They say it is vanishingly rare... but just how rare is the mysterious Cougar?
The BBC Master and 6502 Second Processor versions of Elite have a ship that doesn't appear in the early versions at all, and which you only see in the wild in those later versions if you are very lucky indeed. Sure, it makes an appearance on the Master's title screen, rotating above the "Press Fire or Space, Commander" prompt, but out in the black? That's another story, because the Cougar is a rare beast indeed.
But just how rare is she? Let's see if we can work it out mathematically...
During the main game loop's spawning routine (which happens in 1 out of 256 main loop iterations), all the following have to happen in sequence:
- Skip asteroid spawning (87% chance)
- Skip cop spawning (0.4% chance)
- Skip Thargoid spawning (3.2% chance)
This means that there is a 0.011% chance of spawning a Cougar during each ship spawning routine, which is around 1 in 9000 ship spawnings.
To put this in context, it takes 6400 kills to become Elite, so it is quite possible to go all the way to Elite without seeing a Cougar... though if you're in the 6502 Second Processor version, you can at least capture the event with a screenshot.
Also, in the BBC versions of Elite, the Cougar does appear on the scanner, in cyan, contrary to rumours that is has a cloaking device that hides it from prying eyes. Other platforms... well, that's possibly a different story. You'll have to ask them yourself.