three years ago (2009) I decided to play around with making a
remake of Elite - one of my all time favorite games. I did some
research online and found some available materials such as the simple
models and then quickly prototyped the basic flight mechanics in Mark
Overmars' excellent Game Maker. There was no real goal other than
toying around and trying to figure out how the original was made by
testing various original versions on the MSX, ZX Spectrum, Amiga and
Atari ST and studying the manuals. Then a friend (Mikael) joined me
and helped shape some AI routines for the game. But now we were two
developers, and how about some multiplayer dogfighting? We had to try
it! None of us had played a space game with the roll/pitch flight
model and though we had seen some talk online about various other
remakes of Elite sporting multiplayer, none were available for
We soon discovered the dogfighting clearly was fun,
and so we started thinking about implementing
the rest of the game such as trading, more equipment AI and more. We
also started thinking about matchmaking for multiplayer games and
while Game Maker is good it is a bit limited when it comes to the
networking side of things. After discovering XNA we found that it
pretty much covered all the functionality we needed so we rewrote the
game for XNA and now the game ran both on PC and XBox 360 with XBox
Live integration. At this point we had a pretty functional remake
though it was lacking stuff such as missions and single player game
play. We also ran into problems with the network code we were using
and discovered debugging networked XNA is not that straightforward.
Then, Mikael got a new job with less time to work on
our project and myself becoming increasingly busy with my own work we
decided put the remake on hold.
After a few months I started working on it again, but
it was clear it wouldn't get finished at the pace it was progressing.
Meanwhile I had learned quite a bit of iOS development, the iPad came
out and when that platform started supporting match making,
leaderboards and achievements I could not ignore it any longer -- I
started porting the game to iOS.
At this point I had to rewrite the game for the third
time with less mistakes than before and designed from ground up to
support multiplayer. I brought my old time scener friend Cris on board
who composed some music and it was starting to feel like a finished
game. We decided in order to really finish the game we had to set a
clear goal -- we wanted the true retro feeling. This meant bumping
some features we really wanted to add, such as the improved graphics,
and frankly after three rewrites the graphics engine was still quite
We also had to implement some sort of touch interface
so it would work on iOS,
we borrowed the idea of the icon system from Richard Quirky's GBA
Remake, and had them slightly redrawn.
Fast forward to 2012, the first version of Unknown is
now ready and we're putting it out on the App Store.
We hope that all Elite and retro space game fans will
enjoy our work, and if you want to take a multiplayer match with me,
feel free to invite :).