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Getting Started in Elite

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For God's sake, stay clean! At least until you have a docking computer. The reason for this is simple. Docking is not easy when you have about five vipers blowing bits of your anatomy off. On the subject of docking, here's a totally foolproof way of doing it if you don't have a docking computer.

This method is easy. After faffing around in space, jump towards the centre of the planet, until you can't jump any more. Now simply fly towards the centre until the S appears on the control panel. STOP COMPLETELY.

Now centre the space station in your sights (get the orange dot on the control panel in the centre of the cross). Fly towards it keeping it central with your sights at all times. Keep flying towards it, ignoring any ships that appear, until you are near. As near as you can get without crashing. NOW STOP COMPLETELY.

Centre your sights on the planet again and switch to rear view. Now accelerate towards the planet with rear view on, and after a few seconds the space station will gradually centre itself on the screen, its docking bay slowly lining up with your rear sight (if you're lucky enough to have one!)

When you feel you are lined up well enough with the space station STOP, do an about turn, and fly towards the station. You should be lined up pretty well. Don't forget, to dock successfully, you need to be able to see only the FRONT of the station and not the sides, not even the slightest bit. Enter the docking bay at a snail's pace and the hole should be HORIZONTAL and LEVEL! You should now have docked successfully!

Deciding what to buy for your ship is sometimes difficult. Everyone has a 'best' way of doing things. EVERYONE should buy a docking computer first! It saves time. Next you should probably buy a large cargo bay, unless you're a bit of a wimp in space, in which case you should buy an energy unit.

After these three you should maybe buy beam lasers on the front. Don't forget you get a refund on your old lasers when you buy new ones! Now buy a fuel scoop and get collecting other ships' cargo! An ECM is not essential but after a while, the novelty of shooting missiles with lasers wears off, especially if you're as experienced a combateer as I am (heh heh!)

Energy bombs are ok but usually only when you start getting attacked by four ships at a time, two of which are Wolf MK IIs, one is a Gecko and the other is an Asp Mk II (pain in the rear-end, I'm sure you'll agree!) Incidentally, Thargoids are immune to energy bombs. Convenient, eh?

Don't bother with escape capsules. You lose all your cargo, they cost a fair bit and you sometimes accidentally catch Q on the keyboard whilst caught up in a battle with a Thargoid and a couple of Wolf Mk IIs. Retro rockets are ok for witchspace if you have not saved the game for a long time and you've built up a lot of points. I tend to save the game every time I dock (saves forking out eight grand for retros).

Once you have equipped your ship to how you want it, there is little point in trying to make vast amounts of money, except for the upkeep of your ship (if certain bits get blown off harumph!).

Don't bother with slaves! The best things to trade are narcotics, computers, furs, medical supplies (sometimes you can make 60cr per tonne), and firearms.

Try to find two planets with highly contrasting tech levels. Sell furs at the high tech levels and the rest mentioned above at the low. Here's a list of what different ships often carry (if you've got a fuel scoop):

ADDER: These carry narcotics 95%+ of the time so take care not to blow their precious cargo canisters up!!
ANACONDA: Mainly machinery. Sometimes alloys.
ASP MK II: Mostly carry slaves. Fire and forget.
BOA: Mainly alloys (3040cr), or sometimes machinery (4070cr).
COBRA MK I: They don't carry cargo!
COBRA MK III: Mainly computers. Have been known to carry firearms and narcotics. Otherwise machinery.
ESCAPE CAPSULE: Can be collected as slaves.
FER DE LANCE: slaves.
GECKO: Gecko commanders are drunks (they always carry liquors and wines).
KRAIT: Always carry minerals (I think maybe something else?)
MAMBA: I love mambas. easy to kill and you get firearms for it!
MORAY STAR BOAT: irritating waste of time. Mainly machinery.
ORBIT SHUTTLE: Ho ho! Machinery. Careful, though. They put up a good fight...
PYTHON: Why do these never attack even when you attack them? They sometimes carry furs, then again you could end up with alloys.
SIDEWINDER: Small things reap big rewards. Always carry furs (if anything).
THARGOID: Sometimes they release Thargons; small remote-control attack ships. When the Thargoid is destroyed the Thargons can be picked up as alien items (3070cr).
VIPER: nought again. Well, they ARE police.
WOLF MK II: Such a fearsome ship should at least carry narcotics. Instead you'll find useless cargo such as slaves and alloys. Sometimes furs.

This is the most fun part of the game! Mindless violence is the order of the day, I'm sure you'll agree. Oh, the joys of torturing Pythons by firing up their engines (harumph!)

The most important thing you need is a sense of priority. Which ships to kill first? Well, let me tell you that if you've got three Sidewinders and a Thargoid then Mr Spock states you should destroy the three Sideys first. Why? Well, they tend to die from five or six shots from the good old military lasers. This makes about fifteen shots to dispose of three ships.

