Oolite (video game)
Oolite running on Mac OS X
|Developer(s)||Giles Williams, Jens Ayton|
|Release date(s)||July 21, 2016|
|Genre(s)||Space trading and combat simulator|
Oolite is a free and open source 3D space trading and combat simulator in the spirit of Elite. It is, as the name suggests, Object Oriented [E]lite, written in Objective-C. Among Oolite's several similarities to its inspirational source, the gaming experience is enhanced by the context set in Elite's original manual, and the accompanying novella, The Dark Wheel. Oolite is licensed under GNU GPL version 2 for the source code and Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA for other resources (pictures, music, textures, models).
By September 2005, Mac Oolite had reached v1.52, and a Linux port was released, closely following the Mac OS X developments since.
In March 2006, the Windows GNUstep port was released. Ports are also available for SGI IRIX and FreeBSD on Intel architectures. Most ports include the same functionality except for the Mac OS X version which includes additional support of native Mac OS X features (such as integration with iTunes, Spotlight and Growl support).
In October 2006, after releasing the stable 1.65 version, Williams announced he would stop developing Oolite after implementing updated OpenGL shader functionality. However, the project stalled.
On 16 December 2011, finally, a new stable version, v1.76, to replace 2006's v1.65, was released.
On 27 May 2012, a new stable version, v1.76.1, was released. This is a bug-fix update to Oolite 1.76. It does not add new features.
On 16 August 2012, a trial deployment version of v1.76.1 was released. The purpose of the release is to evaluate Oolite's Deployment configuration, which is the way upcoming stable releases are expected to be made.
On 8 January 2013, a new test deployment version, v1.77, was released. This version comes with new features and improvements over previous releases.
On 1 October 2013 a new test deployment version, v1.77.1 was released. This is a bug-fix update to Oolite 1.77. It does not add new features.
On 30 June 2014 a new stable version, v1.80 was released, to replace 2012's v1.76.1. It adds many new features, including greatly improved AI, an updated core shipset and an Expansion Pack management system.
On 27 May 2015 a new stable version, v1.82 was released. AI and the Expansion Pack Management System were further improved, and combat reworked to make the early game a bit easier for beginners, while still allowing plenty of challenges in the later game. Graphics and interfaces were upgraded, with the main improvement being the fully zoomable and scrollable galaxy map, which replaces the separate short-range and long-range charts. Improvements were made to multi-monitor support, explosion graphics, and planet textures, and a "field of view" setting introduced to Game Options. A Scenario Support System was introduced, essentially allowing people to rewrite the galaxies, ships, equipment and rules to make their own new space game using the Oolite engine.
On 21 July 2016, version 1.84 was released. The main additions are listed as : Mobile External View Camera, Multiple Lasers Now Available to All Ships, Improvements to the Galactic Chart Interface, Improvements to Overall Presentation and UI. This version is the one currently recommended by the Oolite dev team. 
Like Elite, Oolite is a first-person, open-ended, single-player space trading and combat simulator. The player is the pilot of a spacecraft, capable of interstellar travel to other nearby planetary systems using wormholes generated by the ship's engines. Each system contains only one inhabited planet, with an orbiting space station; players choose the destination system by the name of its planet. Although players can create outgoing wormholes almost anywhere within a system, assuming their engines have sufficient fuel to do so, ships always enter a new system at a considerable distance from the target planet. The player must then pilot their ship from the entry point, through "normal" space, to the station. During this stage of the journey the player can encounter other ships, and combat can occur. Oolite spaceships' principal armaments are lasers and missiles. Most combats are dogfights and the ships exhibit non-Newtonian flight characteristics, being immune from the effects of inertia and gravity.
Goals and objectives
There is no set goal or objective in the game. Money and "Elite rating" are the only built-in forms of "score" in Oolite.
