THE MICRO USER GUIDE TO PLAYING ELITE
Now let the great adventure begin...
The first thing is to learn to use the ship's instruments. The bar charts are fairly straightforward - the longer the bar the more of the particular quantity, for example speed or energy.
The two scales marked RL and DC have the zero mark in their centres, and show the extent to which you are climbing, diving or rolling.
If the large E light appears this means that someone is using an ECM anti-missile system in your area.
If the large S appears this tells you that you have entered the space station safety zone, in which you will be protected from space pirates by the Galactic Corporation Police. Study Figure I and identify all the instruments on your screen.
Fig I - Screen instrumentation
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The compass is just like the terrestial variety but is in 3D. It shows in what direction the nearest planet is. If the pointer (the dot) appears large and bright you are heading towards the planet. If it is small and dim you are heading away. If the safety zone S is lit the compass shows the direction of the nearest space station.
Now on to the most complicated, and also most useful, piece of instrumentation, the 3D scanner.
Fig II - The 3D scanner
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This is just like an Earth radar, but in three dimensions. Figure IIa shows an Earth radar display with your ship at its centre. The cross represents an enemy ship, which in this case is to the right and behind you.
The problem with this display is that it only shows the position of the enemy in two dimensions, not how far above or below you it is. Turning this radar through 90 degrees (Figure IIb) so that we are looking at the back of your ship, we can now see that the enemy is above and to the right.
This means, however, that we have now lost the position of the enemy in the horizontal forward - backward direction.
If a compromise between these two extremes is used and the radar tilted through 45 degrees, all three dimensions can be shown - almost.
Look at Figure IIc. This shows a radar tilted through 45 degrees but the problem is that the cross could be at the same height as you and on your right; or in front, lower, and on the right; or behind, higher and on your right. Clearly as it stands this is not useable.
The problem is overcome by using "sticks and notches". The stick shows the height difference between you and the enemy ship and the end without the notch shows where the ship is in the horizontal plane. Using this system (Figure IId) the position of the enemy, represented by the notch, can be clearly seen. In this example the enemy is behind, above and to the right of you.
In Figure IIe the enemy is in front, to the left of and just below you.
The scanner shows everything except planets, suns, generation ships, dredgers and explosion debris. There is no scaling - the notch representing a space station 1km across and that representing a cargo canister 1m across will look exactly the same on the scanner.
The next stage in your training is learning to control your Cobra Mk 3. Launch the ship by pressing f0, and just let it fly for a moment. Press and hold / until the ship stops - watch the speed bar chart on the panel.
Now randomly press any of the keys S,X,<,> (the direction keys), watching their effect on the movement of the stars in the window. Continue for a few moments with the random motion of the craft.
Now try to find the space station again, using the control keys as before and the scanner. Practice this several times, and then do the same again, but this time using the speed controls (Space, /) as well.
If you find this difficult at first don't panic, it gets easier the longer you play.
The greatest problem all beginners face is space docking. The frustration this can cause has made many people throw away their copies of the game. If you are one of these, retrieve it now. Believe it or not docking is dead easy.
Firstly find a suitably quiet planet and hyperspace to it. If you are playing for the first time try Leesti. To get there press f0 to launch from the Lave space station, press f4 to call up the hyperspace map, and use the cursor keys to move across to Leesti.
Press f0 again to return to the front view and press H to engage the hyperdrive. When you arrive find the planet, a hollow sphere, using the compass.
Use the direction keys to move the centre of the planet roughly to the centre of your view. The screen should look like Figure III at this point.
Fig III - Locating and docking with the space station
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Now accelerate (Space) to full speed and jump drive (J) towards the planet. You should now pray that there are no space pirates about.
After a moment the jump drive will stall with a loud bleep. Now check the scanner. If there is a ship in front of you don't worry - it is a trader and will not shoot at you. Just make sure you don't crash into it by climbing a little, and you are safe.
If on the other hand the scanner shows ships on either side of you, you are in serious trouble and the only thing to do if you are not used to combat is to die gracefully.
