Oolite: Elite Re-Invented, Open-Source style


oOlite was originally created by Giles Williams around 2005, as a response to the withdrawal of Elite: The New Kind (Elite: TNK), by Christian Pinder. oOlite is a free and open source 3D Space trading and combat simulator in the spirit of Elite. You begin as the Commander of a Cobra MKIII, with 100 Credits in your pocket. Setting out on a new life as a trader, bounty hunter, pirate, or haulier and passenger taxi, flying from planet to planet gaining fame (the rank of Elite) and fortune. The planets or Systems, are living entities that range from Rich Industrial, Corporate States, to the Poor Agricultural Anarchic Systems, each one bringing its own tapestry of law and lawlessness. Each system has, in the Vanilla option, one inhabited planet, with the orbiting Space station. Whereas with the addition of OXPs (extensions of oOlite) there are many different dockable objects that are added, from Casinos to Penal colonies.

[ This is a guest post from milinks from the Pandora Boards / with some modifications and corrections from Ekianjo ]

The Commander travels from system to system via witchspace, (a distance of 7.0 light years) with wormholes opening to transport you to each new system a safe distance from the planet and station. Whereas you can launch your own wormhole wherever you wish within the system. The Commander travels from the wormhole to the planets Galactic Cooperative, (Galcop) station, (or other station such as a rock hermit, which inhabit systems in asteroid belts disguised as large rocks, selling black market goods, and offering “services” not generally found in the law abiding Galcop Systems). At each station you can buy/sell your wares, upgrade your ship, even buy a new ship, the choices available are dependent on each system. You can catch up on the news, or for “newbies” wanting to brush up on the rules, read the manual, or even read excerpts from your favorite ebook!


It has to be said that the premise of oOlite is based upon the Elite Universe, however oOlite is really a new concept, with so many new features, new ships, weapons, stations, missions etc that it is a unique game in its own right. In Elite, the universe centers around the player, spawning random events in their path to encounter. oOlite is very different, in that when a player is thrown into any system, it is populated with NPCs, with their own individual AIs, so that as you travel through a system, there are pirates plundering, miners recovering minerals from asteroids, and Escort ships traveling through the star system, all totally oblivious to you, until, or when you decide to intervene. If you sit outside a station, you can watch many ships entering and leaving to their destinations, watch as a fugitive decides to attack a vulnerable trader, and is attacked by the system police, or scoops up its ill gotten gains. These things will happen regardless as to whether you are there or not. THAT!.. is one of the major points that differentiates between the two games, which makes oOlite a game of its own.

In the original life of an Elite Space Pilot, there were a few career Choices that could be chosen from, primarily Trader and Bounty Hunter (both being profitable and dangerous), while being a pirate or dealing in narcotics slaves or firearms, can lead to a quick encounter with the systems police vipers. The other original role was as a miner. oOlite brings new roles and perspectives to fill that seat from the outset, such as transporting clients (should you have a passenger bay fitted) from one system to another, or delivering packages to earn credits, which can be helped if you’ve earned enough credits for an Advanced navigational Array (an item that’s natively purchased to plot the fastest route across Galaxies).

Like Elite, oOlite is an open-ended sandbox game, where the player is the pilot of the Space craft, which in oOlite can be changed, purchased to your own preferences as you get richer and more experienced. The wire-framed graphics of yester-year have been updated to give a true feeling of 3D living in the environment, without losing the depth of the game to graphics. oOlite manages to balance both, giving the options of basic graphics and textures, whilst creating new depth of up to date gameplay and new experiences with OXPs. With oOlite v(1.79) 1.80 when it is published shortly, the graphics are very much enhanced with the inclusion of Griffs Shipsets, and MANY more options available to the new Commander, such as a walk-through guide, the ability to download OXPs (or OXZ expansions) direct through the games GUI, and much more.

scoop fuel

One example as to the massive improvements within oOlite compared to any other Space Trading Game could be the career of a miner. Mining can be a very slow way to earn credits, or a fast way to mine those precious gems, depending on how you go about it, as in so many roles in oOlite. Within the Vanilla game, after purchasing a fuel Scoop, an item intended to scoop fuel gravitational matter from the Suns, but also found to scoop all items with matter, such as CargoPods (ejected from traders you’ve attacked, or that you’ve come across after someone else’s misfortune), also pieces of Asteroids found in Space, broken up with a mining laser, and the ores sold on through the systems markets. With the advent of expansions (OXPs) such as Asteroid Storm, MinerPod and especially Ore Processor, mining is taken to a new level, where you can break up Asteroids into Hundreds of splinters, assessing their content in space for precious ores, such as Gold, Gems, Platinum and processing the Splinters in Space to get the most value from mining.


