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Alive 10
GEM Elite


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
'Atari' part!?

"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
function  keys."

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

Alive 10