Most recent update (All By Hand(TM)): 1-Apr-2006 00:53


And in those days, he who created the universe took fire; and he set the universe on fire...
[Korowai myth of origin]


The Hot Specs!

Read all about the keys and other specifications here. It starts with kind-of-musings and interim ideas so you can see how hard I've bin working on it and because there is some real information inbetween the dribble.

Latest change (5-Sep-2005)

  • Regular readers of alt.fan.elite were the first to learn I was working on the source of all of this. If you read this here for the first time, shame on you! Regular critic John Jordan (and being a critic is NOT a bad thing!) already helped me out on a couple of nagging issues, which I'll be working on the coming days (and weeks, probably). Any input is welcome, as usual. Now stop nagging me about the source code, will you!? Read The Frontier Galaxy and be quiet.

Latest change (29-Apr-2005)

  • Cdr Steve spotted a minor error in the Status screen shown on loading a saved game: the military rankings displayed were total garbage. Thankfully, he *has* proper ranks both as Fed and as Imp and he send me a file, so I could finally get that right. Thanks!

Interim progress musings (27-Apr-2005)

Reminder (to self...) Pressing the V key toggles some parameters to FE2 values. This includes the Pleiades position, Gateway (name only), some system settings (press V while displaying Alioth's trade info!), and some temperature related stuff; but it also enables the Wormhole exploration bug! If I'm not mistaken every 256th sector will now have the same 'explored' status it has in FE2. Just for a laff, I checked if I could 'enable' this 'feature' in JJFFE; and lo, just change the distance calculation for system status to clip the square root distance to words instead of dwords. But to my dismay the Hyperdrive routines aren't easily modified to enable the 'jump far' bug!

Another reminder to self: I should show a couple of stars in sector (-4,-6) in FE2 mode. I don't have a clue why that single one sector got killed in FFE, but there you go. Another thing, in default FFE mode that particular sector should display galaxy clouds (no-one noticed...?). Can't figure out why they disappeared, they were there just a minute ago...

And yet another reminder. If you press 5. Position from disk the file order should be by Date, but it differs from what FFE shows. Apparently I sort on the wrong kind of date. And it would be nice if you could scroll the list, now you have to widen the window if you're looking for an old game. And it would also be nice if it shows subdirectories, 'cause I started using them since you can't scroll the file list in FFE. And it would also be nice if it showed only FFE save games, instead of all files (as it does in FFE...), with just a few hints of where you are, what you're flying, etc. (This is exactly what Neal Stephenson calls 'making license plates' in Cryptonomicon.)

Interim progress report (25-Apr-2005)

Finally got around earning a serious rank. If you load a game it will cunningly display your current rank and Elite status (Note to self: Get some Imperial rank as well! I tested with Federal and Elite but not with Imperial...).

Minor update to the Orbits display: if all's well it shouldn't confuse binary systems with Eagle LR Fighters anymore <bah! how that one ever sneaked in>. If you zoom out on a binary system it should display at some point the component name instead of its individual star names.

Interim progress report (24-Apr-2005)

Fixed two major bugs in the proggie... First, there was this weird problem when scrolling with the arrow keys. After about a second the screen started to jerk really bad, and even might come to a shuddering halt; Commander Steve of FrontierAstro pointed this one out to me. Stupid handling of redraw timing by Windows, fixed it.

Second: the routine to draw the really really big texts allocated memory without releasing it. I noticed it when I left the program running for some time, after a while all my disks began to spin and my system overheated... So I fixed that too <grunt> the memory leak, not the overheating.

Meanwhile I've been tinkering with the save games. If you load a game and see the report, you now can press the P key to see the solar system you're in. Drag with right mouse button to rotate, use scroll wheel to zoom in and out. Press P again to return to the report, or press Esc to go to the main screen. There might be some redrawing artifacts due to the enormous scale, and it might be that not every solar system can be accurately drawn. Well, it's a first attempt anyway.

Oh and you may have noticed the new intro screen. The Cobra comes from the file "cobramk3.dat"; it's from Oolite, the kick ass game for Macs only (though there are people working on a Linux -- and hopefully Win -- version). I hope the programmer won't mind... Hey, cheer up, you've done a great job!

If you get tired of seeing the Cobra spinning merrily around, download Oolite and drag the DAT file of one of the other models onto the intro screen, it should be able to display all of them in glorious Elite wireframe style. (And ain't it fun to use Mac data on a PC? But it may be easier to visit the Linux Oolite dev pages; in the 'Files' section you can download individual .DAT files.)

If I'm not trying out new savegame ideas (and not trying to reinstate a reasonable sleep pattern), I'm researching other kind-of-related issues; latest has been the PNG file format. The idea is to use this file format for the images in the Online Database, since it has about everything you could ask for in an image format; most notable, a high compression rate. And being totally patent-free doesn't hurt either...

Interim progress report (18-Apr-2005)

Just because I could not deny you this picture! Click here to see some funky going-ons in my debug version. The yellow lines are supposed to show the orbits of the planets, but it seems some of Alioth's planets have decided to take a comet's plunge through the system :)

Actually, it is some screen coordinate which was multiplied way over integer range, messing up my nice curve routine... The tiny text "CC-048" denotes the position of my rusty old Panther Clipper. Duck, here comes another suicidal planet!