One difficulty in choosing to incorporate mining into your vocation within your Elite career was the choice of which laser to mount on any of the four ports on your ship. Should you put a beam, (or in time a military laser) on the fore of the ship, and maybe a mining laser to port, or aft? But the difficulties of trying to aim a mining laser on anything but the front was always a problem and distracted many a budding entrepreneur from encorporating Mining into their resume. However with oOlite OXPs, introducing the research of Bore & Ratter, the Weapon Rotator makes life a lot easier. Now you are able to rotate your weapons systems to match your given role, and with the purchase of an emergency weapons’ rotator, whenever you are in combat, it will rotate the best weapon for the situation. This is just one simple example of how oOlite has transformed itself from an “alike game” to a game of its own merits.

The Fiction

In the Original game Elite, the scenario was introduced with a brilliant Novella by Robert Holdstock, called The Dark Wheel; which is a recommended read to immerse yourself into the worlds of oOlite, throughout the 8 Galaxies and over 2000 planets you can visit during your travels.


Bringing the fiction up to date, Drew Wagar, a long term member of the oOlite Bulletin Boards has written a number of Novels centered around the “Ooniverse” of oOlite, these include the oOlite Saga. To the credit of his writing, Drew has been selected to write the Official Novella for the forthcoming release of Elite: Dangerous (the official sequel to the Original Elite game By David Braben: see a recent E3 2014 trailer on youtube), called Elite : Reclamation. It’s really recommended that you visit Drews’ site. Due to the fanbase (addiction if you will) of the oOlite crew, a large number of stories have been written, and are good ways to immerse yourselves into the oOlite world, with many stories including relative OXPs written by the storytellers or others.

Aim and Objectives

The Aim?… well it may be suggested the aim could be to climb the lofty ladder of combat to attain that pinnacle of places… ELITE! Another aim could be to see how rich you could become, trading the frontiers, or mining for precious ores, or how much of an “iron ass” you can achieve. But the first, and constant aim would be to stay alive in a world of pirates, police, rogues and bounty hunters, and so much else that will surprise you through every witchspace jump!

When first starting out with the Vanilla oOlite, with your 100 credits, and a basic mkIII Cobra, there is so much temptation to maybe “cheat” which can be done with numerous OXP additions, and saved game files. There is also Start Choices OXP which is not so much a cheat, as giving you career opportunities, and definitely worth checking out. However, after a short while the simplicity, and brilliantly open-ended gameplay coupled with the desire to dock that hold full of valuables, after battling your way through the space lanes, makes you WANT to do it right! That if you cheat now, you’ll only be kicking yourself later when you have become successful. And that is the beauty, because oOlite draws you in to want to make that extra buck, or see what happens when you’re told there’s newsfeeds to read upon when you dock. With Elite, one subject that is mentioned a lot about starting out, was how hard it was to dock. With oOlite, help with handy placed buoys makes docking easy, with practice (after all, without a bit of difficulty how can we rise to the challenge). jumping into systems, and watching other ships being piloted around you by their AI Commanders, mining, escorting, or even pirating is entertainment in itself, but with every decision you make, to fight that offender, to scoop up someone else’s gains, will change your path irrevocably. You can sit back, watch other Commanders demise, or you can immerse yourself into the buzz of the moment, and grab all you can to achieve the best!

Powers, Planets and Organizations

Within the vast regions of Space and the thousands of planets, there are many different systems of Government, which are ruled by the Galactic Co-operative of Worlds (GalCop) ranging from Strictly Governed Corporate States, where the System Police keep a tight rein on law and order; down through the list to the lawless Anarchist Systems, where the law is more an idea than the rule. Technology levels, which are generally reflected by the stability of the System; and their individual trading preferences, from Rich Industrial systems down to Poor Agricultural planets, depending on the availability of resources. Within this structure of life, there comes the underworld of trading in illegal goods such as narcotics, firearms and slaves. The Commander needs to be careful in his choices, quickly finding purchase of narcotics in the wrong system could find them being chased by every Police Ship until they’re space dust!



With the inclusion of oOlite eXpansion Packs, the objectives become much more wide and varied, depending on your career and mission choice. The basic premise would be to gain enough credits, to earn an iron ass (a ship that has all the defensive and offensive options available), and to gain the title of Elite, which is a measure of your prowess in Combat! The options available to the Commander are varied and diverse, from Bounty Hunter, hanging out waiting for the offenders or fugitives to cross their paths, to taxing goods or customers to systems around you, mining asteroids, to making a living from towing vanquished ships to system stations, or other dockables, selling their produce and hardware, gaining reputation for recovering more ships.


In the original Elite there were between one and five missions, depending on your game-system. The most famous being the Constrictor Hunt, which was the hunt of a ruthless thief across Galaxy One and into Galaxy Two. This mission along with 5 other missions are included in the native version of oOlite, with many sub missions included. The missions are enhanced to a large degree by interactive mission screens, when docked. These screens give information on where the Commander should go for the next step, with interactive choices allowing you to decide on a given choice at different times. There is also interaction within the map screens, highlighting on your system maps where a target or stage is in relation to yourself, immersing you more into the thrill of the chase.

