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Video Game / Oolite

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Oolite is a fan-made open-source remake of the famous Wide-Open Sandbox space trading game Elite, first released in the early 2000s. It has been under constant development since then, with new versions released every few months. It is unusual in that both the game itself and the established backstory and canon are mainly fan-generated; the game is designed to be easy to modify and expand, and literally hundreds of 'Oolite Expansion Packs' (or 'OXPs') can be found on the site's wiki, which do everything from change the graphics slightly to add entirely new ships, stations, missions, AI types, gameplay elements, etc. The vast majority of them have been incorporated into the game's official canon, combining with the original Elite backstory to create a rich and expansive sci-fi universe that is constantly growing and changing.

The game's community is large, friendly, and open, and has produced a considerable amount of extremely good Fan Fiction, some of which is so popular it's actually available in hardcopy (sold at cost to avoid potential legal problems).

The game is very similar to its predecessor Elite in feel, look, and gameplay (this was, in fact, the entire point of the project), and many of the tropes which apply to Elite apply to it as well.

Provides examples of:

  • Adventure-Friendly World: Of the "Maximize Setting Fluff" variety. The Galactic Cooperative of Worlds is a multi-system alliance which regulates trade and traffic between star systems, but each individual member world runs its government completely independently. It's also implied that GalCop has overstretched itself trying to fight the Thargoids, so it uses the Elite Ratings and the bounty system to encourage spacers to police themselves.
  • The Alliance: The Galactic Cooperative of Worlds (GALCOP).
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Thargoids. Their entire purpose seems to be to terrorize the locals. They and GalCop are engaged in an ongoing war.
  • Anarchy Is Chaos: Systems with an "Anarchy" government tend to have the largest number of pirate vessels. Possibly justified, as the lack of a central planetary authority in such systems likely allows for multiple pirate havens to exist on the surface. Think Somalia on a planetary scale.
  • Arms Dealer: A possible means of income for the player - it nets you a criminal record, but the profit margins have the potential to be huge.
    • Narcotics can be even more profitable, in some places you can buy it for under a credit per ton, in others selling for over a hundred, but the police will take a really dim view of you.
  • Artificial Atmospheric Actions: Averted. The ships you encounter aren't just generated as eye candy, they have a point of origin, a destination, and a goal they will attempt to perform to the best of their abilities - a freighter, for example, will pick up a shipment of cargo at one station and deliver it to another, increasing the stock of cargo at that station; a bounty hunter will patrol a system for pirates or actively hunt a single target; a salvage gang will collect scrap left over from battles and take it back to their base, where it will be broken down for parts that the player can then purchase if they so choose; etc. What's more, they don't disappear from existence when they jump out like in many other space sims, and if you happen to also jump to the same system, they'll be there on the other side.
  • Artificial Brilliance: When you're in a system, everything that happens in the entire system is being simulated in real time - traders ply the spacelanes, pirates look for easy kills, bounty hunters track down pirates, police and military vessels patrol, mining ships mine things, and the player blows up repeatedly while trying to dock at the main station. The AI is generally pretty good, and watching the world go on around you is very atmospheric.
  • Artificial Stupidity: The AI is generally pretty good, but there are occasional hiccups, such as pirates flying straight towards you with no attempt made to dodge your laser fire and ships the size of small towns attempting to land in docking bays less than one-fourth their size, although that bug was quickly fixed.
    • Not to mention the bug in the AI which causes Asps and Fer de Lances to come screaming at you with injectors. Ramming Always Works, indeed.
  • Asteroid Miners: Lots of them, in many different flavors, from lone independent prospectors to convict labor camps to enormous corporate mining operations - it's one of the primary economic activities in the Oolite universe. The player can even be one.
  • Asteroid Thicket: While asteroids are much closer than they would be in Real Life, this simply goes hand-in-hand with the general Space Compression. On the whole, it averts this trope, since asteroid fields don't clump together tightly enough to pose a serious navigational challenge.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Q-Bomb, a massively powerful and extremely dangerous explosive device that will vaporize anyone caught in the blast radius instantly - include innocent passersby, police and military vessels, and the person who launched it as well as whatever was being targeted.
  • Bad Guy Bar: The 'Seedy Space Bar' stations found in asteroid fields in Anarchy systems, where aspiring hitmen compete over assassination contracts while watching sports and drinking beer.
  • Big Bad: Several depending on which mission you're playing, but the main, overarching Big Bads of the game are the Thargoids, with the Earth-based Galactic Federation and the Duvall Empire making a few minor appearances in this role as well.
  • The Battlestar: The Galactic Cooperative Navy's 'Behemoth' class warships, massive vessels that function as flagships for GalNavy task forces, carry large fighter complements, are bristling with guns, and even have full-service repair and refit yards. They were designed for fighting the forces of the Thargoids and the Galactic Federation, but they're extremely effective at dealing with pirates and smugglers as well, as they're effectively unkillable by a single civilian spacecraft, no matter how well-equipped it is.
