Same Difference: Elite & Dead Island

Same Difference: Elite & Dead Island

The case of two remarkably similar games.

Elite is a wire-frame gestalt of 70s sci-fi and the Traveller role-playing game, a space-trading odyssey that gave you a paralyzing fear of rotating climbing frames.

Dead Island, on the other hand, is an open-world zombie bash-em-up that dumps you in the middle of paradise before turning it into an inescapable hell. Sort of like every date I’ve ever been on.

Does that prove they are different games? No. What proves things is facts.

FACT: Both games follow the same pattern.

Elite: Leave station, move around, shoot ships, collect cargo, travel to different stations, upgrade, repeat.

Dead Island: Leave station, move around, punch zombies, collect cargo, travel to different stations, upgrade, repeat.

FACT: Both games have simple and illogical exploits.

In Dead Island zombies drown – despite not needing to breathe – so leading them into water gets you easy XP.

Elite had a small spot on the screen where the laser would automatically hit. Mark this pixel, move the enemy ship into that pixel and you can tear into it like a drowning zombie. I used red felt tip.

FACT: They were created at similar speeds.

David Braben and Ian Bell created Elite in two years, packed away into 14 kilobytes (This magazine stands at almost 8 Megabytes). That makes the programming speed 7 kB per year.

Techland, the team behind Dead Island, took a lot longer: The Island of the Living Dead, its original title, started up around 2005 and released in September 2011. However, this beast takes up 3.9 GB.

At first it might look like Techland is working far faster at 650 MB per year, but then you look at the credit sequence for Dead Island and it’s nearly 10 minutes of names. Maybe a hundred names there? Divide that up and you’re getting awfully close to 7 kB per year, exactly what Elite managed.


FACT: The related media aren’t.

Elite famously came with the brilliant novella The Dark Wheel by Robert Holdstock. It told of young Alex Ryder and his search for the killer of his father. The last word his father says is “Raxxla” – not the name of a sled this time, but of a ghost world, a legend.

Dead Island famously sold itself on the brilliant film of a young daughter turning into a zombie and attacking her father before being thrown through a window. And it was a cool film, even if it promoted killing kids.

Small problem though: Neither of these existed.

The Dark Wheel and Raxxla were searched for, this being before the internet someone went through all 4096 planets looking for this phantom. Nada. Zip. Zilch. The Generation ships were a lie as well, even if you did have an Archimedes, like my swotty mate.

Dead Island didn’t even touch on the idea of emotional bonds to zombies, never mind having your daughter attack you. The family shown in the trailer is hidden away somewhere, but I never bothered finding them.

FACT: Both had shocking re-releases.

Elite: Dangerous launched on Kickstarter asking for £1,250,000, one of the highest goals ever set there. It managed it, and even pushed further to 1.6 million.

Dead Island: Riptide wasn’t Kickstarted, but it did have a dismembered female corpse diorama. No, really. They thought it’d be a good idea to appeal to the Ero Guro among us.

FACT: Both had top-of-the-range DRM that wasn’t quite up to the job.

Dead Island‘s initial release on Steam was not perfect. First the wrong version was released, the next version had bugs galore and the final one had to be online constantly due to a bug interfacing with Steam itself.

Elite had a forgery-proof postcard that you could send in if you reached the rank of Elite. The problem being that the only way to find that point was to write down the code it gave you. A code that was soon passed around the earlier bulletin boards. Not by me, I add.

FACT: Both were dogged by controversy.

Elite had two ‘official’ sequels: Frontier: Elite II and Frontier: First Encounters. Both were riddled with bugs (another link?) and started up a three year lawsuit with Gametek.

Dead Island was banned in Germany for excessive violence, as well as having to deal with the hanged zombie in the title.

Were these created controversies? No one knows, but they were there.

FACT: Both included swearing.

In the processing of planets through procedural generation, Elite produced a planet called “Arse”. Braben and Bell quickly deleted that entire galaxy.

Techland, however, forgot to remove the title “Feminist Whore” as a description of Purna before release, and had to apologize later.

But they both had swear words in them. Unlike IK+ or all the other games I’ve tried to enter swear words into. And that’s not all, now for the fact blast – hold onto your joysticks guys.

FACT BLAST: Multiple platforms, novelizations, real time damage, levelling enemies, missiles, ramming, weapon recharge bars, Island = I land? – both games had them!

What does the other side have? That they had different publishers? Different languages? Different computers? That all means nothing. Mario was originally named Jump Man, does that make him Pac-Man’s brother? Of course not. That’s Luigi, and he never had the surname Man, did he?

CONCLUSION: Elite and Dead Island are the same game.

You may want to argue this, but you know in your heart that you’re wrong, and I’m right.

Any geek on the internet starts giving you trouble talking to you about two games?

You come back to me and I’ll make sure they know the facts.

I’m outta here. Peace.

TL;DR: Basically hardcore gamer. 100%ed Battlefield on first try.