In-Game (or Native eXpansions)

Regardless as to the massive opportunities that are available, or to what CAN be available with OXPs…. there are a huge amount of new items, mechanics, weapons, and opportunities that are available to Commanders without using the oOlite expansion Packs. Due to the number, only a few are mentioned, with many becoming available to you as you travel to more Hi-Tech systems, or the amount of Credits you’ve earned, or if you choose to land on a Rock Hermit, and see what’s available on the grey-ish black market. There are items that have been researched after the Deadly enemy of Man and furry kind, the Thargoids have been captured and their technology reverse engineered. A number of items that were only previously available to the military are now available to those with big pockets. these include the Advanced Space Compass, Scanner Targeting Enhancement, and the Advanced Navigational Array.

The Tyley-Feynman Advanced Space Compass, is a must have item, at only 650 Credits, it opens up the systems you travel through, allowing you to not only accurately pinpoint you Station Beacons, but also any other stations or dockable objects. This allows you to make the most of your booty, selling it to the best buyer, and if your are less than clean rated, giving you an opportunity to refuel and witchjump without having the GalCop Vipers on your tail as you try to dock. With each expansion that you include, a separate icon is added so that you can easily identify all entities within your system, and more importantly, where they’re at!

Alongside the ASC is the Scanner Targeting Enhancement. This is an invaluable tool if you’re going to keep your hide free from laser fire, and missile locks. This allows you to upgrade your normal lock system, to one where it will automatically lock onto a given target, inform you where it is in relation to your ship, the distance to your target (important to know depending on which laser you have fitted, if you want to get in the first shot). Most importantly, it gives you the legal status of any ship within your sights. Now this may not seem as important, however, it gives you the split second advantage of a ships intentions. It will tell you if the ship is an offender or Fugitive, which gives an idea as to whether a Ship is prepared to attack, or simply trying to get home. This benefit allows you to target an offender (or worse) without being then attacked for being a pirate, as offenders and beyond are fair game in the system policing of the 8 Galaxies.

The Advanced Navigational Array (ANA) is a navigation computer software upgrade, designed to assist commanders in planning long routes on the galactic map. In its current implementation, it allows commanders to view the Interplanetary Connectivity Grid (ICG) for the galaxy they are currently in, plus an overlay of the shortest route to their selected destination. Basically stated it allows those Commanders who rely on trade of goods, packages or Customers for a living to make the vest decisions. In the map screen it will give a Commander a view as to the best route to a given planet, or where time costs money, it will give the quickest route, giving you information so as to best choose which contracts are viable for you as a Commander travelling the Systems.


These are only a very few of the upgrades which are available to the Vanilla oOlite Commander amongst many. It could be mentioned that the fuel scoop is best, or a Docking Computer, however, too much knowledge can change information to a walk-through. Just remember, if advice is what you wanted, then save often (don’t just rely on the Quick Save, as the Quick-save overwrites each save at each station, so if you’ve made a bad decision a bit ago, there is no going back). Save at each station, if you’re in a mission, or going to an contentious area, then save it with a different name (maybe one that incorporates your commander name with the mission/ purpose name).


There are a number of quirks within oOlite, that were also in the Elite Space Trading Game. These were included, and sometimes enhanced to provide more character to the game, and also to bring a deeper flavor to what is already an exceptional game in its own right. Two of these are the Trumbles and the Thargoid Witchspace tweak, which is only advised for the adventurous, and the iron-assed! The Trumbles, are a cuddly, fury creature (yeah right!) that have been explained in depth in Drew Wagars oOlite Saga. A misunderstood creature with a huge appetite for… well, anything really. they can give the lonesome Space trader comfort on those long Haul trecks, or focus their attention for other reasons, the only way to find out more is go get a Trumble!

The Thargoid Witchspace tweak, is one that was implemented in the original Elite, and puts the Space Commander in a world of trouble, or fun based on your perspective. The premise is that a fault in the Wichspace drive can initiate a Witchspace misjump. This places the unfortunate commander in WitchSpace, with no opportunity to dock anywhere, and really is the Black Hole of the oOniverse. Witchspace is where Thargoids lurk, en-route to attack innocent Pilots, or Galcop Navies. Misjumps can, and do happen occasionally due to Space system anomalies, but for a brave commander, can be initiated by pressing the climb (down) button on your console within the last 3-4 seconds of a hyperspace jump. Again, this should be tried only by those with some experience of getting their a**e kicked!


Expansion Packs

The enduring factor of oOlite above all other Elite “style” games, is the huge possibilities of expansion due to the oOlite eXpansion Packs (OXPs) and the newly created OXZ expansions for the yet to be released version 1.80 of oOlite. It would be very easy to be carried away, and write too much about the eXpansion Packs (OXPs), which could detract from the game itself. The choice of what OXPs to load is down to the individual Commander, and one list will never be the same as another. If the Commander understands that pretty much EVERYTHING can be changed with OXPs, from planets to Ships, to Commanders and AI behaviours, and ambience, such as background noise, then they will be able to decide the direction of their OXP list. However a few OXPs should be mentioned that may give the new Commander a quick idea as to the breadth of the choices available.

