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GenreSpace simulation
Latest release1.90  (Announcement)
Release dateAugust 30th, 2020
PlatformsWindows, Linux, Mac, FreeBSD
DeveloperGiles Williams, Jens Ayton
Code licenseGPLv2+[1]
Media licenseGPLv2+[1]
P. languageObjective-C
Oolite is a free game. This means that the source code is available to be studied, modified, and distributed. Most projects look for help with testing, documentation, graphics, etc., as well.
Available as a package in:  
Slackware logo.svg Slackware: oolite 
Error creating thumbnail: /bin/bash: line 1: convert: command not found
Arch AUR:
UbuntuCoF.svg Ubuntu: oolite 
Daemon-phk.svg FreeBSD: oolite

Oolite is a space simulation game and clone of Elite.[2] Both the source code and media are licensed under the GPL (version 2 or later).[1] Oolite is programmed in the Objective-C programming language and uses OpenGL. It is available for the Linux, Mac OS X, and Windows operating systems. This game requires 3D hardware acceleration.

Although the base game closely resembles the (some say antiquated) gameplay of the original Elite,[3] the game is highly moddable with a built-in mod manager known as the Expansion Pack Manager.[4] Enemies also have some enhancements which make the base game more difficult than Elite.[5]


The Oolite story is a matter of some contention.[6] This is because there is not a great deal of story in the base game (mods may add any amount). Rather, most of the story exists in the form of short stories and novellae. The most 'official' lore may be seen as the anthology of Oolite short stories Alien Items[7]. The authors of these disagree on the extent to which Oolite shares a common universe with Elite and its sequels, or is even completely distinct. In the early days some of the authors and oxp-writers wished to syncretise Elite and Frontier (Oolite being positioned historically between the two). Others wished to ignore Frontier - hence the confusion! [8][9] The story of the "Ooniverse" is also commonly (but not universally[10]) considered to roughly correspond with the short story The Dark Wheel which was included with purchases of the original Elite game[11]

The situation in-game[edit]

Oolite takes place in a science fiction setting spanning across eight galaxies. The galaxies are simply numbered in the galaxy map, although they area also known by names taken from an old version of Elite.[12] Travel between galaxies is only possible with a single-use overcharged witchdrive. This cycles between the galaxies in order until you end up back at the first.

Within each galaxy, ships equipped with a "witchdrive" are able to travel between nearby stars. There is a physical limit on the distance which can be traveled through hyperspace—also called witchspace[11][13]—which has the peculiar property that travel becomes slower the further the jump. Because of this, a player trying to complete a mission on schedule may have to travel a slightly longer route covering systems that are close together rather than making a small number of long jumps. Story-wise this means that several systems are found in a small disconnected cluster or even found alone, in the case of Oresrati in Galaxy 8. The game prevents a galactic jump to these isolated areas, though they are found in related fiction and may be made accessible using mods.

Witchdrives may mis-jump—whether from lack of maintenance or suicidal piloting—landing in a Thargoid ambush in deep space. Thargoids are insectoid aliens of unknown origin who especially raid and harass shipping. Each Thargoid ship releases a swarm of robotic fighters when threatened and if the ship is destroyed, these drones will continue to fight as long as there is another warship to control them.

Oolite generates the galaxies pseudorandomly from a seed which is normally fixed at the same value as the original Elite.[14][15] This means that the "Ooniverse" can be considered a fixed collection of 2048 planets, although it is possible to generate and play in something else—which would not match the related fanfiction and may or may not clash with mods.

Alien races in Oolite commonly take the form of anthropomorphic animals.[16]

Common themes in associated stories and mods[edit]

  • The motley crew of a barely spaceworthy vessel is reflective of a situation that players may find themselves in, being too broke for critical maintenance and needing the money for cargo and other short term needs.
  • Humorous explanations[17] for unusual[18] planet descriptions which come from random generation, for example Celabile in Galaxy 1 known for the "Celabileian evil poet".


An in-game tutorial is available.


Oolite follows the unrealistic, gameplay-centered flight mechanics of the original Elite over the more realistic Newtonian mechanics in from Frontier which Pioneer followed. There are four drives and an afterburner-like addon:

  • The main drive is a reactionless system for in-system movement. Speed is proportional to thrust (which makes it Aristotelian[19] rather than Newtonian).
  • The torus jump drive is used for rapid in-system movement, behaving similarly to a very fast, fixed speed main drive.
  • The witchdrive performs jumps to systems within 7ly, consuming "quirium" fuel in the process.
  • The galactic hyperdrive performs a single jump to the next galaxy.
  • The witchdrive fuel injector feeds quirium fuel into the main drive for a significant but temporary boost to speed.

The torus jump drive can not function near large (planetary and stellar) bodies, nor near any external power sources such as ships or stations. Such a "mass lock" prevents ships from fleeing combat on jump drive but not witchdrive. It also makes other traders and convoys a hindrance to those who prefer the "space lane" between witchspace beacon and planet.

Ships are not equipped for planetary landing and must be kept above a minimum altitude.

Hyperspace travel involves opening a wormhole and flying through it. Whenever a ship jumps to another system it is therefore possible to pursue provided one can get to the wormhole before it closes. The more ships pass through, the longer it will stay open in proportion to the total mass of ships which used the wormhole. This both enables one to pursue ships which are trying to flee combat (and be pursued[5]) and to hitch a free ride to other systems. However, without a wormhole scanner it is not possible to know where the tunnel leads.


Individual pirates and groups of pirates are often found around inhabited worlds. Most of these will search for prey around the space lane where cargo ships move between the witchpoint beacon and station. Planetary government varies from highly stable (corporate world) to highly unstable (anarchy). The less stable the system, the more piracy should be expected. Inexperienced and ill-equipped pilots would be well advised to stick to safe systems.

