It is always good to start a new year with some firsts. For me, it was pledging for the first time on Kickstarter.
Somehow, I had ignored the presence of Elite Dangerous from UK developer Frontier for months. The project had appeared in conjunction with the launch of the UK version of Kickstarter. It has gone onto become the project with the highest goal to be successfully funded.
A friend first introduced to me to how Kickstarter early last year, and noted how it allowed many nostalgic games projects to recieve an immense amount of funding from gamers.
Nostalgia can be very powerful. So can enthusiasm. I came across a news article which discussed that there was several days to go, and that the Frontier team were still some way off achieving their goal. The project had done amazingly well when first launched, but pledges had slowed and creator David Braben was worried. It seems that the PR drive at the end of the project really drove things forward, and that people ‘upgraded’ their pledges to recieve better in-game rewards.
Now, I don’t even play games anymore. My PC just about works, but is currently hidden somewhere under my bed. Back in my younger days one of the first computers I owned was a A500+. I still have it somewhere, cannot part with it, even though you can get fantastic Amiga emulators these days. Somehow, it just is not the same without the disk swaps or 100Db disk drive noise which sounds like a pneumatic drill. One of the games I spent a lot of time on was Frontier: Elite 2, which I bought after an unheard of score of 97% in CU Amiga magazine. I am sure I would have played the original Elite too – but it would not work on the A500+. It’s amazing how much I can remember about this game I spent many months playing – but therein lies the power of nostalgia really. Watching videos of the god-like figure of David Braben talk about Elite seemed to draw me in, and the sheer enthusiasm and ambition he has for the project was infectious.
One of the main things about Elite 2 which I was fascinated with was a lot of the star systems themselves. The game actually came with a proposed history of human exploration up until the game time of 2300. It’s looking like we are partly behind these goals, but the idea of exploring other worlds, such as Mars is very much alive. In the game, Mars was terraformed. Terraforming is a very complex and theoretical way of making a world habitable. I have been reading the classic ‘Pale Blue Dot’ by the legendary Carl Sagen this past week, and this goes into some detail about terraforming and how one may go about trying to do so on several other worlds of our solar system. If you have been watching the fantastic ‘Stargazing Live’, you may have heard Brian Cox namedrop Sagan. He is obviously a huge fan of his work, and sometime it seems like he is reading from Sagan’s work itself. It’s that good. Sadly, Sagen died in 1996, but a lot of what he predicted is happening now, with a more in-depth exploration of Mars by the Curiosity Rover.
Anyway, I digress. Elite 2 was one geeky game. You do not get many games that come with a classical music score, accompanying novel and a 4 foot star chart to put on your wall. I think I still have the box of this game stored in a loft – and did try firing it up a few years ago. I remember it being unplayable as it was so jerky. It is amazing how things move on. Back in 1993 the game was cutting edge, somehow it managed to fit a galaxy on a floppy disk. Floppy disks – remember those? 880KB. Less than most emails these days. I doubt many modern day programmers could build anything like Elite 2, especially in assembly language. I had a go at programming a Z80 processor in college. Let’s just say it’s pretty tough. If you would like to an elite style game, there is a version called Oolite available to download.
I ended up pledging a hefty wedge to Elite Dangerous, and even logged back in and upgraded my pledge a day later. I think it is the appeal of different ‘starting positions’ in the galaxy. In Elite 2, I was not really the patient type, employing all sorts of cheats to turn hunks of junk into some invincible death machine. Without the chance to do the same, I will need all the help I can get. For me, using Kickstarter was certainly dangerous, but only to my credit card bill.