With these expansion packs, all aspects of the game can be altered, and with continuing work within the oOlite Boards by a very loyal membership, new ideas are being created daily, and can be found at the oOlite Wiki OXP page. There are new and WIP expansion gems that aren’t listed on the OXP Wiki, and found on the oOlite Boards, such as the Ships Library (an OXP that along with the “in-game manual OXP) which brings you an interactive and in-depth explanation to the oOlite world. So is well worth visiting the oOlite Boards to check up on what’s new, and to submit any ideas that you may have.


With the use of Shaders, texturing and scripting all aspects of the game have been changed and enhanced, such as the numerous ShipSets that retexture the complete Ship fleet, or individually, or create new ships. The Heads Up Display, with the synonymous IFF scanner, (which was only fitted into th original Elite in the very last few bytes of memory at the end of creating the game); giving your position relative to all other objects within each system, can be changed to your personal preference. The Assassins Guild is a good example of the new missions available, giving 21 seperate missions, introducing new ships, mission screens, animations, and opporunities to get fried in Deep Space!

To give an opinion on oOlite eXpansion Packs (OXPs) would mean many thousands of words to bring together a decent list, only for it to be “dissed” very quickly as not quite right, so only five OXPs are mentioned, (not taking into account those that are mentioned already, or linked to within this review).

BackGround Set (BGS)

This OXP will be in almost every Commanders list due to what it brings to the game, and the continuing versatility of its scripting, opening up new avenues within the game. It is to be used in conjunction with the Cabal Common Library, and the Snoopers OXPs. BGS is described as a framework for images, sounds and music. It ships more than 100 sounds, images for all standard GUI-Screens, 117 maps for the LongRangeChart and enhances the overall look and feel of the game.


The Add-on is expandable, highly configurable, constantly being adapted and included in new and current OXPs. The basis explanation for this OXP, is that it’s COOL! it certainly brings a totally new aspect to the game, with new sounds, and background noises as you dock, such as body and work shops on the relevant screens, to the new maps that adorn the galactic charts. The sounds and graphics bring a real depth to the game, allowing your mind to wander amongst the sights and sounds of this must-have addition.


Once you’ve added it to your list, you will feel lost without it. Another plus with this OXP is that it can be installed as one unit, or split into the three separate units, which enables users of low-ended machines to be able to share in certain parts of this eXpansion. Due to the system limitations of Pandora, and with shaders not being available with GL 1.5, there are currently some options not available for Pandora users. The Pandora works well to sort out which things it can’t support (such as the new animated Hyperspace screens and the engine glows), and is quick to fall back onto the standard images etc. This is purely an eye-candy issue, and does not influence gameplay in any way. The image opposite gives an idea as to how shaders work, and to the improvements that have been made with the members of the oOlite bulletin board. Some elements, such as burning fragments from ships, and exhaust plumes are still available to the Pandora user.

Your Ad Here

Your AD here brings to each system, that which we take for granted every day, but would miss if they weren’t there…..Adverts! In the Galaxies of oOlite, there are now literally hundreds and hundreds of ADs, spams, and dockable stations that adorn the systems, giving so much eye-candy, from witchpoint beacons now advertising the newest “Trumble” cage, to the best place to get your in-system shopping! Each advert has been painstakingly created by the members of the oOlite forums, creating a massive library of every changing Ads that bring so much life to the game.


Whether you are browsing the systems market screens, and their saleables items, and watching the ADs below the buy screen, to moOching around the stars and seeing a mobile AD ship fly by with huge animated adverts on the sides. Each time you see these ADs and pay attention to them, they will make you smile, either because of their parody on life now, or due to the unique ideas that have been created. This is one OXP that will help immerse the Commander into the trading and commerce worlds of oOlite.

Market Observer

Another of the issues which drove elitists crazy since 1984 was, how to play the inter-planetary markets to your advantage. It was quickly learnt that a high-tech Industrial system could produce and market things such as computers a lot easier and cheaper than, say a poor agricultural one, who in turn could produce and sell food far cheaper in return. The trick was to remember what the system fluctuations were at a glance. Rather than having reams of paper with individual sales prices for systems, which constantly changed anyway due to supply and demand; The Market Observer OXP gives you everything you need in a neat package.