Now a Thargoid makes your lasers heat up. So while you're battering old Thargy, our three cheeky young scamps are busy removing your ship's vital bits. But if you dispose of our three chums, you've only got Big Mr Thargoid to get rid of. Even though Thargoids are like seven foot Glaswegian welders they don't fire an awful lot. Here's a quick guide to each ship's tactics:

ADDER: Don't underestimate these. They carry an awful lot of splifftastic cargo and they're not prepared to see it go down the tubes. Up close they can be dangerous. They wobble around you and they fire their lasers constantly. However, try to leave them until last because four tonnes of gearmongous cargo is better than a kick in the teeth. They don't have ECMs and they get you 100 points (and what do points make?)

ANACONDA: Extremely slow. You could blow one to smithereens before the captain had time to think. However, if you're desperate for cargo, give him a few warning shots up the rear (and I'm not being funny), and he'll fly towards you. When he gets within close range, LET HIM HAVE IT! They usually release three cargo canisters of machinery or alloys. They come equipped with ECM, not that they'll need it, and you get the strangely high value of 90 points for it.

ASP MK II: I hate them. They're fast, they give you serious grief and they carry crap cargo. It's best to dispose of these with missiles if they're accompanied by three other nutters (Geckos and Wolves). They don't have ECMs and they get you 110 points.

BOA: No ECMs, but I wouldn't waste missiles on these guys. Takes 13 shots to destroy, don't you know! A mere 60 points is your reward. Slow at a distance but can be awkward up close. Poses no real threat.

COBRA MK I: These don't attack to start off with and you're usually too busy with pirates to give a thought for these guys. If you catch one on its own, fire a couple of times at it; it will fly towards you so its easy prey. ECM? Yep, indeedy do, but they're so weedy you don't need missiles. A poor 60 points is all you get.

COBRA MK III: Now I like these guys. They fly in much the same way as MK Is but they carry reasonable cargo (computers, usually). Equipped with ECMs and a slightly limp 80 points is all you get.

ESCAPE CAPSULE: Well worth destroying as you get 90 points! Don't pick up or you'll end up with slaves. No ECM.

FER DE LANCE: Best destroyed at distance, as they carry poor cargo (slaves) so there's no point letting them come close. They're quite fast so give 'em a shot or two to get their attention and then let them have it. Surprisingly enough, they don't have ECMs. Even more surprising is the fact that you get 100 points for killing one and only 90 for a Gecko. On the subject of Geckos...

GECKO: Respect where respect is due (aaarrgghh! I sound like a rapper! I'll have to wear overpriced trainers and spray graffiti all over the place!) Anyway, these guys are fast, manoeuvrable and have the third strongest shields of any ship. Their cargo isn't worth bothering with. Of course, they have ECMs but you only get a faintly impotent 90 points for one.

KRAIT: Luckily, Kraits hardly fire, but they do take some stick and can pull some sexy evasive manoeuvres. As far as I know they always carry minerals and aren't worth letting get within (their) firing range. They don't have ECMs and so are worth a blast with a missile, if you're in trouble, along with Asp Mk IIs. You get 90 points for one.

MAMBA: Ooh, I just love these. They're weedier than asteroids (it's true) and they normally drop lovely firearms. However, they're very fast. Let them get very close and give 'em a few blasts. Don't go mad because you'll probably hit the cargo that's released and that'll be 14 tonnes of firearms down the tubes. They don't have ECMs (firing missiles isn't advised anyway, as they have high Curve Factors and can dodge missiles) and you get 60 points.

MORAY STAR BOAT: Very annoying. Not amazingly fast but they fire a lot when up close, so get your shots in first and forget about the cargo. 50 points and not an ECM to be found.

ORBIT SHUTTLE: Slow. No ECM. 3 crappy points. Carries machinery, but you'd have to be a sad man to go after these. Besides, you have to hang around the space station and you get hassled by Vipers.

PYTHON: They're either pacifist hippies or downright stupid. Occasionally you will get the odd stoned one who will launch a missile at you when attacked but a simple press of the 'E' key will rain on his fireworks. Very easy to kill, so you only get 40 points. They don't have ECMs 'cos every body blows them to smithereens with their lasers anyway. They're about as fast as an asthmatic ant with some heavy shopping.

SIDEWINDER: Very manoeuvrable, quite fast, but tend to die if you breathe in their general direction. Also carry furs so try to save them 'til last (unless you're fighting, say, an Adder, a Mamba, and a Sidewinder, in which case damage them until they are nearly dead then go after one at a time and steal its cargo, whilst dodging the others. It can be done, I do it all the time!) No ECM. Worth 80 points.

