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BBC Elite - Are you Ready to Take on the Universe … in Your Browser?

Released 29 February 2023

Matt Godbolt has written the browser version of the BBC version of the 3D space trading game, Elite. It incorporates the C64 music from Elite. The browser version is built on jsbeeb - the Javascript BBC micro emulator. The graphics are smooth and with a bit of practice working out the BBC keymapping, it is easy to get into. I'm really impressed with the browser implementation. I think that the browser version will make the original BBC version of Elite more accessible to enthusiasts and beginners alike.


Elite, the legendary 3D space trading game, was a smash hit in the 1980s. Now, thanks to developer Matt Godbolt, enthusiasts can play the BBC micro version of Elite in their browser. This article explores the history of Elite and its enduring popularity, as well as the challenges and opportunities involved in implementing a retro game in a modern web environment. Whether you're a nostalgic fan of the original or a curious newcomer, read on to discover the joys of this classic game.

Elite is a classic 3D space trading and combat game developed by David Braben and Ian Bell and originally released for the BBC Micro computer in 1984. I have listed many of the run-time versions of Elite. The game is set in a vast, procedurally generated galaxy consisting of eight galaxies each with 256 star systems. Players take on the role of a spacecraft pilot, with the goal of trading goods, completing missions, and engaging in combat with other ships. The game features a complex economy system where supply and demand affect the prices of goods, as well as a reputation system that tracks the player's actions and affects their interactions with other characters. Elite was praised for its open-world gameplay and technical achievements, including its use of wireframe 3D graphics and procedural generation. It is considered a groundbreaking game and has influenced many other space-themed games over the years.

Elite game gameplay

As the player, you start out as a poor, newly licensed space pilot with a small spacecraft and limited resources. Your goal is to become rich and famous by trading goods, performing missions for various factions, and ultimately becoming a space combat master. Along the way, you'll encounter hostile pirates and competing factions, but also helpful allies and potential trading partners. You can upgrade your ship's weapons, engines, and other systems, and even purchase new ships as you progress. The game features a vast universe to explore, with thousands of star systems and planets to visit. Each system has its own set of planets, space stations, and other locations to discover. The game also features a complex economy system, where the prices of goods vary depending on supply and demand, and the actions of the player can have a ripple effect on the game world. Overall, Elite is a deep and immersive space trading and combat game, with a wide range of features and possibilities for the player to explore.

The best parts of Elite gameplay for me are the freedom to explore the vast galaxy and the ability to upgrade and customize my ship. I love the feeling of being a lone space explorer, trading goods and encountering other ships along the way. The combat system is also exciting, as it requires skill and strategy to take down enemy ships. The graphics, while dated, still hold a certain charm and immersiveness. Elite is a classic game that offers a unique and thrilling space trading and combat experience.

The worst parts of the gameplay are the steep learning curve and the unforgiving nature of the game. It takes a lot of practice and patience to master the controls and navigate through the galaxy. The combat can also be challenging, especially when facing off against more advanced ships or dealing with unexpected situations like being attacked by pirates or interdicted by the authorities. The penalties for failing, such as losing all your cargo or getting your ship destroyed, can be frustrating and make progress slow at times. The game can be quite punishing for newcomers, but once you get the hang of it, it becomes an incredibly rewarding and immersive experience.

BBC Elite in the Browser

There are several challenges modern players will face. Firstly, the hardware is simply not reliable. These machines are several decades old and were not built with the durability we expect from modern electronics. It's not uncommon for vintage computers to have issues with components failing or breaking down over time.

Finding the necessary media to run the game can be difficult. The original floppy disks or cassette tapes that Elite was distributed on are no longer widely available. Even if you can find them, they may be in poor condition and not function properly. This means that you may have to resort to using emulators or other software to run the game.

Finally, even if you manage to get the hardware and media working, you still have to contend with the fact that these machines were designed to work with old CRT monitors that are no longer in common use. Finding a suitable monitor can be a challenge, and even when you do find one, it may not provide the best viewing experience.

Finally, even if you manage to get the hardware and media working, you still have to contend with the fact that these machines were designed to work with old CRT monitors that are no longer in common use. Finding a suitable monitor can be a challenge, and even when you do find one, it may not provide the best viewing experience.

Playing the vintage BBC micro version of Elite in the modern browser is a much better and smoother experience than playing it on the original hardware. First, the keyboard mapping is more intuitive and customizable, which makes it easier to control the ship and perform various maneuvers. Second, the graphics are much smoother and more consistent, which greatly enhances the visual experience of the game. Third, the sound quality is much better and more faithful to the original, which allows you to appreciate the iconic music and sound effects of Elite. Additionally, the browser version eliminates the need for unreliable hardware and media, making the game more accessible to modern players. Overall, the browser version of Elite preserves the classic gameplay and nostalgia of the original while enhancing the overall experience with modern technology.

Where to play Elite online

Direct your browser to the website Acorn Elite with music. Thank you to Matt Godbolt and the original developers.

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