Tag Archives: Elite

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.

Elite – making a game that looks as good as the box art

This week it’s been announced that one of the original creators of the classic 8 bit video game Elite is seeking funds to launch a version updated for the 21st century.

I grew up playing Elite – originally on a BBC B and then a few years later on it’s 32 bit successor the Archimedes, it was brilliant, addictive and years ahead of it’s time.

Elite was a 3d space exploration game which featured open-ended play – you could explore the galaxy, play as a trader, bounty hunter or pirate in your quest to gain enough kills to be ranked as ‘Elite’ (starting from ‘harmless’ and working your way through ‘mostly harmless’, ‘dangerous’ and other often amusingly named ranks). Elite rewarded good acts like hunting down pirates, and punished bad behaviour – if you became a pirate yourself your legal status changed to wanted and you attracted the attentions of bounty hunters and ultimately the police. With the occasional mission for the galactic navy thrown in for good measure, Elite had the qualities that would make games like Grand Theft Auto a success – many years in advance.

BBC B Elite (Master version)

One of the things I used to wonder playing Elite, was whether or not computers would exist in the future that could actually depict the game as it was featured on the beautiful box art:

Elite Box art
Beautiful 1980’s sci fi art

The Sci-Fi art of the 1980’s is easily possible with todays’ computing power. Although there were sequels to the original Elite (Elite II, Frontier) none of them captured the playable spirit of the original – something that will hopefully be addressed in the update which promises “joyous immediacy”. If you can’t wait until 2014, I’ve prepared a short guide on how to play Elite on (what is arguably the modern day successor to the BBC B) the Raspberry Pi:

How to play Elite on the Raspberry Pi

It’s quite easy to just download an emulator on any modern PC or Mac and play Arc Elite – regarded as the best version of the original game. For a bit of fun I thought I’d have a go at running Elite on my Raspberry Pi.

For starters you need to be running RISC OS – this is a lightweight operating system originally developed by Acorn back in the 80s to run on the first generation ARM chips – this runs incredibly quickly on the Raspberry Pi. You can run various emulators (for example the Sinclair Spectrum) on the Linux Raspberry Pi build, but I’ve found these tend to run quite slowly.

First download RISC OS from the Raspberry Pi website and copy it to an SD card (or you can purchase a ready-made card from RiscOS open – it’s only £10, and worth it to support their very handy work! )

Because Arc Elite was originally written for ARM 2 and ARM 3 machines, it won’t run on the ARM 6  chip in the Raspberry Pi – but don’t worry you can emulate the older hardware using ArcEm – which is available from: http://arcem.sourceforge.net/ 

Update: there is an issue transferring archived files between PC/Mac (which I’m writing this on) and RISC OS – which causes the filetype to be incorrect (StrongArm will open when you try to run !ArcEm) To fix this:

Open the original zip file on the Raspberry Pi in RISC OS, unpack !ArcEM
next re-download the !ArcEm archive: http://sourceforge.net/projects/arcem/files/arcem/1.50-alpha/arcem-1.50-alpha2-riscos.zip/download
open that in RISC OS using !sparkFS – then drag the unarchived files over your original copy (this preserves the ROM files you need)

!ArcEm should now run – if Elite gives you problems download the original archive:
http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/elite/archive/a/b5052410.arc

Sorry about this – I’ve ordered a copy of the nutpi pack which includes the full copy of !SparkFS – i’ll recreate the zip archive so everything will work more simply in future!

Run !ArcEm, then open the HostFS drive on the desktop – Elite, along with the Dark Wheel Novella and User Manual are all available on there.

Arc Elite running on the Raspberry Pi
It’s a bit stretched on my screen, but smooth and playable!

It runs as smoothly as I remember, and is very playable – I’m still rubbish at docking though. On my lapdock display the screen was stretched – it might be worth experimenting with different settings to see what works best for you.

Interestingly there were a lot of 16 bit Amiga and Atari games converted to run on the Archimedes – so for anyone interested in emulating old games this should work for those as well. ArcEm is still under active development, so it’s well worth checking out.

If you enjoy playing Elite as much as I have, (and are suffering from I-didn’t-pay-for-this-amazing-game guilt) please help fund the next version on Kickstarter.

*the files I’ve used to do this were freely available from these sources:

ArcElite

http://www.iancgbell.clara.net/elite/arc/index.htm

RiscOS 3 Rom

http://home.tiscali.nl/~jandboer/ (in the support2.zip archive)

ArcEm

GPL licensed

http://arcem.sourceforge.net/