The Elite Universe is a term to describe the whole fictional universe of the Elite series. Every Elite game and media takes place in the same science fiction universe. It began with the release of the video game Elite in 1984. Since then, the franchise has expanded across various forms of media. There are some disparities with timeline events.
- 1 Dystopian Hard Sci-fi
- 2 Heritage
- 3 Major Influences
- 4 Societies
- 5 Social Classes
- 6 Significant species
- 7 References
Dystopian Hard Sci-fi
The Elite Universe is a plausible extrapolation of what human life would be like in the distant future. Many aspects make it dystopian and hard science fiction, because it has a grounding in science-based fact or theory. It's not an unrealistic depiction of a utopia or near-perfect societies without conflict.
David Braben said "obviously the previous games have been big influences, but I've been a science fiction fan for a very long time and I've always liked the harder end of science fiction where there's a lot more justification behind the way things happen."
Michael Brookes said "you have to imagine what the world could be like in 1000 years time. That's not as easy as you might think. There's things which you think might go easily, nanotechnology or whatever, but it may not turn out so we've actually got quite a dark world which I think is quite nice. I'm not a fan of utopia based science fiction in the future."
The galactic superpowers Federation, Empire and Alliance are portrayed as imperfect. They're all flawed with good and bad aspects. There's not a clear group of "good guys" and "bad guys." It's kept rather ambiguous.
Sandro Sammarco clarified David Braben's core vision for Elite "I've talked to David and it's always been part of his core vision for what Elite really is, even from way back in the day, it's always been about you're a person in a real futuristic setting, not just a ship."
Freedom and the ability to blaze your own trail are fundamental aspect of the Elite Universe. Players can carve their own path in an open galaxy. Space is generally lawless with little to no regulations. Since the original Elite they left what to do and where to go entirely up to the player. Players can take control of their ship and do all kinds of roles. Commerce, free trade and economic activities are another fundamental aspect, because people need it to improve their socioeconomic status in the galaxy and to rank up in the Pilots Federation. Players and NPCs can influence the galactic economy. This is simulated by the Background simulation.
There's an emphasis on scientific accuracy which is sometimes subordinate to the gameplay experience. The setting is a full scale depiction of the Milky Way. It has a lot of hard science to, for the first time in gaming history, compose a very consistent model of the Milky Way galaxy and it's rich enough to plot the night sky.
Technologically, what sets the Elite Universe apart is the lack of ‘magical’ anti-gravity or gravity generators. Ships have no anti-gravity, nor do outposts or stations. To move around requires pushing/pulling yourself, use thrusters or electromagnetic boots. Artificial gravity is created by centrifugal force from the rotation of (for example) a large space station.
A key distinction with other science fiction universes is people don't have inexplicable, unscientific, supernatural abilities. So there aren't any wizards, fairies or fantasy superheroes. Because in hard science fiction there's an emphasis on scientific accuracy and usually a justification behind things.
The aliens are truly alien in the Elite Universe. David Braben said "I'm dead-against the stance where the alien is just a human with a slightly wrinkly head, or pointy ears... Thargoids, they are truly alien. They are based on differently chemistry, and a lot of effort went into making that chemistry right and plausible."
"One of the assumptions that the Elite series makes is that the chances of life happening in our galaxy are really high if the conditions are right," Braben said.
"It looks like, on Earth, that as soon as the conditions were right, we had life, to as close as we can measure it. And by life, I don’t mean people chatting in bars telling each other jokes. I just mean green slime at the bottom of a pond. … The assumption in Elite is that life can evolve, but even the best of it won’t have evolved [by 3300]."
Many systems in the game have planets that have been terraformed, where any indigenous species have been wiped out and replaced with Earth-like flora and fauna.
These things make the Elite Universe more believable and realistic than other science-fiction universes.
The Elite Universe is post-apocalyptic. The lore mentions the occurrence of World War 3 (2044-2055 CE) which was the most destructive war waged on Earth. It brought much destruction and loss of life. Eventually, the war was abandoned after over a decade. In the aftermath, the dominant power was the United States of the Americas. Governments could not cope with the damage of the war. Thus corporations stepped in and gradually rebuilt human civilization.
In the 34th century countries are historical entities that don't exist anymore. All remaining countries on Earth joined and dissolved into the Federation which was formed circa 2240 CE. People find it hard to imagine a time when humans only existed on Earth with many disparate countries.