  • Bilingual Bonus: Several of the advertising (or, in Communist systems, propaganda) billboards found at navigation beacons and festooning certain types of space station are written in Spanish, German, or any number of other (predominantly Western European) languages.
  • Black Market: Three goods available at station markets — firearms, narcotics, and slaves — are illegal to trade. Of course, they're also extremely lucrative if you know what you're doing, though the extravagant profit potential tends to be balanced by the massive black mark you'll get on your record for hauling them in bulk (as well as by whether or not becoming a drug dealer / arms dealer / slave trader offends your conscience). Mods have also added the ability to release slaves for rehabilitation, and sometimes a small reward.
  • Boring, but Practical: Hauling commodities from world to world isn't exactly the most glamorous way to make credits, but it's the safest and most reliable. Once you're well-outfitted enough to do anything else, you probably don't need the money that much anymore, anyway.
  • Casual Interstellar Travel: For spacers, anyway. Most planet-dwellers never even leave their homeworld, much less the star system.
  • Commie Land: Communism is alive and well in the Ooniverse as a potential planetary government type. There's even a flavor OXP that adds asteroid gulags, Secret Police vessels, and ugly, utilitarian shuttle craft to Communist systems.
  • Clown-Car Base: The default Coriolis station in the unmodded game looks like it could hold at most a half-dozen ships with room for nothing else, but is somehow capable of storing dozens of trader ships at a time and an entire wing of police fighters while also containing marketplaces, cargo holds, living quarters and administration facilities. OXPs add more realistically large stations to avert this trope, including the rare Torus Stations, which are the size of small moons and can be seen all the way from the witchspace beacon.
  • Crapsaccharine World / World Half Full: Beneath the veneer of quirky, offbeat humor found within the game and many Expanded Universe materials, the Ooniverse is a place with serious problems. Slavery, piracy, and contraband smuggling run rampant, sometimes overwhelming GalCop's efforts to counter them. Several planets suffer from fractured governments — or even a complete lack of government. On top of all this, everyone has to deal with an inscrutable, aggressive alien threat with no known point of origin or motives. Exactly how far-gone the situation actually may be, however, is left to each player's imagination.
  • Disc-One Nuke: Your starting Cobra Mk 3 is woefully under-equipped and upgrading it enough to safely enter even mildly dangerous systems will entail some painful Level Grinding... but it's quite a valuable ship. Trading it in for the slightly less capable Cobra Mk 1 or similar sacrifices two-thirds of your cargo space (which you'd never be able to use at that stage anyway), a few equipment slots and a bit of speed in return for a large chunk of additional cash with which to purchase some useful upgrades like a bigger gun or witchfuel injectors.
  • Earth That Was: Subverted - it's still there, and doing quite well for itself, but they're not exactly on friendly terms with the Cooperative and, as such, it has been expunged from all commercially-available navigation computers in GalCop space (meaning that for all practical purposes it might as well not exist).
  • The Empire: The Empire.
  • Enemy Mine: Thargoid attacks will cause everyone to drop what they're doing and join together to organize an impromptu defense - even if they were actively trying to kill each other just moments before.
  • An Entrepreneur Is You: A necessity early on, given the poor gear your ship starts with. After you upgrade a bit, though, your options broaden out.
  • Escalating Brawl: The fluff explaining the aptly-named Furball OXP:
    "You know how it is ... you're sitting at the bar enjoying an icy cold lethal lager when the lobstoid next to you spills his mug of fuming nitric acid in your lap. You jump back, and knock over the blue frog who's been standing behind you chatting up a lady frog. Before you can sneeze, fist and paws and claws are flying, the brawl spills out into the docking bays, and people are threatening to launch and settle it with lasers. Then the cops show up and suddenly most of the merrymakers realize they should really be somewhere else, so the festivities move out the docking bay to the front of the station."
  • Escape Pod: Essentially functions as an extra life, should you choose to buy one. You can also pick up other ships' escape pods, or shoot them down. Picking them up earns you a reward - if they're an innocent, for rescuing them, and if they're a criminal, for capturing them.
  • Expanded Universe: Primarily conveyed through Fan Fiction, Game Mods, and Worldbuilding, all of which feed into and off of one another due to the nature of the Oolite project itself.
  • Explosive Breeder: Trumbles. Small, cute, multiply quickly, tend to eat your cargo stocks, and really difficult to kill.
  • Fan Verse: As the entire game itself is a Fan Remake of Elite, all fiction is Elite fan fiction by proxy. Within the Oolite community itself, Fanfics and Game Mods are closely tied; many OXPs are inspired by events or references in the fiction, which in turn become featured in further writings.
