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One of the more impressive but often overlooked aspects of the game Elite, is that the game space consisted of a universe of eight galaxies, each containing thousands of planets. Each of these planets had its own detailed set of characteristics, including population species and size, government type, economy type, size etc.

Here's an example:

This planet is most notable for its fabulous cuisine but beset by occasional civil war.
Population: 8.0 Billion (Harmless Rodents)
Government: Anarchy
Economy: Poor Agricultural
Gross Productivity: 7680 M CR
Tech. level: 18
Radius: 6403 km

When multiplied out by the number of planets, this is no small amount of information, and so it's incredible to think that David Braben and Ian Bell managed to cram all this, (not to mention the rest of the game) into the 32K of memory offered by the BBC Micro. To get this into perspective, note that this WU is about 3KB in size.

The way they managed this feat was to generate the planetary information pseudo-randomly. In this manner, the entire set of eight galaxies* and all their planets could be extracted from a puny six byte seed, leaving the rest of the memory for trading, exploration and galactic dogfighting, in all its wireframe glory.

The descriptions of the planets were created by applying the pseudo-random numbers generated to sentence construction rules and lists of possible nouns, adjectives and other sentence snippets** to come up with something along the lines of "This planet is most notable for its fabulous cuisine but beset by occasional civil war" (as in the case of Riedquat above).

Amongst the language data were a selection of animals that the planet might be famed for and, whilst coming up with this particular list, Ian Bell decided it would be a good idea to include "Poet" and "Arts Graduate" amongst the possibilities.

Hence, the Killer Poet and the Edible Arts Graduate were born.

Of course, such strange and terrible beasties as these tended to stick in the mind*** of those even halfway dedicated enough to reach the rating of Elite (no mean feat, requiring 6400 kills - The furthest I ever got was Dangerous, a pathetic 512 kills) and soon fell into video gaming lore.

* Until David Johnson-Davies of Acornsoft thought better of it, the game contained a mind boggling 2^48 Galaxies. That's well over 280,000,000,000,000. Yikes.

** Apparently, these descriptions were somewhat of a nightmare to translate into German, as unlike in English, you cannot simply string words together with factors like case and gender in this way.

*** There would have been even more memorable oddities thrown up by the RNG, had each galaxy not been carefully vetted by Braben and Bell before inclusion in the game. One of the first galaxies they generated contained a planet called Arse. And although Braben found it terribly wasteful, the entire galaxy had to be thrown away.

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