Corporations gained a huge increase in influence and dominance over Earth's political landscape after World War 3. These ideologies influenced the Federation.
There are several super-rich and super-powerful corporations that sustain the colossal interstellar economies. Other smaller corporations are specialized in specific products and services. The companies and corporations built the galactic community.
While corporations are not above the law, they have much authority over their employees, planets and star systems. The mega corporations rule unchecked over vast sections of the galaxy. They control countless subsidiary companies which gauge entire planets and star systems for resources and food. They produce goods which are essential for the survival of trillions of people in the galaxy. Corporate governments exist in the Federation, Empire, Alliance and Independent systems.
The Elite Universe is diverse, distinctive, and over thirty years in the making. It provides a rich source of inspiration for any storyteller. The lore and fiction has an immense scale, developed backstory and history which give characters' actions meaning and makes for a captivating tale. It is vast in size and stretches back through time.
Science fiction & fantasy fans searching for alternate realities can immerse themselves in 400 billion star systems, 1300 years of future events, and epic space adventures like Out of the Darkness.
The official lore of the Elite Dangerous Role Playing Game gives interesting insight into the Elite Universe. Cheap and faster than light travel has enabled humanity to expand across the stars. They've built colonies, cities, stations and empires. This led to the rise of galactic superpowers: the Federation, Empire and Alliance. The galaxy's vast wealth of minerals, water and life-bearing planets makes them wealthier every day. Such wealth of the major factions attracts powerful people who scheme daily to gain power.
The Middle-classes can afford spaceships like cars in the 20th century. This gives them tremendous freedom. Space trade is seldom hampered by politics. Pilots are encouraged to do all kinds of jobs such as supplying stations. Little has changed for those in the bottom of society since the old-Earth's dark ages. The planet-spanning mega corporations employ entire nations and rule unchecked over vast sections of the galaxy. Weapons are readily available and people are inclined to shoot first. The general lawlessness of space, inequality, greed of the galactic elite, navigational hazards and fierce creatures on planets make it a dangerous galaxy.
The heritage of the Elite Universe spans over 30 years. The Elite series began with the classic Elite in 1984. It was a genre defining, open world sandbox, space adventure, trading and combat simulator. Elite inspired the creation of many space games and new game genres such as the Grand Theft Auto (GTA) series. It also spawned the sequels Frontier: Elite II in 1993 and Frontier: First Encounters (Elite III) in 1995. These space sims attempted to simulate a realistic Milky Way galaxy and pioneered technical possibilities. Such as realistic star systems, seamless freeform interplanetary and atmospheric flight, landing on moving planets with realistic orbits and day/night cycles. For Elite Dangerous, the developers have gone to great lengths to map and electronically recreate the Milky Way to scale to make the galaxy as realistic as possible.
Many ships are named after snakes. This came about due to the wire-frame models looking like snake heads in the original Elite. The ship names are similar throughout the Elite series. In Elite Dangerous the classic ship models have been updated with lots of details.
Artist Joanne Taylor said "we've got a lot of iconic shapes to work from in those original games. So being able to fill out the details in those shapes is a lot of fun, but also it's going to mean a lot to anybody who has played the previous games."
Senior Artist John Kelly said "the challenge for us is to take the wire-frame and keep the iconic shape, keep the design, but then fill the gaps that were left behind. So what was filled with the player's imagination before, we've got to take that load away. We've got to fill the gaps with content and with things that would be functional and make sense."
Art Director Chris Gregory said "Elite was a game in the 80s that was rooted in a certain sci-fi language that was prevalent at that time. It’s a language I remember as a kid, so it’s an area I’m comfortable with and understand. But it’s also important to ensure that our ships don’t look too retro, or too pastiche, so we build elements that make it look like a ship of the modern era. There is that occasional nod to sci-fi things that we found cool in the 80s sci-fi era, and this gives our ships a feeling of prestige and legacy."
Legendary Elite Series
The legendary Elite series has critically acclaimed, groundbreaking, space simulation video games which take place in the Elite Universe. For example Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters are famous for their 1:1 scale, dynamic star systems, realistic physics and seamless free-form landings.