This OXP allows you to see the maximum and minimum values of commodities at main Stations, (as prices may vary at places such as Rock Hermits, where black market goods are profitable), it also gives a current value in general, which may fluctuate due to market change and the influx of certain goods. To keep this option a free subscription to users it is plagued by Adverts, however in this case the Adverts are a visual bonus!

amiga marketscreen

The market screen from the original Elite gave varying prices from the numerous systems comprising the 8 Galaxies. The Amiga version of Elite (above), is in a lot of opinions one of the best, giving a pleasant view of commodities, bringing the game more up to date. With the oOlite Market Observer OXP, this gives the Commander an accurate view of the prices within the systems visited, allowing you to hedge your bets, sell high, or make a killing on those furs, or narcotics at your peril!

Cargo Shepherd

Having spoken briefly about the market Screens, this OXP has to be mentioned, in that its always good to know how you can get something for nothing. Have you ever played Elite, or oOlite and watched, as a ship you’ve spent the last tense hour trying to defeat, spills its cargo to you in a last vain attempt to save their necks, or witnessed a pirate getting their cum-upponce, and their cargo left drifting along the solar winds without any ability to scoop up such booty? Well now your luck’s in, with the Cargo Shepherd OXP, The latest piece of equipment from the labs of the Aquarian Shipbuilding Corporation. The Cargo Shepherd is designed for busy traders, scavengers and bounty hunters.

For those times when your cargo hold is just not big enough, the Cargo Shepherd is designed to mark the location of loose cargo pods, and also keep them in place via a specially designed broad-based tractor field. Put simply it will attract any loose cargo pod in range toward itself, and maintain them in a holding position 200m from the Shepherd unit. This item is pylon mounted, so used as a missile would be, when fired towards a ple of bounty, it will attract, and keep all cargopods in a tight group for you to quickly return (with an empty cargo bay) and scoop up the freebies. This item is marked as a HorseShoe on your Advanced Space Compass, and can be scooped up to reuse, after youve finished loading your free gotten gains.

Camera Drones

This OXP is, in my opinion, a must have! In that it brings to life some of the ideas you may have, as to what’s happening around your Ship as you travel through space. With Camera Drones, it gives you many view options to track your Ship, or other objects through space, as you travel amongst the other AI Commanders and objects within each system.


The Fly-by camera begins ahead of your ship, then flies alongside it to a similar distance aft. Then, the sequence begins again, rotated. This mode, also has a number of sub-modes, with fast medium and slow speeds included, which allow you to see your ship in all its glory, or being beaten-up in real time mode. The Missile camera tracks your most recently fired missile, following it closely to its target. The Docking camera is positioned in a fixed location near the docking port of the nearest station. Activate the camera, then turn on your docking computer and watch your ship fly in from a new perspective. The Target camera provides an approximate simulation of your current target’s forward view, if you have a target selected. Purely for its Eye-Candy appeal, this expansion is a must have!

Tow Bar

The Towbar OXP is one of the best examples as to not only the difference between oOlite and Elite, but also the ingenuity of the oOlite community, and an example as to the opportunities available only restricted by the imagination of those creating, or thinking of new ideas. The idea of the OXP is that, generally a Ship is destroyed in combat, and possibly cargo is ejected, or the pilot itself ejects in an escape capsule, thus (with a fuel scoop) giving you the opportunity to make a few credits if you can. This does give you a “kill” on your climb to ELITE, however, that’s about as much as you get. This OXP brings a cargo container full of realism to the oOniverse, in that now, rather than just scooping up a few metal fragments left of your combat, you can now decide whether to claim the wreckage as your own booty, and all the cargo that the vanquished ship carries. Each Ship has its own scrap value, but also the condition of the ship has a reflection on the salvage value. One upgrade is the laser reducer which analyzes the strength of the enemy, and informs you immediately the ship becomes derelict, such as the pilot ejects. This saves you from keeping your hand on the kill switch, and blowing up the bounty. The Commander having purchased the Towbar (an expensive item, with costly additions due to the possible profits available), just connect to a beaten ship, and then tow it back to a station, whereupon you collect your hard earnt cash.


Well… it’s not that simple, If you are 6.0ly away from a station then you have to tow this ship a long way, during which you run the risk of losing the cargo from your vanquished ship through holes you now wish you hadn’t poked in it. Also there is the risk of being attacked en-route, or even after you’ve beaten your foe, realizing that your small(ish) Cobra MkIII isn’t big enough to tow a BOA. Well the good news is the large number of upgrades for this item that helps to make life easier and much more profitable. These include compatible injectors and Towbar stabilizers to assist in keeping the ship steady. Also there are pylon mounted Towbar Drone, which allows you to remotely pilot a ship that’s too large to tow, back to a Station. There are also Ship Miners, and repair bots amongst many other upgrades. All this allows you to claim a far greater bounty than from just scooping the occasional cargo pod. With each ship that you recover, along with the bounty that you receive, credits are put aside for you to purchase your Salvager’s license, with this license the rewards become far greater. The many aspects of this OXP make it one of the most immersive additions that has been created for oOlite, bringing far greater depth and realism.

So, what do I think of oOlite?