THARGOID: The skinheads of Elite. Your laser temperature (on military) will heat up to almost maximum, so you should destroy all other ships first. They have ECMs and are immune to energy bombs. They sometimes release Thargons, little remote-control fighters. If a Thargoid releases these and you're close to it, go after the Thargoid and destroy it; the Thargons will be rendered useless and you can pick them up as Alien Items (makes 70cr if you're lucky). If things get out of hand, don't hesitate to use the energy bomb; the Thargons will be killed but the Thargoid won't. It makes sense, you'll be fired at and its been known (for me) to get killed, timing from the first shot until the death of my Cobra, in under five seconds. You get 150 points for a Thargoid and I should think so.

TRANSPORTER: these guys are on speed! They can sometimes outrun a missile! No ECM. 10 whole points (wow).

VIPER: Police ships take about a quarter of your laser temperature to destroy which isn't too bad, but they'll chase you all over the place. They're good for building up points (50 each) exit from the station, wait for them to arrive and pick them off, one by one. If things get hairy, press C to dock! No ECMs.

WOLF MK II: Not to be messed with. Not as hard as Thargoids, but not far off. They're fast, they have ECMs and they attack you with all the rigour and enthusiasm of er someone trying quite hard to kill you. 150 points (I'm not surprised), but poor cargo. Deal with these first if you're fighting hard ships.

Combat in Elite is an artform which must be perfected. Let's take an example dogfight between my Cobra and a group of four ships: Asp Mk II, Sidewinder, Gecko, Wolf Mk II.

Firstly I would target a missile on the Asp and send it on its merry way. Do it as soon as the ships appear so the Asp is still out of its firing range, which means it is heading directly towards you. It will fly straight into the missile. If you let the Asp get too close, not only will you get fired at, the missile will have a hard time keeping up with the Asp.

Strangely enough, your Cobra Mk III can outrun a missile; if the missile flew in a perfectly straight line it would hit you. But it doesn't fly in a straight line but wobbles around. Try it! Get a ship's missile in your rear view and let it catch up now go to top speed and you can keep ahead of it! Anyway...

Next destroy the Sidewinder (only takes about 5 or 6 shots). Now shoot the the Wolf. As soon as he's destroyed go for the Gecko. Sometimes it's better to let your lasers cool after dealing with the Wolf. Let the Gecko come close until just before it will start firing and let him have it! If your lasers overheat take some strategic action (run away). Running away involves accelerating to top speed and keeping your finger on X (or S NO ONE plays on joystick! Elite is a SERIOUS game.)

Now get some distance between you and the Gecko. (S)he'll fly towards you enabling you to finish him/her off. If you're being attacked at close range by several ships, go for the weakest one first, whilst trying to hit the others with the odd shot; hitting a ship once will send it on evasive action which will buy you survival time.

You get points for every ship you kill (with lasers, missiles, energy bombs, or even by crashing into them). Here's (approximately) when you get your ratings:

0 Harmless
2050 Mostly Harmless
4100 Poor
8200 Average
16500 Above Average
33000 Competent
130000 Dangerous
?????? Deadly
??????? ELITE

(Sorry, I accidentally wiped the game when I had over 500000 points, so Deadly must have been coming up soon? Anyone like to write in and let me know when you get to Deadly and Elite?)

Cheating is for sad lamers who own six million games but only play each one once and gets bored with it. Cheating at Elite is a complete waste of time you utterly destroy the game 99% of it is building up your ship and your amount of wonga.

There was one cheat on the Speccy where you simply saved the game at the start and it fully equipped your ship, gave you Elite status and serious amounts of dosh. It also gave you a CE laser which kicked the shit out of military. Anyone know where I can buy one?!

There IS a cheat on the Amiga version. Well, not so much a cheat, more a feature. It simply lets you make money a bit quicker. Have you ever been to a planet where narcotics sell for 95?

"Wow! Cheap stuff! I'll take 35 tonnes of those please, my good man!" "Sorry, Guvnor, we've only got 5 tonnes left!" "ANNOYANCE!"

Buy the 5 tonnes (or however many are available). Save the game. Load it back in. Hey presto, 5 tonnes are back again for you to buy! Soon you'll have a full load of 35 tonnes which you can sell for 220 if you're lucky making a gross profit of 4375cr.

Net profit will be less, as all dedicated Elite players will know, each trading post takes a little bit on each tonne in commission (only a small percentage, you'll probably end up making about 4000 4100). This means you shouldn't buy something and sell it for 1cr more as you'll lose out on the deal!

Well, folks, that's it, we've trundled reluctantly to the end of this article. I hope you found it as interesting as I did. Is someone going to write in with tips for Elite II?

PS: Hey! Ken D! Is Elite going to be on your Nostalgia packs? I do hope so! Erm, without Lenslok, if you please!

[It certainly will; I'm not sure which one it'll end up on, though, but get ready to revel in those wireframe vectors and thrill to the BEEPed sound of mining lasers!

Cheers, mate, for a fab'n'groovy article and keep up the good email, ken!]


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