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Frontier was released in 1993 and is still among the games I play most regularly. I admire how difficult it is to play, as you basically start with nothing, and it can be incredibly difficult to survive (you only have one life).

It is set far into the future, where you equip your ship with various upgrades in an effort to improve your chances. You then complete various missions for clients, or even become a pirate and feed off the profits of others.

Here is the text from the back of the box:

The original game, ELITE, shook the computer games industry to its foundations as the first 3D polygon space simulation back in the mid 1980s. The game was an unprecidented success and grew to such a cult status that games’ players formed their ‘ELITE Fan Club’. A feat yet to be repeated, the standard was set and gave rise to a multitude of sci-fi simulation ‘wannabees’.

Now as popular as ever, this unique style of game has been taken to the limit with the astonishing FRONTIER – ELITE II.

The most eagerly awaited sequel to date, FRONTIER pitches you far, far into the future to the year 3200. Civilizations have spread through the galaxy hundred of light years from earth in all directions. Vast areas of the galaxy remain unexplored and with many thousands of world now settled in the cosmos, a rich and varied life of adventure awaits.

Take on the role of a space trader known to moonlight as an intergalactic mercenary and watch the Universe unfold before your very eyes.

It also had a list of features:

– Beautifully animated introduction sequence
– A choice of classical music compositions to accompany your missions
– Due to the author’s interest in astronomy, all the planets and moons of our own star system and others, (around 100,000,000,000), are generated in accordance with current theories of planet formation
– Play the game in a variety of ways including manning your space craft through a massive 82 basic missions, or play without risking the missions at all.

So now that you are familiar, what are your options?
Play the original, on the original machine.
Play the original, using an emulator.
Play an updated version on a modern machine, without an emulator.

Play the original, on the original machine
I own an Amiga 600, upgraded to 8MB RAM and with an Indivision ECS board, giving it VGA output. I also own two boxed copies of Frontier – Elite II.

Much like I did as a teenager, I can put the 3.5″ floppy disk into the drive, and it runs perfectly. The only difficulty is finding one of these older machines, finding the (working) game, and then paying for the after-market updates to improve it’s performance.

Another similar option, is to run the software from the hard drive. My Amiga 600 has a 4GB CF Card (most commonly used as camera storage) connected to the IDE, and uses that as a hard drive. This removes any chance of damage to the original floppy disk.

The only downside, of course, is the poor graphics of a 1993 game on a 1993 machine.

Play the original, using an emulator
This is a great way to play the game without having to find suitable hardware, or even find suitable software.

Frontier Developments and David Braben (the creator of the software) made Frontier available years ago in a shareware basis. Basically try it and if you continue to run it, you send them a small fee. You can find Frontier – Elite II PC version on my downloads page (under 2001, see the readme in the zip for information on how to pay for it).

You should just be able to run it on 32bit Windows, by running frontier.bat. If you run 64bit Windows, or it fails for some reason, you’re going to need an emulator. I highly recommend DOSBox, which runs it perfectly once you set it to 8000 CPU cycles.

The only downside, again, is that you’re running a 1993 game on emulated 1993 machines.

By using the above methods, you’ll get this:


Intro sequence in an original (PC DOS) version of Frontier


Play an updated version on a modern machine, without an emulator
Those who don’t play retro games regularly will probably need to use this option, because it improves the graphics vastly. There’s really one option for running Frontier native on modern hardware, and that is GL Frontier.

GL Frontier was the Atari ST version of the game. It was disassembled, OS calls and hardware access removed, and is now compiled to C or native x86. It has also been modified to draw with OpenGL at any resolution, with 8xAA.

Simply download the Frontier – Elite II PC version on my downloads page (under 2001, see the readme in the zip for information on how to pay for it), then download the Windows Binary and Sound Effects (optional) from this page. Put all the files into the ‘game’ directory of the PC version, then change the path and resolution as required in the shortcut.

For example, my shortcut Target box says:

C:\frontier\game\glfrontier.exe −−size 1728

My shortcut Start in box says:

C:\frontier\game

And I obviously have the game located in c:\frontier. Remember when setting resolution that Frontier isn’t a widescreen game, 1920 won’t work on a 1920×1080 monitor because you won’t be able to see the game interface. I use 1728, which gives me a 1080 vertical resolution.

