Trading and hunting pirates in space

The space trading genre, where you trade goods between various plants and solar systems, is, contrary to what many may believe, very old. The first space trading game, at least in the modern sense, was Elite, created by Ian Bell and David Braben. It was released in 1984, and was one of the first to utilise wire-frame 3D graphics. The game was released for a number of 8-bit system, notably the BBC Micro, the Commodore 64 and the ZX Spectrum, and later ported, with updated graphics, to a number of 16/32 bit systems, like the Amiga and the IBM PC.

Elite was also one of the first games with no clear game objective or way of winning. Originally, the game had no ranks, but the publisher insisted on some way of measuring success, and thus your rank increase depending on how many enemy space ships you destroy, from “harmless” to “Elite”. Game play is still extremely free, and trading isn’t a requirement. If a player so chooses, she can instead become a pirate, or a bounty hunter hunting pirates, or even an asteroid miner. The only real objective is getting money, to upgrade your ship in various ways.

There’s been several sequels to Elite, though none of them fully captured the magic of the original, and it has also inspired several other space trading/fighting games. The most famous game which is directly influenced by Elite is EVE Online, which has many similarities to the original. Currently, David Braben Is developing a modern version of the game, called “Elite: Dangerous”, after raising over £2,000,000 through crowdfunding. The game is expected to see release at the end of 2014.