It is sometimes possible to escape pirates by dumping cargo and having them pursue it.


Asteroids can be blasted to bits with laser weapons, giving a small bounty for clearing hazards to shipping. The resulting debris may be collected with a "fuel scoop" (which in reality scoops up all manner of things) and sold as minerals. Mining lasers are superior for the purpose.

The fuel scoop is also—as the name suggests—used to collect quirium fuel for the witchdrive. This is done by skimming the surface of a star. The harvested fuel can not be sold but saves some money and is also useful to avoid docking for any number of reasons. (Evading pirates, being a pirate...)


The player can buy or sell cargo up to the available cargo mass limit. Small items (e.g. gold by the kilogram) can generally be kept stowed away in the cabin (unless the quantity is large). Each planet has a wealth level varying from poor agricultural to rich industrial. Raw materials and agricultural products tend to be cheap in less industrialized areas whereas finished goods and high-tech equipment tend to be cheaper in more industrialized areas.

There are also prohibited goods: Slaves, narcotics, and firearms. These remain legal to salvage from wreckage and to offload at stations, but you are not permitted to leave the station with any on board.

Apart from the GalCop station in orbit of each world, rock hermits (asteroid inhabitants) may also be available for trade.


At GalCop stations there are various contracts available. These include transporting cargo or passengers, and delivering packages. Missions are timed.


The equipment for sale at a station is dependent on the tech level of each planet.[20] Equipment will also wear down over time and may be damaged in combat or while playing bumper-cars with the docking port. Failure to keep up with necessary maintenance may result in performance degradation and malfunction of the witchdrive.

  • Escape pods are buyable with comprehensive insurance, allowing the player to get the ship back when lost provided the pod can get back to the GalCop station. Moreover, it allows the player to easily escape a criminal record. By using a scoop it is possible to pick up the escape pods of enemy ships. (In terms of gameplay efficiency, ejecting expensive cargo such as computers to make space for it in the cargo hold may not be a good deal. Catching a particularly annoying pirate to sell him off to slave traders may, however, amuse some players. One may also wish to rescue all the shipwrecked for role-play reasons.)[21]
  • The external heat shield prevents a ship from overheating as quickly. Highly advisable when using a fuel scoop on stars.
  • Fuel injectors are useful in combat and disengaging from combat. They may or may not be useful for fuel collection without a heat shield.
  • Docking computer.[22] Bringing a ship in to dock involves flying it into a slot in the station while matching rotation. This equipment will avoid the chore and is very useful for new commanders—who can't afford it anyway.
  • The passenger berth takes up some cargo space but allows new mission options.



Oolite has an extensive library of mods.[23][24][25][26] Over 700 are available through the in-game Expansions Manager, and over 400 more through the wiki and bulletin boards.

You may notice when looking through the mods that many are not Free Software, due to CC-BY-NC-SA being very common. Some of the Free mods include[27]:

  • Camera Drones (CC-BY-SA)
  • Cargo-Contract-Mod (GPL)
  • Combat Simulator (CC-BY-SA) - add this to some space stations
  • Communications Pack A (MIT) - More NPC communications
  • Crosshairs - Alerting (Public domain)
  • Curse of the Black Sunspot (CC-BY-SA) - mission
  • Data - Ship Name (Public domain) - adds your ship name to your HUD
  • Hints (CC-BY-SA) - in-game hints for improving play
  • Mining Contracts (Ms-PL)
  • Navigation Flashers (CC0) - helps docking
  • Naval Grid Next (CC-BY-SA) - faster recharge for shields
  • New Cargoes (CC-BY-SA) - trade in Thrumpberry juice & vacuum cricket bats!
  • Reduce Weapon Damage (CC-BY-SA)
  • Shield Cycler/Shield Cycler Next (CC-BY-SA)
  • SimonB's Ships (CC-BY-SA) - retextures and new ships
  • Skilled NPCs (CC-BY-SA)
  • System Features: Rings (CC-BY-SA)
  • System Features: Sunspots (CC-BY-SA)
  • Untrumbled (Public domain)
  • UPS Courier (CC-BY-SA)
  • VimanaHUD (CC-BY-SA)

See also[edit]

  • Pioneer, which cloned the second Elite: Frontier

External links[edit]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Oolite's copyright file at Debian Packages
  2. http://aegidian.org/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=21096
  3. Arquebus X's unmodded Let's Play series debrief episode
  4. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/OXP
  5. 5.0 5.1 https://aegidian.org/bb/viewtopic.php?p=254596#p254596
  6. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/Lore
  7. The Alien Items anthology can be read here.
  8. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/Alien_Items#Critique
  9. It would be beyond the scope of this article to discuss whether stories not included in the game, are infringing on trademarks.
  10. User Cody, author of some of the stories in Alien Items, is one of those who exclude it.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Elite: The Dark Wheel by the late Robert Holdstock may be read here.
  12. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/The_Eight
  13. http://aegidian.org/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=20993
  14. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/Random_number_generator
  15. http://www.aegidian.org/bb/viewtopic.php?p=175510#p175510
  16. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/Species
  17. Spoilers omitted. See examples in Alien Items.
  18. http://aegidian.org/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3347
  19. In Aristotle there is no inertia—every motion must have some cause moving it.
  20. http://aegidian.org/bb/viewtopic.php?p=278535#p278535
  21. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/Escape_Pod
  22. http://www.aegidian.org/bb/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=17238
  23. (Modded) Let's Play series of Arquebus X.
  24. http://oolite.org/oxps/
  25. http://aegidian.org/bb/viewforum.php?f=4
  26. http://wiki.alioth.net/index.php/Guide_to_Unlisted_OXPs
  27. As per details displayed in the Expansion Manager when the mod is selected.