Exploring and extending the Elite game engine for the BBC Micro

Talk by Martin Ling (he/him) πŸ‘¨β€πŸ‘¦β€πŸ‘¦

Saturday from 12:40 PM - 1:20 PM in Stage B

If you are a British nerd of a certain age, you almost certainly played Elite on the BBC Micro. And if you didn't, this talk will explain why you should care about a now 40-year-old game. It was years ahead of its time, with 3D graphics, a procedurally generated open world, and a whole novel's worth of lore - all running on an 8-bit home microcomputer in 1984, when most games were little more advanced than Pac-Man or Space Invaders. Over the last few years, I've been picking apart the original Elite game engine to understand how it worked, and also to experiment with extending it. In this talk, I'll examine some of the methods that the game used - how it used the graphics hardware, how the game state is represented in memory, how the ship models were designed, how the AI worked, and how galaxies and planets were generated. I'll also explain some quirks of the game... including the real reason that docking was so hard. I'll demonstrate some new tools I've developed, which access the game state in real time, letting you experience the original game in new ways - including an OpenGL frontend with VR support, and an attempt to recreate an arcade-style version of the game, with an old-school vector display. Finally, if all goes to plan, I will attempt to demonstrate something that was an impossible dream for 40 years: multiplayer Elite on the original BBC Micro version.

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