Players can earn money by buying goods in one star system and transporting them to another to sell at a profit. Money can also be earned by destroying pirate ships and collecting bounty. Players can become pirates themselves, attacking merchantmen and other ships. Although no bounty is awarded for destroying non-pirate ships, when a ship is destroyed, some of its cargo can survive the explosion. If the player's ship is equipped with a scoop, this cargo can be salvaged for later resale. It is also possible, with the right equipment, to mine asteroids for ores and other materials. Players can also select to carry paying passengers or special cargos to specified destinations. Money earned or otherwise acquired can be spent on fuel for the wormhole engines (known as "Witchdrives"), ship maintenance and new equipment. The player can also seek to trade in his or her ship for other models with different characteristics and capabilities.
Each ship the player destroys, of any type or class, adds to the player's "Elite rating", a ranking based on the number of kills made. This rating begins at "harmless" (no kills), then "mostly harmless", and culminates with the "deadly" then "elite" rankings.
Missions and modifications
There are a small number of built-in missions in the game, inherited from Elite, where the player is given specific tasks to perform, such as destroying a stolen military prototype fighter. It is not necessary to complete or even begin any of these missions to play the game, however.
Numerous modifications for Oolite have expanded the gameplay by adding in new missions, new equipment, new ships, new stations, new trading locations and new open-ended career opportunities such as courier or hitman. Others offer improved graphics, visual and audio effects, or otherwise improve ambience. These modifications are usually called OXPs. Currently, there are more than 500 OXPs available for Oolite.
Since the game structure is intended to be ‘open–hooded’, objects and events that take place in Oolite are easily modified without need of programming skills. Only a few simple tools are needed to create an OXP (Oolite eXpansion Pack). These game additions, either self-made or downloaded, are freely placed in the game's AddOns folder, allowing the player to shape the plot and population of the game universe.
Over Oolite's first two years, many from the Oolite community were inspired by the game's coherent modding opportunities, resulting in a fairly large pool of OXPs. Often The Dark Wheel and 80's Elite fandom are of obvious influence, although elements from alternate space operas have also been shared. A pack may simply offer more ships or stations, or contain scripted interactive missions. As adding planetary bodies, minigames, HUDs, weapons and sounds are among several possibilities, testing the potential limitations of the OXP is still at an early stage.
Critical reception and reviews
Oolite was given four stars and the Macworld Editors' Choice Award in 2007: "Oolite (Object Oriented Elite) is as addictive and compelling today as Elite was in 1984 ... The core program is fully extensible with new ships, missions and planets – and the universe you explore in Oolite is completely open ended. This game’s a blast from the past that’s been rebuilt to last. Grab it now."
On July 24, 2009, TechRadar.com listed Oolite as one of the 10 best free PC games you should play today: "Oolite takes the exact same, brilliantly compulsive gameplay [as Elite] and makes it slicker, faster and better looking – for free. If the core package isn't thrilling enough, there are expansion packs available, too."
Freewaregenius.com reviewed Oolite in October 2009, calling it "a brilliant remake of Elite ... If you’re starving for a good space simulator, Oolite will satisfy. With a more rewarding trade system than its contemporaries, fast paced combat, and a healthy dose of retro appeal, this is worth checking out."
NAG Online reviewed Oolite in September 2010, giving it a score of 85%: "A true classic reincarnated and reimagined: a must-play for space-sim fans."
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- "Announcing Oolite v1.77". Oolite BBS. Retrieved 2013-01-08.
- "Announcing Oolite v1.77.1". Oolite BBS. Retrieved 2013-10-01.
- "Announcing Oolite v1.80". Oolite BBS. Retrieved 2014-06-30.
- "Announcing Oolite v1.82". Oolite BBS. Retrieved 2015-05-27.
- "Announcing Oolite v1.84". Oolite BBS. Retrieved 2016-09-29.
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- "OXP List". Oolite Wiki. Retrieved 2014-05-01.
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- "Oolite: a brilliant remake of Elite, the classic game of space trade and exploration". Freewaregenius.com. 2009-10-29. Retrieved 2010-01-05.
- "Review: Oolite - NAG Online". NAG Online. 2010-09-01. Retrieved 2010-09-01.