The benefit here, of course, is that you get a fairly modern graphic update to a 1993 game, and it runs on a modern machine without issue. The only problem is that the graphical glitches present in the original versions, are still here. And perhaps because everything else looks better, you notice them a lot more. The HUD/UI is also low res.

By using the above method, you’ll get this:


Intro sequence in GL Frontier

The above intro looks a lot worse (with more glitches) than actual play. But, the choice is yours…

If you are still undecided about trying Frontier, perhaps for the first time, check out this tutorial someone else made:

16 thoughts on “So you want to play Frontier – Elite II?

  1. I spent a year or two playing the original ‘Elite’ game, on my BBC Model B, and finally made it to ‘Elite’. Even though the games was wireframe, it had plenty of gameplay, missions, trading etc to give it depth.

    Brilliant game. I might give the updated Elite 2 a go! Might be quite nostalgic…

  2. Put in about 12 hours play on GLFrontier in the last couple of weeks, really enjoyed it. Though just getting to the “now i have money, what am I going to do” phase!

    I think I enjoy the “got no money, need to make money” phase! :D

    Jon

  3. Yeah, that can be the most enjoyable part of a game! Still wishing modern game devs would realize that people often stopped playing the games only when they became easier, because that was the boring bit. ;)

  4. They’ll make it. Every kickstarter I have followed gets the majority of it’s backers in the last day or so.

  5. Hi there, I am trying GL Frontier but I am unable to change the resolution as suggested by you (-size xxxx) it just logs errors; -size illegal parameter, xxxx illegal parameter. Also, how to enable anti aliasing?

    Currently can not find any information about this software on the web, the links to –

    http://tom.noflag.org.uk/glfrontier.html

    from this site and all others just throw an unable to load page error. If you are still active, are you able to help me with this?

    Cool site by the way, best regards.

  6. There really wasn’t much info there anyway. You’re not using html italic tags in your command lines, right?

  7. Cheers! wasn’t expecting a reply so quickly! no, no italics or tags of any sort in the command line.

    Exactly what I do is: I made a shortcut to the glfrontier.exe, then in the target box appended ” -size 1728″ (without the quotes). The game runs, perfectly well as far as i can tell, but the resolution remains at its default, and an error file stderr.log is created listing both as illegal parameters.

    My OS is Win7x64 if that makes any difference.

  8. As am I so I don’t think the OS is an issue. I really don’t know what it could be. You’re pointing at the new EXE, not the original one from the download, I guess? ie: When you say it runs at default, the glf default, or the downloaded Elite Club one?

  9. Hi again, sorry life got in the way there. I’m not sure I understand, I thought GL_Frontier was a standalone program. Do I have to add files from the PC version from Elite Club?

    The shortcut points to the glfrontier.exe file, not the FRONTIER.exe from the download linked from this page. (which I have not used a file from at all as yet)

    The default resolution appears to be about 640×400 – better than the original but the window is only about 3rd the width of a 1920 wide screen. Fullscreen it stretches correctly, but it is still fairly low resolution. Anti aliasing would help it I guess.

    It is no big deal, I have emulated Amiga version running anyway, as well as Elite 1 and Oolite. Can’t wait for Elite IV, I checked the project status every year last decade just in the hope it would resurface from ‘suspended’. Then what do you know, a dream comes true once in a while.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply, I will keep messing around with it. If I find the problem I will update here.

    regards.

  10. The solution is to add without quotes: ” –size 1728″ in the shortcut target box after the .exe

    note the double minus sign.

    This happens to me so often, have a small problem with a software, fail to find solution, give up. Immediately find solution almost by accident!

  11. ? for some reason, on my browser the double minus has no gap…

  12. Ah! I think the software I use on my site tried to “help” me, and turned the double dash into a long line. Thanks for finding the issue. I’ll see if I can edit the post…

  13. There we go, fixed.

    To answer your other question, I’m not sure… I’ve always started with the base Frontier from my page, and put glfrontier in over the to in the same location. I assumed the glf version might have something missing, whether it’s the music or whatever? Maybe not, but it never seemed to do any harm. ;)

  14. And yeah, very excited about E4. Initially I was a bit perturbed as it felt like DB had jumped on the bandwagon after doing nothing for such a long time, but it actually seemed now that E4 might be what I was waiting for as well.

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