The Elite Archives

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BBC Microcomputer Model B

The original BBC Microcomputer version of Elite was released by Acornsoft in 1984.

The box included not only the game media and loading instructions, but also a hefty Space Trader's Flight Training Manual, a novella entitled The Dark Wheel by Robert Holdstock, a keyboard overlay, a quick reference card detailing keyboard functions and listing ships that one may encounter, and finally a full colour poster depicting all of the ships that could be found in the game. This level of content was unheard of in 1984 and no doubt sparked the 'big box' syndrome that ensued in game packaging through to the late '90s.

Both cassette and 5 1/4" disk versions were available for the BBC Microcomputer.

Acorn Electron

Following hot on the heels of the BBC Microcomputer release, the Acorn Electron version was supplied with an equally impressive collection of material in an almost identical box. Where the BBC Microcomputer had a blue Acornsoft logo on the front, the Acorn Electron could readily be identified by its green Acornsoft logo.

Although much of the box content was the same, a few notable differences were present. The keyboard overlay was of course redesigned to suit the Electron, but quick reference card detailing keyboard functions and ships within the game was noticeably smaller. A closer look at the ship identification chart gave a clue as to why. The number of ship types present in the Acorn Electron cassette version was reduced to just five: the Viper, Mamba, Cobra (Mk III), Python and Sidewinder. Compared to the full-blown disk version on the BBC Micro, the Electron was missing the Adder, Asp, Anaconda, Boa, Ferdelance, Gecko, Krait, Moray, Shuttle, Transporter and Thargoid.

Superior Software Releases

Superior Software released four different variants of Elite being a cassette version for the BBC Micro, a cassette version for the Electron, 5 1/4" disc version for the BBC Micro and Master series, and a 3 1/4" version for the BBC Master Compact.

The original artwork was reused, albeit now a sharp contrast with a predominantly white packaging. The box was no longer of a folded cardboard construction, but was instead replaced with a sturdy plastic similar to that used by VHS video cassette tapes of the time. Prices ranged from £12.95 to £19.95 depending on the version.

Compared to the original Acornsoft releases, the Superior version were certainly not superior in terms of game box content. Gone were the Dark Wheel novella, the ship identification chart, and the quick reference card, the very things that helped raise the value of the game box above the others from that era. Granted that the quick reference card was now included as the last couple of pages in the book, but the novella and poster were nowhere to be seen.

Hybrid Releases

1991 saw the last use of the original cover art on an Elite game box. This time Elite had been released for the 128k Acorn Archimedes series of computers, and that meant a lot more memory was available above the original's 32kB to allow enhancements throughout the game.

The in game ships were now solid colours and the ship upgrade screen showed the Cobra Mk III as you upgraded various weapons and equipments.

The in-game experience was not the only thing that received a revamp. The Flight Training Manual had been updated with all-new pictures to match the new in-game graphics, a poster was back this time depicting a full colour image of the Elite cover picture, the Gold edition also included a full set of 24 ship data cards which provided graphics and information on in-game ships along with a Trading Record Pad where Commanders could record there trading activities as they played the game. A Commander Registration Card ensured that new Elite updates could reach fans, and just in case they were wondering what the latest fashion would be in the 3100's, there was also an Elite shirt order form with a selection of t-shirt, sweatshirt or special edition sweatshirt.

Hybrid cover image used with kind permission of FrontierAstro.

Box Cover 300dpi

Firebird Releases

By far the most prolific of any releases, Firebird saw official Elite version released for the Spectrum 48K (and later a revised version for the 128K), the Commodore 64 (cassette and disk, including two USA variants), Amstrad (cassette and disk), and Apple II E (disk). Versions bearing the Firebird logo, albeit with a sticker over the platform name were also released for the MSX, Tatung Einstein, Tandy/IBM PC, and an Opus version for the Spectrum.

These versions included the Dark Wheel novella, this time with a new cover bearing the Firebird Elite logo. The Space Traders Flight Training Manual was conspicuous in the absence of the picture of the Cobra Mk III Bridge which appeared on page 7 of the Acornsoft manuals. Also included was a generic ship identification chart depicting all of the ships that were present in most versions. Some like the Spectrum and Amstrad cassette versions had a reduced ship count, but unlike the Acornsoft releases, did not have a separate poster with the reduced number shown. Keyboard overlays were provided with some versions, but not all.

Unlike the Acornsoft versions, Firebird released a full German language conversion for the Commodore 64 including not only a translated box, manual, novella, keyboard overlay, but also German in-game text!