If the scanner is clear of pirates then continue to fly straight at the planet as before. When you get close to the planet safety zone S will appear.
Now use the compass again and manoeuvre so that the large bright dot is at the centre of the compass. After a short time a stationary dot will appear on your screen - this is the space station. It will look something like Figure IIIb.
Now manoeuvre again so that the space station is on the right of your picture and the planet on your left (Figure IIIc). Accelerate to full speed and switch to the right view (f3).
In a short time the station will drift by. When you are square on to it stop. The screen will resemble Figure IIId. Switch back to the front view (f0) and rotate until you are facing the station. Carefully line up the centre of the slot of the station with the centre of the sights in your screen - see Figure IIIe.
Now speed up just a fraction, and wait. You will glide straight into the station - you have docked, and the whole of the galaxy is open before you.
If you didn't dock you need more accuracy when lining up on the slot, so try again.
Having covered the fundamentals, we must now consider our prime objective, which is to become a member of the order of Elite combatteers. But to go fighting with only a front pulse laser is fatal. You must first trade to earn enough credits to arm your ship to the back teeth.
You start the game with 100 credits, the Galactic currency, on the planet Lave. This is a rich agricultural planet, and this means that farm produce is cheap but machinery is expensive.
It pays to buy wine here, so for the first time buy 4 tonnes (f1 for buy cargo) for about 100 credits.
Leesti is a poor industrial planet, which means that machinery is cheap, but farm produce is expensive. So you hyperspace to Leesti to sell your wine (f2). You will get about 160 credits for your 4 tonnes - now you are a trader.
Now buy two computers, because they are cheap, and fly them back to Lave. Sell them at a high price and buy more wine, fly the wine to Leesti and so on. This is very boring after a while, but it really is worth doing for as long as you can stand it.
... and Tactics
At this stage you'll need a very useful technique - cheating! We have read many letters from Commanders who have got to this stage, but complain that after three or four runs they get killed by space pirates and have to start all over again.
A possible solution to this problem is to save the game, but this is tedious at best. A better method is to press @ every time you land to save the game, but on tape machines don't actually record the data, and on disc versions just press Return when the computer asks "Which drive?"
The effect of this is that your current status becomes the default status, and this means that if you are killed you will be returned to the last space station you visited with all your cargo, credits and weapons still intact, without having to load a new commander.
You need only save the game at the end of each playing session. This technique can do wonders for your sanity.
With all the cash that's rolling in by now you'll want to buy some goodies for your ship.
The first item on your shopping list should be a large cargo bay to double your cargo space, and therefore your profit.
It will set you back 400 credits and it is best to wait until you have at least 650 credits before making your purchase so you have enough left to continue trading profitably.
On the tape version a docking computer is a good second buy. If you have disc you will find the docking computer very slow, but if your docking is a bit shaky then it's best to buy one.
Next is a front beam laser. Make sure you have at least 1300 credits before buying your second item. After this it's basically a case of what takes your fancy, but beam lasers to the right, left and rear are recommended, along with an ECM system and energy units. On the disc version a front military laser is a must.
Your rating is based on the number of ships you successfully encounter. The more pirates you kill, the higher your rating.
Do not shoot at traders - they are easy targets, but your criminal record will suffer and GalCop police Vipers are not such easy targets.
It follows from this that you need somewhere where you can kill people without anyone minding too much, for example an anarchy.
What you need to find is an anarchy within 3.5 light years (two hyperspace jumps on one tank of fuel) of a democracy. The democracy gives you a safe refuge with a crippled ship when you hyperspace back all shot up.
So once you have fully armed your ship find a democracy with an anarchy close by. Refuel there, and fly to the anarchy.
As soon as you arrive set the hyperspace pointer to the democracy. Now fly directly away from the planet - the compass should be centred, the dot small and dim.
The reason for flying away from the planet is that if you didn't you might fly into the safety zone and shoot a harmless trader to bits by accident.