Elite was, and still is a unique genre in computer video gaming. Elite gave the opportunity to live in an open ended environment, where each decision didn’t spoil a “plot” or theme. Each decision in the Elite universe brought the player either success or ruin, purely dependent on the player. Be it trading from system to system, or mining, or Bounty hunting, Elite gave a new realm of “choices” in a game. Then came oOlite, which took hold of the idea of Elite, transforming it into something huge, and unique in itself, far surpassing the expectations of its maker Giles Williams, and those originally involved in its onward creation.

One such example is with the upcoming 1.79 (1.80) release, with sun aura. This visual effect causes the pilots vision to be impaired, as such, the more directly the sun is viewed, creating more atmosphere to the game. Today, oOlite is a far different beast than its original release with the ideas of OXPs bringing totally new and creative avenues to explore.

In the space trading genre, there is obviously the trading aspect, and the prospect of getting from system to system, avoiding, fighting others, to trade your goods be they legitimate or the result of scooping up the “souls” of those you’ve turned to space dust. This is the core of the genre, and is very rewarding, however oOlite takes things up to new levels of ingenuity, and complexity (without being TOO complex). The simple idea of watching ships around you going about their business, or piggy backing through an escorts wormhole, whether you know the destination, (with wormhole.OXP) or being a surprise as to your destination, watching the Ships you’ve followed forming into convoys, or being attacked by pirates.
Even traveling through a system and seeing laser fire in the very far distance, with the AI of the game being oblivious to yourself, so that you can either witchjump to have a front row seat to scoop up remains, or to get stuck in on the side of the righteous, who shouts to you for help!

A unique aspect of oOlite is that you can pick it up from where you left, but on each occasion decide to spend your time differently, maybe boosting your credibility at delivering parcels, seeing how much money you can make. Or maybe spend a day taking up escort contracts, assisting those convoys to safe pastures (or systems) making big in-roads into your reputation for protection. Another time could be spent concentrating on making money from salvaging those ships with the Towbar OXP. Putting money into the fund towards your salvage license, where really big credits can be made. Not only making money from the ships’ scrap value, but with enhancements, being able to “mine” the derelict ships for their cargo, before it has the chance of being lost whilst towed to safety. There are so many opportunities, mentioned but a few, that the player can diversify, so that gameplay never becomes repetitive or alike. it truly is an open-ended environment, and with continuing input from new and regular members of the oOlite forums, there is no end to its possibilities! Maybe reading this will give new ideas that could possibly be reviewed in the future.

oOlite is a unique, and brilliant open ended game, that allows you to develop your Commander (character, how you see fit), giving you the option to “live” your decisions, be they good or bad, whilst the oOniverse around you continues to battle to survive. With the inclusion of expansion Packs, anything is possible, only restricted by the imagination of the individual. With each new idea, spawns a plethora of separate ideas, which gives oOlite the almost “everlasting” appeal to those Space Trading enthusiasts. It is without doubt, the best Space Trading game freely available, and is, in the opinion of the writer, everything that Elite wished to be, and with the advent of OXPs, everything that the new Elite: Dangerous wants to be but can’t. Each day browsing the bulletin board, you find new ideas that are not only suggested, but implemented. From the era of 2005 when oOlite came to being, to now 2014, the difference is immense. It changes a game from being a “remake”, to being a diverse, unique game that is a constantly evolving, changing game that rivals many retail games; surpassing the original ideas of what it could be, due to the enthusiasm of the oOlite community, that is forever growing, bring new ideas, and pushing the boundaries of the “3D Space Trading” genre to the limits.

The Open Pandora port

On the 27th April 2014, meeting the requests of members of the Open Pandora community, oOlite was ported to the Pandora by PtitSeb. Within a very short period, Build 05 was released which included a number of improvements and fixes, including button mapping, and texture issues. The Pandora port is based upon the current v1.77.1 version of oOlite, the next viable version being the new v1.80, which is the published build of the current Dev Build 1.79. The differences between v1.77.1 and v1.79 (v1.80) are quite dramatic, including the addition of direct to download oOlite eXpansion Packs (OXZs) through the GUI, plus many more new features, including a totally new Shipset based upon Griffs shipset, with shaders. It has to be stated that none of the differences between the PC/MAC and Pandora versions cause any detriment to gameplay, if a Pandora user hasn’t tried one of the other versions they would not notice any negative play.

One of the main differences between the oOlite PC/Mac v1.77.1 version and the Pandora v1.77.1 version is the omission of shaders on the Pandora. The PC/MAC build incorporates OpenGL, and since the Pandora cannot use OpenGL natively, the port uses GlShim in order to translate most of the OpenGL code into GLES code. This produces a number of differences between the two builds/ports, with the Pandora, due to current limitations of Glshim. Some of these deficiencies include as mentioned shaders, upon which Oolite rely quite significantly. Examples of this can be seen in the exhaust ports of ships, where in full shader version, the exhaust ports glow with how hot they become, the same as alloys or parts of a destroyed ship floating through space. Some of these with OXPs are still viewable to the Pandora player to some degree. You can see here the examples of a Cobra MkIII without Shaders (right) and with Shaders (left).


