How to play the original 8-bit Elite on a Raspberry Pi

Ok, so after my last post about running the Archimedes 32-bit version of Elite on RISC OS on the Raspberry Pi I got a few comments about running the earlier (and more authentic) 8 bit version on modern hardware. So I thought I’d have a bit of a play and try out a few options for running the original version.

Probably the easiest way to get a taste is to run the NES version on an emulator – Elite co-creator Ian Bell describes this as “the best way to re-experience the feel of 8 bit Elite“.

There are NES emulators available for almost any platform – here it is running on my Android 4 MK802 lapdock using iNES. You can download the ROM freely (and legally) from Ian Bell’s website.

Elite running on the iNES emulator on an Android 4 MINI PC

Cobra mk III

If you find the display corrupts you need to make sure it’s set to PAL and not NTSC or ‘auto’ . iNES has a nice function where you can remap keys to the various buttons, which is handy when using an external USB keyboard with the MK802.

It works well- although Elite’s many keys are replicated through combination key presses which takes a bit of getting used to. You can fly, shoot, get shot at, and crash at docking.

As I mentioned in my previous post – it’s rather fun to play Elite on the Raspberry Pi computer – the original BBC B’s spiritual successor, which also shares a creator with Elite.

The Raspberry Pi also has (various) NES emulators available for it – although I’ve yet to find one that can run Elite smoothly and without any issues (consider this a work in progress). However you can emulate the machine where it all started back in 1984:

How to emulate the BBC Micro  (model B) on a Raspberry Pi (model B)

Bridge of the Cobra Mk III image from the Elite user manual

Bridge of the Cobra Mk III – uncanny how the console of a 31st century starship looks a bit like a 1981 microcomputer…

It is possible to run the original BBC B version of Elite using the !BeebIt emulator – this is an emulator that runs in RISC OS.

Compared to the linux and android based emulators available this runs much more quickly since RISC OS is a very lightweight operating system.

To relive the original Elite – I’ve prepared a step by step guide – make sure you do all this on a Raspberry Pi running RISC OS - particularly unpacking the zip files.

First create an SD card running RISC OS or just download the NOOBs installer.

RISC OS uses a 3 button mouse – you’ll need one to access menus using the middle button – applications have a ! at the beginning of their name, and shift-click opens the application folder. There’s more RISC OS info available here.

Note that it also helps to have a standard, full size keyboard.

Then download !BeebIT – of the two versions available I’ve been using Michael Foot’s.

Extract the archive on your Raspberry Pi by dragging and dropping the download file, and then double clicking and dragging the !Beebit application file to a new folder. (Note that RISC OS is very drag and drop orientated).

Next you’ll need some BBC ROMs – the ROMs download on Michael Foot’s page contain both the OS2 and DFS ROMs you’ll need:

Download

Open up this archive as before – this will contain a !Beebit application icon – just drag and drop this over the !Beebit application you extracted earlier. (Application files on RISC OS are folders containing the program and needed files – by dragging and dropping the ROM file you are just adding the files you need)

Double click !BeebIT to run – it should appear on your icon bar. If you get any errors for missing ROMS, check the steps above or try downloading them individually. f12 will exit the emulator back to the RISC OS desktop.

Download BBC Micro Elite extract and set the type to DFSImage (the icon should change to a floppy disc) – to do this click the middle (menu) button on the file > File ELITEBBC/SDD > Set type and change “Data” to “DFSImage”.

Double click on the image file to run.

Once in !BeebIT type *!BOOT (on my keyboard the @ was *)

then enjoy!

The classic loading screen

The classic loading screen

Have a go at playing with the settings – you can choose a high quality display mode, or set CPU speed to Full Speed. If you’re feeling a bit more adventurous !BeebIt also emulates the Master 128 which ran a full colour version of Elite which is similar to the NES version – you’ll need to download the correct ROMs but all the info is included in the !BeebIt help file (middle click on the !Beebit application App.> ‘!Beebit’ >Help)

Commander Jameson

Commander Jameson

The easiest way to save your progress is to hit f12 to return to the desktop and then the middle button on the !Beebit emulator icon to then choose Save >Save as snapshot. Dragging the snapshot file back to the !Beebit icon will reload your game in the same state you left it. Note for some reason double-clicking on the snapshot icon to load it won’t work.

