|Video game fandom
|Giles Williams, Jens Ayton
|Related articles on Fanlore.
Oolite is an open-source free single-player space combat and trading game modelled closely on the game Elite (1984), but written from scratch with no reference to the original game's code. The initial release, by Giles Williams, was for Mac since there was no Mac version of the original game, but that was followed by versions for Linux (2005) and Windows (2006). In 2006 Williams stepped down from active involvement in the project. In 2007 he released it under the Gnu General Public License, and Jens Ayton became project administrator. Development has continued as open-source freeware, with an active community working on the game itself and mods of various types.
There have been several releases of the game, each adding improved graphics, better artificial intelligence, and other features. Some aspects of play have drifted away from the original game, others remain more or less unchanged.
The game revolves around space travel, trade, and combat; players begin with a minimally-armed ship and must earn money (by transporting cargo, mail, and passengers, or in combat as bounties for destroying outlaws and hostile aliens.) Money is used to purchase better weapons and other equipment, and eventually better ships. The game also keeps track of kills (giving a rating from 'Harmless' to 'Elite'), damage and wear to the player's ship, legal status (clean, offender, or outlaw), and reputation for transporting cargo, parcels and passengers. The game is open-ended, and it is possible to become rich enough that there are no limits on purchases other than the constraints of the ship in use. As in Elite the setting is a universe that has already been explored, so all solar systems have space stations where ships can dock to trade and buy fuel, upgrades and repairs, although many items are only available in high-tech systems. One of the add-ons in development (but currently only usable with beta versions of the next release) changes this aspect of the game completely, giving the player an unexplored universe and various tools for finding new travel routes, locating planets, etc.
There is an active community involved in developing the game and resources for it, and activities related to it, such as fanfic and art. Since the game universe is almost identical to that of the original Elite there is considerable overlap in fan activity, and most fanfic could equally well be based on either setting.
Most of those involved in developing the game are very experienced players, and it has been suggested that it is sometimes difficult for newcomers to get to a point where they can acquire useful weapons and ships. Each release tweaks game play to some extent. Past releases have made docking easier, eliminated an energy bomb (from the original Elite) which made it very easy to destroy large numbers of ships, but beefed up the enemy AI considerably. Recent release made the game's cloaking device much less effective, but makes its most powerful lasers a little more suitable for close-range combat. The October 2017 release adds an "easy play" start option in which the player begins with more money and in a different location with better trading options.
An in-joke that often appears in add-ons etc. is replacement of familiar commercial names with similar names that have "Oo" in them. For example, "TescOo" and "YelOo Cabs".
Alite, a free Android game inspired by Elite and to a lesser extent Oolite, was released in August 2015. Currently it does not support Oolite's add-ons but it is hoped that there will eventually be some compatibility.
There are several types of add-on for the game, with some overlap between the different categories:
- Activities are things that change the nature of the game by adding new business models, activities, etc. For example, Life in the Frontier bolts on some role-playing elements, In-System Taxi lets you earn money by transporting passengers in a single solar system, rather than on interstellar journeys.
- Ambiences change the look of the game, by adding new textures, sounds, etc., and may affect game play by e.g. changing the number of planets shown, the distance to the sun, etc. A typical example is Asteroid storm which gives asteroids new textures and shapes, and adds a simple asteroid-busting mission in one system.
- Dockables are alternatives to the default space stations and mining asteroids, places where the ship may dock to refuel etc. Some replace the ordinary stations, some are additions. For example, Torus Stations are spinning wheel stations which replace the game's default types in unusually high-tech systems, HoOpy Casinos are additional stations which offer simple gambling games.
- Equipment adds items that can be purchased to equip a ship; for example, Fuel Tank allows the purchase of tanks that extend the ship's range, Ship's Cat adds one or more cats (whose main role seems to be to soak up combat damage).
- HUDs are head-up displays, alternatives to the default instruments etc. with different looks and extra capabilities.
- Mechanics change the game one way or another; for example, Skilled NPCs adds extra AI for other ships, making the game harder, while SellAll lets players ignore the game's usual restrictions on how much cargo may be sold at a single port.
- Miscellaneous are add-ons that aren't easily categorized. A typical example is Cabal Common Library, a collection of useful routines which does nothing in itself, but are needed by many other add-ons.
- Missions add new game circumstances which can be use to earn money (or get into trouble). For instance, Thargoid Wars makes combat with these aliens much more likely, offers players a chance to join the Navy reserve, and adds several scenarios that occur occasionally, such as an attack on a station while the player's ship is docked.
- Retextures change the look of the game without affecting playability; typically they are paint jobs for ships, stations, etc., optimised for fast or slow graphics cards.
- Ships are usually new designs that are available for purchase in the game. An extreme example is Andromeda, a huge trading ship with various unusual features that can seriously affect game play, modelled on the Andromeda Ascendant. Others include fighters, freighters, other famous fictional ships such as the Planet Express ship and the Heart of Gold, and specialised ships intended for activities such as asteroid mining. There are also NPC ships such as Thargorns, which exist only to be fought.
- Systems give a new look and feel to one or another of the types of government used in the game; for instance, Anarchies makes systems with anarchic government more dangerous in several ways, and affects the game mechanisms for legal status, making it harder to shed a criminal record.
- Finally, Weapons range from variations on basic bombs and missiles to joke weapons that can take out the entire game universe.
Fanworks Inspired by Oolite
- Local Midnight in the Vacuum Bar by Blaze O'Glory - 2010 - PDF file
- Alien Items Story collection, multiple authors - 2006-2012 - PDF file
Oolite Fan Communities
- Oolite main site - game and add-on downloads, game wiki and other resources
- Oolite Forums
- Oolite fanfic etc.
- Elite / Elite Expanded Universe Elite and Oolite resources
- SOTL Exploration v0.3 announcement and discussion (accessed 8th August 2015)
- Discussion of canon and the background of the game (accessed 5th January 2017)
- Alite announced (accessed 5th August 2015)