Accelerate to full speed and jump drive. After a few moments the jump drive will stall and pirates will appear on the scanner. Turn your ship so that they are directly in front of you, and blast away, killing off as many as you can.
Don't slow down - if you have to get them in view speed up again as quickly as possible. Once you have flown through the pack they will separate and you can pick them off one at a time.
Wait for the energy banks and shields to recharge fully after you have killed all the pirates - not even one of the Elite can survive combat with empty energy banks.
When fully charged jump drive again and kill some more.
You may find that some ships release a lot of cargo canisters when they explode.
If you have a fuel scoop you can pick them up, but it isn't worth it. They are worth far more to you if you shoot them - they are sitting ducks, but kills are awarded for them just as for ships.
If you do pick them up you will probably find they contain narcotics or slaves, and the GalCop police will be right after you.
If at any time during combat the pirates start to get the better of you, say your energy is down to bank 3, then it's time to leave the party. Press H - now you see why hyperspace is programmed before starting combat - and flip over (X) so you are flying away from the pirates.
This is so that the pirates shoot at your rear shields, which are usually full, and not at the main energy banks. This way it is unlikely they will blast through the hull of your ship before you vanish into hyperspace. When you arrive turn to face the planet and accelerate to full speed. Do not jump drive - you will encounter more pirates if you do, and you will almost certainly die before reaching the safety zone.
Once your shields are at full it is safe to jump drive. The reason for choosing a democracy will become very clear to you now, as all other systems are crawling with pirates, added to which are the extras mentioned above, which I believe follow you through hyperspace.
Dock with the space station as soon as you can. Breathe a sigh of relief. Refuel, and return to combat for more action.
After a few rounds of action you will notice that your rating has changed. It is however a mistake to think that it will only take another 15 minutes to get to Elite, for it won't.
Your rating is based on the "Right on Commander" messages which appear on your screen. You are awarded one for every 256 pirates you kill.
The rating system has nine levels - Harmless, Mostly Harmless, Poor, Average, Above Average, Competent, Dangerous, Deadly and finally Elite.
It will take one "Right on Commander" to get from Harmless to Competent. Another two will take you to Dangerous. To reach Deadly you need another eight, and to reach Elite a mammoth 16.
Don't let the prospect of having to kill around 7,000 ships put you off - just don't think about it.
Many offhand comments in the Elite manual are true, despite how silly some sound. It says that the Space Navy will pay a large bounty for any Thargon craft brought to them, but it doesn't mention that this is in fact possible by scooping up dead Thargon drone ships and selling them as "alien items".
It also fails to advise you that it is possible to pick up escape capsules and keep the occupants as slaves.
It does, however, reveal that Thargoid craft are believed to be able to hover in witch space, and divert through-coming craft. This has happened to us several times. A military laser soon puts a stop to that little game.
Another quote is "The missile launch mechanism is reliable and hardly ever jams" - but it can and does. It also carries the disclaimer "The O.S.A. takes no responsibility for the accuracy of information registered in the WorldData Link".
The meaning of this will become clear when you visit some of the democracies in the higher galaxies and find them pirate-infested, and also some of the anarchies, which can be devoid of all life.
The disc version of Elite is far better than the cassette mainly due to the large difference in size of program.
So if you haven't got a disc drive then Elite is the excuse you've been waiting for.
In the disc version are another 12 different types of ship, more activity at space stations, and - the major feature - the Space Navy. You remember them - the guys in the grey suits from The Dark Wheel.
After reaching Competent you will receive a message from Captain Carruthers, asking if you will do a little bounty hunting for him, namely to seek and destroy a stolen Navy prototype ship.
Later Captain Fortesque will ask for your services to run some top secret plans about the Thargoids across the galaxy. The only problem is that they are not so secret - the Thargoids know of them and ambush you repeatedly.
And, if, after all this help you still can't make the grade, next month's issue of The Micro User contains a program that should send you well on your way!
This article appeared in the January 1986 edition of the "Micro User", published by Database Publications.
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