The Revolutionary Impact of Elite on Starfield and Four Decades of Space Gaming

The influence of the game Elite on the space gaming genre, including the highly anticipated Starfield, is monumental. David Braben, the co-creator of Elite and founder of Frontier Developments, revolutionized the concept of space games back in the early 1980s. At that time, space games were basic, mostly about flying a ship and shooting aliens. Braben envisioned a game that could offer much more. He collaborated with programmer Ian Bell to create Elite, a game that wasn’t just about shooting aliens but about exploring the galaxy, fighting pirates, and upgrading your ship.

The game introduced the concept of procedural generation, a technique now widely used in modern gaming, to create an expansive universe with limited computer memory. This was groundbreaking during a time when computers had less memory than today’s calculators. Elite’s influence is evident in Starfield, which also aims to offer a vast, procedurally generated universe for players to explore. The game’s design philosophy resonates with Braben’s early ideas, emphasizing not just combat but also exploration and economic elements.

Elite’s impact goes beyond just Starfield; it has shaped four decades of space games. The game’s focus on exploration, trading, and combat set a new standard for what a space game could be, moving away from the rudimentary designs of the past. It introduced the idea that a player’s score could be equated to in-game currency, adding a layer of complexity and depth to gameplay. This concept has been adopted by many games since, making Elite a cornerstone in the evolution of space gaming.

Braben’s early frustrations with the limitations of space games led to a ‘lightbulb moment’ that changed the genre forever. His ideas have been so influential that they can be seen in various aspects of modern space games, including Starfield. It’s a testament to the enduring legacy of Elite that its design philosophies continue to influence the genre even after 40 years.

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