  • Fantastic Racism: The Galactic Federation allows nonhumans only reluctantly and grants them reduced rights and privileges compared to human citizens. The Duvall Empire takes this a step further, and doesn't allow nonhumans citizenship at all.
  • Featureless Protagonist: Literally no information is given about the player character by the game; the player is free to make them any gender, any age, any appearance, any race, or any species they choose.
  • The Federation: The Galactic Federation is this in name, but in practice is pretty much just another Empire that's run by a bureaucracy rather than a dictator.
  • Feudal Future: Feudalism is another potential planetary government type. They're miserable, squalid, bandit-infested hellholes, and the least stable government type in the game (the only lower state is complete anarchy).
  • Flying Saucer: Many Thargoid ships are saucer-shaped. Communist police ships from the OXPs also use saucer designs, probably in reference to Real Life Cold War paranoid speculations.
  • Friend or Foe?: Before getting the Scanner Targeting Enhancer, the only way to tell whether or not a ship is hostile is to wait until it starts shooting. Only police vessels and Thargoid warships have distinctive contact signatures on the passive scanner.
  • Fun with Acronyms: Of a sort; GalCop refers to the Co-operative as a whole, but their biggest presence in the setting is their Space Police force, by a pretty big margin.
  • Game Mod: Oolite Expansion Packs. Most add a bit of extra flavor to the bare-bones Wide-Open Sandbox of the standard game, including additional ships, stations, and factions.
  • Genericist Government: GalCop. Aside from the police forces and the navy, they barely exist in the game as shipped. Some of the game mods and fluff flesh them out a little, but invoked Alternate Character Interpretation abounds.
  • Ghost Ship: If a ship's crew ejects before the ship is actually destroyed, its engines will die, all of its running lights will turn off, and it will drift derelict in space until someone destroys it, it is recovered by salvagers, or it runs into an asteroid, a planet, or the sun.
  • Hammerspace Police Force: Orbital stations will continuously launch GalCop ships in pursuit if you're an Offender or worse to replace the ones you just blew up.
  • The Hermit: Rock hermits, appropriately enough. Most are asteroid prospectors, retired bounty hunters, or fugitives in hiding who have, for whatever reason, decided to cut their ties with society at large and spend the rest of their days living inside hollowed-out asteroids.
  • High-Speed Missile Dodge: When ECM fails, the surest way to avoid an oncoming missile is to outrun it with Witchfuel injectors.
  • Hyperspace Is a Scary Place: Every jump carries with it the risk of being ambushed by Thargoids midway along the path.
  • Hyperspeed Escape: Witchfuel injectors come in handy for this, and the AI will use it themselves. You can also make a Witchspace jump in the middle of combat as well.
  • Improvised Weapon: A jettisoned cargo canister can hit with surprising force if moving at sufficient speed, a fact which many Oolite players regularly take advantage of.
  • ISO Standard Human Spaceship: Averted for the most part.
  • Loan Sharks: The Brotherhood of Black Monks. Also doubles (sort of) as a Church Militant, since only religious institutions can lend credit in the Ooniverse.
  • Nintendo Hard: Docking at a space station manually. We've already mentioned this three times in this article.
    • It's actually not that hard once you get the hang of it, and it's still easier than it was in Elite: at least you get a handy buoy to line up with.
      • That said, some players will find the process of manual docking tense enough that they can't help but cheer when they first dock smoothly and successfully. There's also an OXP called "Traffic Control" that will add staff to each station to aid you with manual docking.
  • No Warping Zone: Sufficiently significant objects (stations, planets, other starships) can mass-lock your in-system warp drive. Also, if your ship is too close to certain objects (mostly the same as listed above), it interferes with witchspace jumps as well.
  • Old-School Dogfight
    • Averted for ships with rear laser mountings.
  • One Nation Under Copyright: Corporate States.
  • One World Order: Applies to some planets, although they're just as likely to have multiple governments (or none at all). Definitely not the case in the overall setting, as GalCop is more or less implied to be a loose confederation holding jurisdiction in space only, leaving individual member worlds to sort out their own affairs planetside.
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: Averted. Even if you carefully avoid them yourself, you're still bound to see pirates attacking other traders, and stealing their cargo.
  • Press Start to Game Over: Once again, manual docking is the culprit. Beginning players will have to save up to buy a docking computer; consequently, they will either learn to dock manually very quickly or die by crashing into spinning space stations multiple times.
  • Product Placement: The "Your Ad Here!" adds digital billboards that replace the generic navigation buoys in some systems, providing an in-universe example.
  • Prospector: Asteroid miners.
  • Ram Scoop: Useful for picking up fuel from stars, and cargo from destroyed vessels. Also lets you recover escape pods for search-and-rescue, bounty hunting, or slave trading.