Elite was one of the first home computer games to use wire-frame 3D graphics with hidden line removal. It added twitch gameplay and was the first game that included a novel for distribution with a video game: The Dark Wheel by Robert Holdstock. Elite was hugely influential with its open-ended game model, advanced game engine and revolutionary 3D graphics which earned it a place as a classic and genre-maker in gaming history.
According to Guinness World Records:"Elite was the first game to feature a (3D) procedurally generated world, while Frontier: Elite II was the first game to feature procedurally generated star systems. Frontier: First Encounters was the first game to contain procedurally generated terrain and textures. Procedural Generation uses random inputs to a computer ‘procedure’ to create something unique that also adheres to certain rules, such as Elite II’s star systems. These were generated by the game aggregating the mass of material within an early solar system into planets and moons that obey the laws of physics, but which have slightly randomised material distribution in order to ensure each system’s uniqueness."
Elite is the longest running space simulation series in history. This is verified by Guinness World Records. The certificate says "The longest running space simulation series is Elite created by David Braben and Ian Bell and was released on 20 September 1984. Officially amazing."
A major influence on the Elite Universe is the 1968 epic science-fiction film 2001: A Space Odyssey produced by Stanley Kubrick. This is evident in the ringed Orbis station design and the docking computer that plays the waltz The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss II in the original Elite and Elite Dangerous. This movie is representative work of hard science fiction films. 2001 was made to be as scientifically correct as possible. Hence no sound in space, walking in zero-gravity requires velcro-equipped shoes etc. The Elite Universe follows that ethos to a degree.
David Braben and Ian Bell also refer to Star Wars (original trilogy), Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the original Battlestar Galactica (1978 TV series) as influences for Elite. Additionally, Braben cites the works of science fiction writers Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert L. Forward, Isaac Asimov and Orson Scott Card.
The Federation is an evolution from current Earth, rolled forward into the distant future. Federal politics has a lot of influence from the United States Constitution. The United States of the Americas is the fictional predecessor of the Federation. The Americas implies that it's the totality of continents of North and South America. The Americas comprises most of the land in the Western Hemisphere on Earth.
The Empire is influenced by Ancient Rome. Slavery in the Empire is similar to slavery in Ancient Rome. Imperial slaves have rights like in Roman times. People would sign up for slavery to pay a debt. Imperial society is based on honor, like the Roman Dignitas, or the Japanese Bushido, even elements of the British Empire, pre-WWI. It was shaming to do something that put people in a bad state. The poorhouses still happened, but sensibly, people were supposed to look after each other.
Societies in the Elite Universe are diverse, because there are many populated star systems which can have different government types and customs. This is mostly the case in Alliance and independent systems where each system is governed independently with their own culture, values and government.
The Federation is less diverse than the Alliance due to having common values, regulations and government types among all their systems. The Empire is the least diverse due to having an imperial monarchy with more strict regulations.
In the Federation, society is economically and socially corporatist. Social class is only determined by the 'haves' and 'have-nots'. Corruption is not unusual and people defend it shamelessly when caught as 'getting one over the system'. The working-class of the population is kept entranced by mass-entertainment and commercialism.
The Federation has the most densely human settled territories which makes it the biggest power. Its interstellar democracy has trillions of voters and is sustained by ancient bureaus.
The corporations are the life-blood and backbone of the Federation. They hold a very wide remit as to what they're permitted to do in the name of profit concerns. They control many aspects of life, politics and business within Federal space.
In the Empire, society is based on a cliens system like ancient Rome and strictly stratified. To move between strata requires money, patronage and influence. It has rampant nationalism and people like wealth projection. Wealthy and famous people find it an attractive place to live due to its high living standards, outlandishly wealthy companies, sophisticated technology and design.
There's a dark underbelly of legalized slavery. Slaves perform work which robots and machines would do in other parts of the universe. It's also a proponent of human-cloning. Few things are illegal, but much is frowned upon like narcotics.
Imperials value both status and honour very highly. Whilst it is acceptable to flaunt wealth, treating people well is a question of honour - and this includes slaves. People would sell themselves into slavery to pay for a debt that cannot otherwise be cleared in order to restore their honour.
The Alliance consists of independent systems who are militarily allied. It's governed by the Alliance Assembly. Each Alliance member state has a number of Council Members within the Alliance Assembly, based on the size of their respective populations. It functions as an arbitration body to establish common policies and treaties among Alliance systems, but it lacks any lawmaking powers.
