If you’re an English geek of a certain age, one Christmas you probably received a computer game which wasn’t like any games which had gone before. It came in an A5 box, big enough to hold the manual, the novella, the poster with all the ships on it, the leaflet listing all the keys you needed to fly your spaceship, and, I dunno, some other stuff, probably. Elite pitted you and your trusty Cobra Mk III against an open-ended universe, where you could make a living by trade, piracy, bounty-hunting or, as your reputation grew, by carrying out missions for people. It depicted the universe in glorious wire-frame 3D. As Francis Spufford explains in Backroom Boys, it was groundbreaking and absorbing. That particular Christmas, I played it so much that, as I slept, visions of Pythons danced in my head.
Oolite is a free, open source Elite clone in Objective C for Mac OS X. It’s faithful to the original, but there are some improvements (the targetting box which shows the distance, ship type and legal status in the picture above, for example), and some nice touches (notice the skull and crossbones on the Mamba?) You also feel more a part of the world than in the original, as you come across other ships engaged in combat, or a pirate caught by the long arm of the law. The nostalgia! Buy a Mac and play it.