  • Salvage Pirates: Picking up abandoned cargo and other space debris is perfectly legal, regardless of how they got there in the first place. Bounty hunting can become essentially legitimized piracy, since the player can scoop the cargo they leave behind and sell it the same way the pirates planned on exploiting their would-be victims. One especially underhanded (though still perfectly legal) method involves letting the pirates splash their targets, then swooping down on them and picking up both sides' derelict cargo.
  • Scary Dogmatic Aliens: The Thargoids. They're incomprehensiblenote , technologically superior, and the only thing they want is to kill everybody else. Hey, allegedly they have even their fear-glands surgically removed.
  • Sink the Lifeboats: You can, but it's a very bad idea - you get a criminal record for doing so and you miss out on the reward for rescuing/capturing the stranded pilot.
  • Shout-Out: Several, many of them carried over from the original game. It's also loaded with Homages to the earlier games in the series, such as a passing reference to the 'Lenslok' copy protection system used in early versions of Elite.
  • Space Base: Some mods add rogue space stations crewed by pirates.
  • Space Cold War: In the fluff, between the Empire, the Alliance, and the Cooperative.
  • Space Compression: While the distances (between planet and sun, between planet and witchpoint / system's edge, etc.) aren't completely accurate, they are just long enough to not seem instant. Travel from one part of a system to another still takes time, especially without witchfuel injectors or warp engines.
  • Space Is an Ocean: Totally, completely averted, along with 2-D Space.
  • Space Is Noisy: Justified in that the sounds are generated by your ship's computer (they're also customizable). Even then, the noises are relevant only to the status of your ship - you don't hear other ships or enemy lasers rushing past you, for instance.
  • Space People: In the base game, your character never sets foot on a planetary surface.
  • Space Pirates
  • Space Police: GALCOP has a police department that operates entirely in space, as well as a career Navy which performs the same basic function with bigger guns.
  • Space Station: There's one in orbit around every planet, and it serves as the main hub for interstellar commerce. Different mods add all sorts of other types.
  • Space Trucker: There are actual large merchant vessels with crews and large cargo holds and all the other trappings you'd expect of a spaceship, but a lot of the craft present in the Elite/Oolite 'verse are small single-man ships that essentially consist of a big cargo hold, an engine, and a cockpit, making their pilots essentially truckers in space. The largest vessel that can be commanded by a player in the unmodded game, the Anaconda heavy freighter, has a crew of ten according to the fluff and generally serves the purpose that a large tractor-trailer truck does in real life, shifting individual loads of cargo from one point to another. Massive bulk haulers, superfreighters, and the like are generally beyond the means of free traders like the player.
    • There are also 'Space Taxis' which swap out the cargo hold for two or three passenger berths, and space rickshaws for extremely short in-system transport - basically a metal box with a thruster and two chairs.
  • Space Western: Although, oddly, there is no actual 'frontier' per se - every planet that can be visited is settled, civilized, and to at least some extent policed.
  • Sphere of Destruction: Quirium mines, aka "Q-bombs." It's possible to frag yourself with one if you don't know what you're doing with it.
  • Standard Sci-Fi Fleet: The professional core of the Galactic Cooperative Navy fits this for the most part, but the Reserves...don't, consisting of whatever ships the reserve captains choose to fly, from luxury passenger haulers to heavy freighters to military surplus fighters.
  • Starship Luxurious: Some spaceships, both stock and OXP, are noted as being essentially space yachts and other playthings for wealthy customers.
  • Suicidal Overconfidence: Averted. Ships that attack the player (or another NPC-controlled ship) will usually try to flee if it starts looking like they'll lose the fight - with the exception of Thargoids, who will fight to the death.
  • Super-Persistent Missile: ECM Hardened Missiles. They can still occasionally be defeated by ECM, but it usually takes several tries, which depletes your ship's energy stocks quickly. The best option is generally to simply outrun them until they self-destruct.
  • Videogame Caring Potential: Defending a convoy of NPC cargo ships from pirates or Thargoids. Also, for the conscience-wary, some OXPs give options to liberate captured slaves rather than selling them in the market.
  • Videogame Cruelty Potential: The player can be quite a dick if they so choose - preying on innocents and stealing their belongings, killing indiscriminately, even capturing your enemies and selling them into slavery.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The extremely human-centric Federation and Empire both seem to think this way, although the Galactic Cooperative (the government that administrates the entirety of the explorable game world) completely averts it, with literally hundreds of different sentient species that are all considered equal.
  • Wide-Open Sandbox: Upon beginning the game, you are given a basic ship and 100 credits and placed in a docking bay at Lave Station. That's it. No goal, no instructions, no evil villain to defeat or universe to save. You're free to do whatever you damn well please, whether you want to be a feared and notorious pirate, a master trader, a badass bounty hunter, a hardened Navy pilot, a bit of everything, or something completely different.
  • Worldbuilding: A community pastime. The best example is probably the Rough Guide to the Ooniverse.