If you’re interested in Elite you can read a bit more about the 32-bit version of the game in my previous post – or check out the Elite Dangerous Kickstarter which is collecting pledges for a 21st Century version.

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12 Responses to How to play the original 8-bit Elite on a Raspberry Pi

  1. Jan-Jaap December 13, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Any way to play the 2nd processor version?

  2. Pete December 13, 2012 at 10:37 am #

    Probably – I think you can download it from Braben’s page here: http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/elite/bbc/index.htm (which includes the Elite A version) – I also came across a version that could run from RAM so i’ll stick the link up when I find it. There’s a list of BBC B emulators available on this page: http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/bbc/emulators.php3 which might include one with 6502 tube support.

  3. John Hickson December 29, 2012 at 10:16 am #

    For an even more authentic experience with RiscOS/Beeblt, I would recommend setting the video refresh rate to 50Hz in the “config.txt” file (see http://elinux.org/RPi_config.txt). This improves things even more noticeably in games like Rocket Raid which is a smooth(ish) side scroller. For example I have “hdmi_mode=19″ set for HDMI 720p at 50Hz:

    sdtv_mode=2
    hdmi_drive=2
    hdmi_group=1
    hdmi_mode=19

    Good luck!

  4. Gordon Finlay January 11, 2013 at 12:13 pm #

    I have followed your instructions, and I can now run various BBC games, but with some problems.
    fyi: Raspberry Pi with Maplin kit including powered USB hub with mouse and keyboard. HDMI to my Toshiba flat screen TV.

    1. When running BeebIT Mode 0, BASIC and the games, are having the bottom of the screen cropped. I can get the bottom of the screen back if I change Modes or mess in RiscOS with monitor types and screen resolutions, but the screen image is then squashed to a ridiculous flat wide screen.

    2. On any of the Elite versions only the top left key on the keyboard (under the Esc key) which brings up the file menu, seems to do anything. None of the other keys work, and the bottom of the sceen is cropped as in point 1.

    I have googled and reviewed wikipedia, experimented with loads of config.txt settings, and settings on my tv, but without success yet. I would really appreciate any suggestions you may have on where next I could look.

    Many thanks.

  5. Gordon Finlay January 11, 2013 at 3:21 pm #

    Update: I have managed to get the keyboard working, so I am only left with the cropping problem at the bottom of the screen.

  6. Nick Date March 10, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    Anyone got BeebIt working as a BBC Master 128? I tried it but it complains that it can’t find the OS320 ROM. I’ve Googled it but with no luck. Also would I need any other ROMs (ADFS, etc) in order to emulate the machine properly, and if so which virtual ROM slots would they go in?

    Thanks in advance. :)

  7. Phil Hill March 24, 2013 at 11:13 am #

    if you download the BBC Master ROM pack you will see one of the roms is called MOS – rename this to OS320 and the emulator will pick it up. To make sure I got all the roms working for the Master 128 i renamed them to match what they are called in the emulator when you select Master 128 and then look in the ROMS section to see what ROMS it expects.

  8. Graham June 9, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

    Hi, thanks for the guide, all seems to be working perfectly except for when I try to save my progress in the game. If I bring up the save / load menu and press 2 to save, the keyboard becomes very unresponsive with only brief moments when a filename can be entered.

    If I persevere and enter a filename it asks me which drive to save it to. If I enter 0 it says the disk is write only. If I go through the process again and select any other drive number it returns a different error code which I suspect means no disk in that drive.

    What can I do to save progress?

    Many thanks indeed. My 10 year old son is showing every sign of becoming just as obsessed with Elite as I was at the same age, if only we can work out how to save it.

    • Pete June 10, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      hi – I think the answer is to save the state of the emulator as a snapshot, rather than save the game in the emulator.

      There’s also a BBC Emulator filing system on the BeebIT homepage – http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mjfoot/bbc.htm which might help.

      Haven’t been able to check these as I accidentally corrupted my copy of RISC OS and will need to do a rebuild (!)

  9. Graham June 10, 2013 at 12:23 pm #

    Thanks Pete. I did try doing that and although I managed to save a snapshot, I couldn’t work out how to then open it again in BeebIt.

    Do you have any suggestions about how to open a saved snapshot?

    Many thanks indeed.

    • admin March 12, 2014 at 9:27 pm #

      Drag and drop the snapshot file onto the !Beebit icon on the icon bar – it’ll then load at the state you saved it.

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