There's much cultural and societal diversity among its members. It's much more diverse than the Federation and Empire. This makes political agreement difficult. Personal freedoms are inscribed in the Bill of Humans Rights.
Alliance systems and planets have the freedom to govern themselves independently. The flip-side is that there are also oppressive regimes on certain planets in Alliance space. Such as "on revolutionary Eranin the population are expected to perform in weekly parades celebrating their independence from the Federation, even while their leaders ‘redistribute’ the people’s wages into their own back pockets."
Trillions of people live in the Milky Way galaxy. They can be grouped into hierarchical social categories. This is what it's like in the 34th century:
The vast wealth of the major factions was built over centuries of commerce. It attracts greed and powerful people who seek more of the same. The Powers are powerful individuals or organizations who form the upper class of galactic society. These are also people with immense wealth who can wield a disproportionate influence over political, educational, religious, and other institutions. In the Empire, nobility and royalty are members of the upper class.
The richest people of the 21st century such as Bill Gates pale in comparison to the wealth and influence of Powers in the 34th century. For example Zemina Torval is preposterously rich due to her controlling stake in Mastopolos Mining and slavery. She owns many star systems and has a personal fleet of Majestic-Class Interdictors.
By comparison, the richest person in antiquity was Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar (63 BCE – 19 August 14 CE) with a personal wealth of "$4.6 trillion" because he "personally owned all of Egypt". The combined net worth of all billionaires on Earth was $7.67 trillion in 2017 CE. So they don't come close to powers who own whole planets and star systems.
People in the middle of the social hierarchy, known as the middle-class, have gained tremendous freedom due to the affordability of space ships with faster-than-light travel. This has opened a galaxy of opportunities.
These are people who generally earn little money with low-skilled manual labour. Little has changed for those in the bottom of society since the Old-Earth's dark ages. Some governments such as on Eranin exploit citizens with duties and redistribute people's wealth into their own pockets. On the planet Zaonce, masses trade stocks for the planet-wide Bank of Zaonce, selling high and buying low, but receive nothing of the gains they make.
There are countless sentient species and a small number of sapient species in the Milky Way galaxy. The latter are categorized by Tech Level (TL), which is a measure of the minimum sophistication of technology production available at varying levels of social organisation, such as colony, state, and interstellar community. For example, while human civilisation as a whole rises to TL 12, individual states, planets, and settlements may be classified at a lower TL when considered by themselves. Tech Levels do not directly relate to a species' cultural advancement, although they can be used that way. Tech Levels are as follows:
- TL 01: Pre-industrial technology. Approximately medieval in nature, with carbon-steel being the newest innovation.
- TL 02: Gunpowder-based projectile weaponry, flintlock type. Steam powered engines.
- TL 03: Internal combustion engines, coal and steam power generators, large scale electronic development.
- TL 04: Rocket-based space travel, nuclear fission technology, natural gas power stations, small scale electronic development.
- TL 05: Silicon chip manufacture, quantum physics theory understood and proven, solar and hydrodynamic power generators.
- TL 06: Ion propulsion, laser weaponry, advanced sensor development.
- TL 07: Advanced thermal management technology, nuclear fusion reactors, plasma weaponry.
- TL 08: Basics of hyperspace tech, shield technology, local stellar navigation.
- TL 09: System-scale magnetic fields understood.
- TL 10: Hyperspace theory understood, basic interstellar navigation, organic technology, nanotech, ECM systems, planet-scale magnetic fields understood.
- TL 11: Hyperspace wake analysis, advanced interstellar navigation.
- TL 12: Advanced hyperspace theory understood, Faster-Than-Light communications.
Note that TL 12 is only the highest TL defined and achieved by humans, and not the zenith of all technological advancement. Both Thargoids and Guardians have demonstrated more advanced technological capabilities than humanity, and thus exceed the existing scale by an extent that cannot yet be quantified.
Humans have achieved the following advancements by the 34th century:
- With the Frame Shift Drive humans can travel many times the speed of light between star systems.
- Humans can travel in a higher dimensional region known as Hyperspace.
- Corporations control countless companies which farm, mine and use entire planets and star systems for resources and food. This is done to produce basic goods which trillions of people use for their survival. Corporations have the technological capability and actively harness the energy of entire star systems. A good example of this is the energy production from planet Lucifer which orbits Sirius B.