Another option not currently available to Pandora Users is the eSpeak option. This option available to PC/MAC users gives players the bonus of having conversations with NPCs within systems, allowing you to hear pilots shouting for help, or conversing with planetary systems and stations, adding to the ambiance in the game.

Due to memory limitations, and other restrictions of the Pandora, the game does run slower than that of PC/MAC, however this is not generally noticeable, and only increases with the amount/ type of OXPs that are added by the player. Each OXP places a drain on memory available to the player, and OXPs such as ShipSet Additions create a greater drain upon the Pandora user. Also, OXPs that use more graphics, textures, sounds will also slow down the memory usage of the Pandora.

The gameplay of Oolite on the Pandora is different in a number of ways to that on a PC/MAC computer (although such computers have the ability to accept joysticks/gamepads which are fully supported by oOlite within options). The Pandora unit being an handheld provides an easy gameplay in general. PtitSeb has done a very good job of allotting the keymap to the Pandora, with piloting of your ship being very easy with the D-Pad, and/or the nubs. Because of the small screen, and the reactiveness, it is sometimes difficult, especially in combat to use the nubs where small maneuvers are required. However the D-Pad in conjunction with the nubs works very well. oOlite in it’s nature has a number of key combinations, or numerous options, such as the missile options, where (PC/MAC)uses “T” to target, “U” for unarm, and “M” to fire missile. With PtitSeb’s intervention, the Pandora port makes some of these options more simple. In conjunction with using the shoulder buttons, with left shoulder being “shift”, and right shoulder being a similar “modifier-shift” button, the missile options are now using a combination of the shift / Y,B,A,X buttons, arming missile is “shift”+X, and fire missile “shift”+X.

The general key mapping for oOlite Pandora is as follows:

{R} + DPad Left/Right = Yaw => , / .
{R} + DPad Up/Down = Speed => w / s
{X} = Laser => a
{B} = untarget => u
{A} = id => r
{Y} = ecm => e
{L} + {B} = target => t
{L} + {R} + {B} = target missile => shift + t
{L} + {X} = missile => m
{L} + {A} = Jump => j
{L} + {Y} = Hyperspace => h
{Start} = compass target => \
Backspace => toggle precision joystick

The left nub is allotted to joystick, and the right nub to mouse movements. These can be changed by amending the left_nub and right_nub files within the appdata/oolite folder. A further way to alter keymapping to individual preferences is via the keyconfig.plist, which is found at:-appdata/oolite/AddOns/config

the keyconfig.plist enables the user to change a large number of keys options, although not all options are available. One change the writer made as an example, is the forward/previous compass mode changed to “O” and “P” (which is shift + o/p), generally making it easier to navigate the oOlite compass. Overall the use of the D-pad, nubs and keys make it very easy to play oOlite. Whilst writing this review the writer has used both (PC/MAC) with standard keyboard input, and Pandora console with D-Pad and nubs etc. It was found for pure flowabablity of gameplay, immersiveness and ease of options, that the Pandora was the far better choice. Holding the Pandora in your hand, being able to easily pilot the Ship, whilst quickly making numerous choices with regards to upgrades available was so much easier.

The Pandora has a far smaller screen than any standard laptop etc, and as such to the eye, a lot more is crammed into a much smaller space that could cause issues with being able to see the screen and the elements within clearly. As previously stated, anything and everything regarding oOlite can be changed with scripting and OXPs etc. The Vanilla oOlite it has been found to be quite dark, so that small items at a distance are not seen, also when using witchdrive injectors, the stars and matter flash past the screen far quicker. A lot of the “eye-candy” can be lost or not seen clearly due to either darkness, or the screen items not being as legible as on (PC/MAC). The resolution available to (PC/MAC) users is 1366×768 and possibly beyond, whereas the Pandoras resolution is 800×480 on a 4.3″ widescreen. Therefore a large number of smaller objects are not to be seen as clearly on the Pandora, so that anything that can increase the users view is a good thing.

A great deal more eye-candy is visible with increased gamma options available in the settings options of oOlite, however these Gamma and other settings are currently unavailable to Pandora oOlite. A simple example of the differences between oOlite standard screen, and gamma increased on the Pandora are shown below.

With Standard Gamma Level.
With Standard Gamma Level.
With increased Gamma.
With increased Gamma.

Increasing the Gamma shows greater information on the screen, allowing the player to see a lot more “eye-candy” such as the stars and matter floating past, distant objects, the shine on other ships in relation to the sun etc. An easy one step way to increase Gamma for Pandora oOlite is shown further below.

