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BBC Micro Elite

Versions of Elite

There are quite a few versions of Elite for the BBC range of computers. These are the main variants of the game (the links will take you to playable web-based versions of the game):

  • The BBC Micro Model B cassette version, which is the version I analyse on this site: BBC Micro Elite screenshot
  • The BBC Micro Model B disc version, which is generally regarded as the canonical version. This looks and plays just like the cassette version, but it contains a lot of extra features, namely: lots of additional ship types, the Dodo space station, mining and military lasers, two missions, a proper docking computer, the ability to search for systems by name, a glimpse of the view inside the station when docking, and Bitstik support.
  • An enhanced version for the BBC Micro with a 6502 Second Processor, which has all the features of the disc version of Elite, but with a four-colour space screen, an eight-colour dashboard, and no waiting around for things to load from disc: BBC Micro Elite Tube/Master version screenshot
  • An enhanced version for the BBC Master that's almost identical to the 6502 Second Processor version
  • The "executive version", which has a different font, an extended intro sequence and a maxed-out default commander. This version was not officially released but is available from Ian Bell's site: BBC Micro Elite Executive version screenshot

The version on this site

I chose the cassette version for this commentary for three reasons.

  • First, that's the version that Kieran Connell converted to BeebAsm, which I forked to kickstart this project, so it made sense to stand on the shoulders of giants (as that's pretty much the whole theme of this project).
  • Second, the cassette version is the one I fell in love with back in 1984, and in which I reached the heady rank of Elite for the first time. I eventually upgraded to a disc drive, traded in my cassette for the disc version and reached Elite all over again, but for me, the cassette version is the original game.
  • Third, the cassette version is the most impressive from a coding perspective. Sure, the disc version has all those extra features, but the cassette version takes the core of the game and squeezes it into a 32K BBC Micro, leaving very little free space. The disc version effectively loads a brand new program every time you launch or dock, but the cassette version is 100% self-contained, and from a technical viewpoint, that's just incredible. How can such a sophisticated game squeeze everything into 32K? Well, by being incredibly clever and incredibly efficient, and that's why the cassette version is the most interesting one to pick apart. After all, the best things come in small packages...

I hope to document the extra features in the disc and 6502 Second Processor versions as this project develops.