- With faster than light travel (FTL) being commonly available, Dyson spheres are inefficient compared with harnessing energy (and resources) at a smaller scale over more stars and systems.
- Humans were able to jump across the galaxy and between galaxies with modifications to the original hyperdrive. It used the fuel Quirium in the classic Elite.
- The Middle-classes can afford spaceships like cars in the 20th century.
- Humans can travel to almost any point in the whole Milky Way galaxy on a mass scale
- Humans have the ability to harness power of thousands of star types in the galaxy.
- Humans have expanded heavily on an interstellar level. Primarily in The Bubble, the Colonia Region and the Pleiades Nebula. Human settlements and asteroid bases are scattered in deep space.
- Tens of thousands of systems have been colonized so far. Corporations rule over vast sections of the galaxy, much of that is uninhabited.
- There's a galactic infrastructure called GalNet. It provides galactic news, market information and communication systems for ships and stations.
- Humans can use Holo-Me holograms to join other ships with telepresence. This works throughout the galaxy.
The Guardians were an anthropoidal species that existed millions of years ago, occupying a territory not far from the human Core Systems. They clashed with the Thargoids and managed to prevail. They achieved the following advancements before the fall of their civilisation due to internecine conflict:
- Faster-than-light space travel
- Hyperspace technology
- Clean nuclear fission and fusion
- Interstellar civilization, Ark ships colonized alien worlds
- City-sized shields capable of withstanding significant damage including orbital bombardment
- Created an interstellar, faster-than-light communications network and information infrastructure that incorporated Ancient Ruins, Guardian Structures, and Guardian Beacons
- Neurological implanted Guardians were reaching a technological symbiosis with artificial intelligence.
- Nanobot technology is incorporated in the Guardian relics and panels.
- Electro-magnetic projectile weapons and energy-based weapons
- Created sentient machines known as the Constructs
The Thargoids are an insectoid species that have been roaming the stars for millions of years. They are believed to have originated outside of known space, potentially even in another dimension. They are hyper-territorial and rebuff all attempts at communication, instead viewing other spacefaring species as unacceptable impediments to their own needs and relentlessly attacking any who happen to be in their way. The full extent of their technology is unknown, but they have been observed to possess the following advancements:
- Faster-than-light space travel
- Hyperspace technology, and the ability to create semi-persistent wormholes. Humans lack the capability to analyze Thargoid hyperspace wakes.
- Interstellar civilization
- Advanced biotechnology as exemplified by Thargoid Interceptors, Scavengers, and Thargoid Barnacles, as well the caustic enzyme characteristic of their plasma weaponry
- Nanobots are presumed to be feature of Thargoid Sensors and similar objects, which are known to break down surrounding electronics and metals for raw material for the purposes of self-repair
- Advanced material engineering, as seen in Meta-Alloys, which only Thargoid Barnacles are capable of producing
- Faster-than-light communications, which humans can partially track with the Eagle Eye array
- The ability to interdict ships in hyperspace
- The Making of Elite: Dangerous
- David Braben's Core Vision explained by Sandro Sammarco https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PhsH5U7tz4A&t=68m04s
- Elite: Dangerous explores the limitless depths of space, and of human cruelty (correction)
- Tourist Spot 0165 beacon near Earth
- In-game description
- Out of the Darkness (Elite: Dangerous)
- Gamasutra - Gary Penn interview
- Elite Dangerous Newsletter #248
- Games that changed the world: Elite". Computer & Video Games. Archived from the original on 11 February 2007.
- LaMosca, Adam (18 July 2006). "Lost in the Void". The Escapist. Retrieved 17 November 2007.
- First use of procedural generation in a videogame - Guinness World Records
- https://twitter.com/gwr/status/611537566299463681?lang=en Guinness World Records, 18 Jun 2015
- Rusell DeMaria, Johnny L. Wilson, High Score!: the illustrated history of electronic games, p. 340-341
- Thargoid Shield - VFX Concept
- Tourist Spot 0165 beacon near Earth
- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0R8jZN2_tJU Tourist Spot 0113
- Thompson, William; Hickey, Joseph (2005). Society in Focus. Boston, Mass.: Pearson. ISBN 0-205-41365-X.
- Jacob Davidson, time.com The 10 Richest People of All Time, 30 July 2015
- Billionaires 25th Anniversary Timeline – Forbes".
- Elite Encounters RPG