2006 In Review

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So - it's that time again, for the traditional Alioth.net look at the year that's gone, and try to see what's possibly in store for 2007. In summary, 2006 has been the best year for Elite in at least two or three years - certainly a much welcome relief from the dark days of the Great TNK Smackdown a few years ago.

The games

2006 was probably the most active year in the Elite scene for the last five or six years. Several major happenings: the rise of Oolite - a modern interpretation and recreation of classic Elite, which gained a Windows port earlier in the year, opening the game to the countless hordes. An OpenGL implementation of JJFFE was made, vastly improving FFE's graphics with accelerated, high resolution smoothness. Tom Moreton's OpenGL version of FE:2 continued to progress.

Once again, it was another community driven year - Frontier Developments have remained as silent as ever - the only morsels of news being that Elite 4 certainly won't be developed until The Outsider is complete, and that the single player game (with a LAN game option) will be developed first. Most of their press has simply echoed the statement they made back in 2002: that Elite 4 development was originally for a massively networked game, but the technology wasn't there - so development was stopped.

Oolite really deserves its own section in the year end review - it has spawned a massive effort in creating add-ons - see Oosat2 - and now has no fewer than 218 articles on the Wiki documenting all aspects of the game, from how to expand it, to background stories, and descriptions of all the ships - right the way through to some development documentation on how to build it from source. Unfortunately, Oolite has had its own "loss" this year: the main developer, Giles Williams found that he was burned out on the game's development, and has decided to take a break - hopefully not permanent! However, since the game is so expandable, Giles taking a break does not slow the rate of many aspects of the game's development.

Sadly, it looks like Entropy has permanently fallen by the wayside: the website [1] where Eth had screen shots, a forum and news on progress has disappered from the web. Also, rather unhappily - it looks like there was another brief episode in the conflict between Ian Bell and David Braben. It seems that David Braben has ordered Ian Bell to take down any Elite related programs on his website. Ian Bell resisted David Braben's requests for a short while, but eventually gave in. Many classic Elite materials have now dissapeared from the web - so if you don't have them already, you will find them increasingly hard to find.

On the web

There's been a renewed interest in fiction on the EBBS, with several taking part in creating a new episode - mainly revolving around Norman Mosser. Mosser perhaps thinks the universe revolves around him, and it certainly seems to be turning out that way - with the battered Azure Sunset being brought back to life. The story is still in progress, so keep an eye on the EBBS to see it develop. Selezen is also continuing in his efforts to make a PDF version of all the postings.

Some self-reporting is also necessary: 2006 saw the Elite Wiki project started, a collaboarative community project to bring together articles of interest on all aspects of Elite, and all variants of the game. The Wiki grew from nothing to having a comprehensive set of articles about the various Elite games. Since you're reading this here - you'll no doubt be aware that the Frontier News also moved to the Elite Wiki. The old Frontier News site was sadly defeated by spammers. 2006 was also the first year that spam started appearing in the EBBS in significant volumes (it's surprising the spammers have taken that long) - and has required more and more elaborate measures to try and limit the spam without making it more difficult for legitimate users to post messages.

In the community

Despite 2006 being probably the best year for Elite since the first stable releases of JJFFE several years ago, it's also been relatively. Posting in alt.fan.elite continued to decline, but EBBS traffic has recovered somewhat compared to 2005, which was the worst year for posting since the EBBS opened in 2000. Posting statistics shows the trends - EBBS traffic in 2003 alone had over 10,000 posts, 2004 declined by 50% to 5059 posts, and 2005 declined further to 3364. 2006 was much better than 2005, but still only a shadow of 2003 and earlier (which consistently gained around 10,000 posts). 2006's figures shows EBBS contributors wrote a total of 6954 messages, over double 2005's disappointing numbers. We have to hope that the recovery continues!

Predictions - looking to 2007

In last year's review, the prediction was for the Year Of Oolite. This wasn't really a hard one to make - the Windows port was just around the corner. Indeed, this prediction was right on the money. Oolite has spawned its own active community of players and expansion pack authors, and the Oolite Bulletin Board is a testament to this activity. A related prediction was that Oolite and other projects would help rejuvinate the community - and judging by the increase of activity on the EBBS, this also proved to be right.

Other predictions for last year was that Entropy wouldn't be here any time soon (which also turned out to be true - but at least the game's author has resurfaced). The much hyped Infinity also didn't appear as anything playable - another fairly easy prediction since the game was obviously still in the early stages at the start of 2006, despite some misplaced fanboyism on alt.fan.elite. And of course, the usual prediction - no Elite 4, also turned out to be true!

The unanticipated event of 2006 was the development of GLFFE.

So - looking forward to 2007. It's unlikely that Giles will return to Oolite this year since he's now working on other projects. Despite this, Oolite will continue to grow stronger, and since it's open for new core development - perhaps there will be some progression on that front anyway. New features will continue to be added via OXPs (Oolite expansion packs). The expandability is what will keep Oolite not just surviving, but thriving during 2007.

Again, the easy prediction to make for 2007 is that Elite 4 will not be coming out - or development even started, for that matter. Frontier Developments will not be a significant force in the Elite community in 2007, either - retaining their traditional silence on all things Elite.

Sadly, it's likely that Entropy will be abandoned (if it hasn't been already), and with the dearth of news on the other tribute project - Infinity - that project has probably also ended up in the Elite Tribute graveyard, now littered with the carcases of once ambitions projects: TEP (The Elite Project), Galileo, Dark Kind and Elite: TNK.

All in all, 2007 is probably not going to be quite as dramatic as 2006 - in all probability, no new projects will come along, but improvements and additions to existing projects (GLFFE, GL FE:2 and Oolite) should continue apace.