By Holger Weets
There's going to be a certain amount of recapping from the original Alive
article a few issues ago. This is inevitable, as I'm lazy, and there are
also only so many ways that you can write the same thing over again. This
would be about one and a half times in this case.
This was originally an entry to the 'Little Big Competition', as sponsored
by the sadly missed MagiC Online and the Place2Be news sites. Put simply,
this is the Atari GEM version of a freeware project to convert the classic
space combat and trading game 'Elite' to as many diverse systems as
Back in 2001, we were looking forward to ever-improving versions of this
"Once this game has been fully implemented, and promised extra features such
as Jagpad control have been put in, it will rock! But only for those
fortunate owners of fast TOS machines. In the meantime, just one or two
small fixes are needed to make it properly playable, such as a scanner fix."
This, sadly, did not happen. Shortly after, one of the co-authors, David
Braben, went on a legal blitz against many of the clone versions and
unauthorised reverse engineering attempts. Holger took fright at this, and
dropped GEM Elite, to the point where it disappeared from view completely.
Now lately, it seems to have had a discreet revival on the Gem Candy
website, at least to the point where the original download was available.
Now I had a CT60, I was more than a little curious as to what enhancements,
if any, that the additional power would bring. So I downloaded a copy.
So here's a quick reminder of what you get:-
There's a curiously cryptic GEM installer, which seems to be set up in such
a way, in case Braben's lawyers get hold of a copy, to avoid a
straightforward and easy installation? In the end, you have to hand-edit the
config file, to get everything to point to the right places. If it came down
to it, I doubt that the overfed legal vultures would even get past the
"To look at, it initially takes the form of the later 16-bit versions of
the game. A solid polygonal Cobra mk3 spins into view, inviting you to go
on into the main game. From there, everything looks pretty much like
business as usual, as all the familiar trading, navigation and viewpoint
screens (once in flight) are all present. These are accessed via the
For those of us expecting a big jump up, initial experience might be
disappointing, it turns out to be not so enhanced over the CT2 experience.
In fact, you only get the very fluid motion when you switch down to the
classic BBC 8-bit wireframe vector mode in mono mode. Even having a solid
planet switched on turns out to be a big speed drag when it is onscreen. I
guess that the bus speed is an important consideration for GEM stuff here.
Of course, my CT60 is running lower than the CT2 in that regard, so it is a
good question as to what it would it be like on a 25mhz bus? This subject
may be worth a fresh look, when the Supervidel finally appears.
"This is possibly the first game on Atari TOS computers that requires an
800 x 600 screen mode as the default minimum! This rules out an awful
lot of hardware right away."
This could be fun if you've got a CT60 with the unclocked 16mhz bus? I
managed okay with the Centscreen expander on a 20mhz bus.
"It is almost complete at this stage, there are still some more or less
incidental things missing. Such as the docking computer, escape pod, and
some of the special missions later on in the game. There is one crucial bug
in this version. I can manage quite well without a docking computer, being
the hardened Elite player of many years experience that I am. But a scanner
which half-displays in a cocked-up fashion in the wrong part of the screen
is no use to anyone!"
Apart from the scanner, these are minor omissions, but the malfunctioning
scanner just seems to be that little bit more annoying this time! The code
is unchanged from the Little Big Competition winner of 2001, which is kind
of a shame. I wonder if any further development is going to be undertaken,
or is this going to be as good as it gets?
If that is the case, then GEM-Elite will be fatally stuck as a fascinating
curio which didn't quite make it.
CiH, for Alive Mag,2001 and 2005