the element of open architecture navigation with puzzle solving. It was an awesome experience!

    Its limitations were a time limit to complete the mission before the asteroid hit the Earth, and no other place to go once you left the system (actually adds to the realism). Other than that, it was a completely open architecture as to how you accomplished the mission. It was released years ago, but would be a top selling title if released today. Why? The hottest movie of the summer, called Armageddon, is about to open. Its about an asteroid hitting the Earth, and a team of pilots to stop it. Capturing the emotional response in the movie was done years ago in this game release.

    If you are looking to enhance your gaming experience, perhaps it would be better to look back, instead of forward. One never knows when the great game will be released for today's systems, and so often disappointment follows purchase. But you can have the great games now with an Amiga. These computers are still for sale in many places, and a used one is certainly competitive with the today's game machines. They are also a lot cheaper than a full IBM system.

    Add the internet, and your access to all the great games are complete. Thousands of Amiga fans are still out there, enjoying the greatest games ever made, sharing information and software. Like the fans of Elite, a game which touches you personally will always be around. A little web searching is all that is needed.

    The unending search for the ultimate game often has many paths one can take. The Amiga, and the never ending support by its users, is one solution to the game experience.

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