A further area that could be an issue due to resolution, is the texts and words, that make up a great deal of docked screens and also combined within HUDs that are a huge part of the combat side of oOlite. In general the text in docked screens is visible and readable, with the original font being excellent. If there is any issue with regards to the resolution on-screen, it generally occurs with the Space Compass, s, and information texts that are within the game and AddOns, that inform the Commander of general information, or Planet or Object names. With the original HUD on Pandora oOlite, the size of the pixels make it sometimes difficult to “centre” an object such as a planet, or nav beacon onto the Space Compass accurately, and with the purchase of the Advanced Space Compass (where a great number of icons are viewable) tis can become confusing. Also the design of each specific HUD oxp can change the font to some degree or the size of the texts, making it difficult to view. There are a number of HUDs that are available as OXP AddOns, that greatly enhance the resolution and text viewable on-screen, and also improve the clarity of things such as the Space Compass etc. One of the Best HUDs is the NumericHUD.

The Vanilla HUD...
The Vanilla HUD…
Here in the HUD you can see the Space Compass clearly displaying the "N" Nav beacon icon.
Here in the HUD you can see the Space Compass clearly displaying the “N” Nav beacon icon.

With gameplay, due to the dark nature of the game (space is pretty dark after all), any opportunity to see the action better is a good thing. Aside from the Gamma issue, whilst plaing the game, i certainly played my best, and was on better form either in the mornings, or the evenings. This has nothing to do with being refreshed from a nights sleep or whatever, more to do with the light poring through the windows! It can be said that the screen reflects external light quite a lot, casting across the screen, so defintately better to play away from external light sources such as sun light etc. With mentioning possible issues with oOlite on the Pandora, it has to be said that these are Pandora issues and certainly not oOlite or the Port issues. The port is absolutely brilliat, if there were to be a wish list as to what the writer would like to see from the (PC/MAC) version to Pandora oOlite, then a a few requests are definately on the list. The first request would be the incorporation of espeak, which although not a graphical enhancement, greatly improves the atmosphere, with NPC characters shouting to you for help, or asking to meet up at the local space bar, it really does make a huge difference. The next request would have to be the incorporation of Shaders. With more and more OXPs using Shaders, the game is becoming more graphically amazing with each new AddOn. It helps immerse the player more into the game. The use of Shaders is not just connected to Ships and how they look, but also to a large number of
features that are included in dock screens, and other areas of the game, it would be a huge plus to Pandora Oolte.

Pandora Pre-Installation

This information is written for users of a Classic Pandora, the most limited version of machine within the three types currently available (the CC Pandora, the Rebirth and the 1GHz), so that everything mentioned will work on any Pandora console available. There are methods for the new user to utilize to make the most of the console, enabling oOlite to play smoothly and without crashes, which are explained below. the explanation is given as for a new Pandora user, and are of the writers opinion and experience, not as a consensus, so please excuse any repetitions or errors.

In the first instance, (especially if the unit is either CC or rebirth) it is recommended that the user download/install, both PNDConfig, and Swap Files, both available from the Pandora Repo or PNDManager.

PNDConfig – This handy utility gives the Pandora user the ability to configure the start-up and closure options of individual PNDs, using a simple GUI to choose from.


It is suggested that PNDConfig be used for two of the available options, “Boost gamma brightness”, and “Set CPU to max speed”. Oolite is quite a dark game, and this is only preference, so users should choose themselves if they wish to increase gamma, as this option is not valid in the main oOlite options menu in the Pandora port. To give the best performance for oOlite, it is suggested to increase the max CPU speed via the pandora/Settings/CPU-Settings option to 900MHz. This will not effect the users CPU speed unless stated for a specific app etc. In PNDConfig, with the option of increasing CPU speed to max, it allows the user to max the CPU for the duration of the game, resuming to normal speed upon quitting. These options, once saved in the PNDConfig GUI are then saved as scripts within the designated game folder, and run at the start and end of each game, without the need to use PNDConfig again.


Swap Files – is recommended, especially for the CC Pandora, to enable more free memory to run oOlite and respective eXpansion Packs. This simple script is created from a simple GUI that enables you to activate or deactivate each swap file. The size of the swap file the user creates is dependant generally upon the size of free space that you have, however a swap file of 400Mb would be more than sufficient to enable oOlite to run smoothly on CC Pandora. Unlike PNDConfig that is a use and forget utility, Swap File requires to be run before the beginning of the program you require it for.


Once you are done with those, you can start playing with oOlite (install it from the repo or PNDManager). Have fun !!

Before letting you go, if you are interested in the history Of Elite, check out this article for the story as to how Ian Bell & David Braben collaborated to create on of the most important games in video gaming history: The Elite Story – Right On Commander!

You can comment on this story below, or on Hacker News as well.

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3 Comments on "Oolite: Elite Re-Invented, Open-Source style"

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Thank you for this great article, a native port to open gl es is not in planning or? Since the Pandora supports shaders via open gl es 2. Can the Pyra do full open gl?


Man! I wish I have all the time in the world to play this fantastic port! Nice article.