Latest changes (17-Apr-2005)

  • Minor editing of this very text.
  • Added sponsor advertisements at the bottom of this page. Don't worry, they are from Dan Lind's Sirocco Station!
  • [Updated: 02-Mar-2008] Removed these, as poor Dan's site is hijacked by some worthless piece of ##### ### that ### to be ###### and ###### in #######! That happens when you get too popular... ############### ## ####!!

Latest changes (11-Apr-2005)

  • New feature: Press L to bring up the Load Screen. For this to work, you'll have to edit ffestarsys.cfg! Enter the directory where your games are saved to, then you can load'em and see what happens next.
  • In addition to this the options 4 and 5 on the starting screen now work.
  • If you have entered a Hyperspace range manually, or if you loaded a saved game, stars with starports in your range are now underlined. The purple circle for your range is displayed if your center star is (more of less) on-screen, and a green dotted line points to it.
  • The names of stars in the main screen now can be clicked to see their details.

Latest changes (9-Apr-2005)

  • The Tech level info was a bit messy. Cleaned up, there are now 12 valid tech levels, those in the info database should correspond with those in Planet Detail..
    Systems such as Sol actually have more than 50 items for sale, but the shipyard list only allows as much as 45 items. Strange but true: the items would be for sale, if only you could select them... Could this be listed as bug?

Latest changes (8-Apr-2005)

  • Added "Latest changes" log to this page. Might be useful for regular visitors.
  • Minor changes to the Find the Black Hole joke :) I just couldn't resist to.
  • Added some extra information to the Info database. Did anyone ever noticed the Dummy Prox. Mine is no longer available? I just did, never bothered before. It's still in the code so you can add it by hacking, but this will remove the Class 2 Mil Drive from the Sol shipyards!
  • Added Tech level to Planet Detail. Though it ranges internally from 0..255, it is displayed in a range of 0..12, matching the tech level range as shown in the information database. Note that not a single system gets ranked "12", so upgrades requiring tech level 12 (such as the Stowmaster) aren't for sale anywhere.
  • Added Major starports to Planet Detail. If there are no starports at all, trade information and upgrades are not shown. Especially noticable in the system Dasofa (1,9). Though its tech level is a whopping 9 it has no starports, so it's no use going there either to trade or to upgrade.
  • Changed Planet Detail for unavailable systems from the useless information shown before to the "Warning. Here Be Dragons" line.
  • Minor changes to the keyboard after reading Joel Spolsky's columns on user interfaces! Pressing the space bar or Escape on the help screen returns you to the previous screen showed, on info screens you are returned to the main map. Press Escape again when you're in the main map screen to exit the program.

Latest changes (6-Apr-2005)

  • Added "How unique are we?" calculations to these pages.


For further updates visit this site regularly, and watch for news in alt.fan.elite.


Features of the current version:

  • Displays 513,982,470 almost unique star systems!
  • Shows detailed information on each star, planet and moon in almost each of these star systems. Press P to see this. Up to 60 planetary bodies can be shown per system.
    This limit is hard-coded into the original games; however, since the only system in a 400 ly radius with 60 planetary bodies is Liaackda (-22,10), it's not a very big deal. Without the artificial limit, you would get one extra body there: Liaackda 4e1, a small barren sphere of rock. So you're not missing anything important.
    This program does NOT crash displaying the internals of systems such as Edexphi (-2,28), Waedze (-4,28), Tienphi (-5,28), Infaay (1,29), Miolol (1,-29), Olmiphi (-3,29), Ioqulia (11,28), Ayandti (-12,-28), Ineday (-1,31) and Andessho (-9,30) (just to name the nearest 10). Both the original FE2 and FFE freeze on these systems.
    A few of them are mentioned on Frontierverse but it's a systematic programming error: I've checked all systems in sectors (-100,-100) through (100,100) and found no less than 540 systems (out of a total of 324736) which crash the original games. Fortunately the closest one is some 226.57 ly away, so chances are small you'd ever run into one by accident. If my program says you can't see info you'd better believe it.
    Side note. After I fixed that bug I wrote a routine to create each and every system in an x ly radius around Sol, scanning for interesting items. I wondered why my program crashed sometimes. It turned out to be a familiar bug: Beta Lyrae struck again! I adjusted the program to display the same information as seen on Proton's site, with the tiny difference to call it properly a "Binary contact" instead of a "Blue super". Plus point is that you have at least *something* to look at, but Beta Lyrae is treated as if it's a blue super giant, and that doesn't feel right. If I feel the urge I might look up the correct parameters for mass and temperature for contact binary systems.
  • Load your own saved games! First, enter your save game directory in ffestarsys.cfg, when starting choose either option 4 or 5, or hit the L key in the main screen. You are presented with a report of the current state; press space or escape to dismiss it. To check the report again, press the Q key (I'm running low on hot keys... more icons wanted?)
    Just for fun, you can explore your current system in true 3D. If the report is showing, press the P key to see ships and planets. Click a planet or ship name to set the rotation center to that one, zoom in and out with the mouse wheel or with numeric plus and minus. Orbit lines are green, yellow moving lines denote current targets for ships, red moving lines pointing towards your ship indicate they are targetting you!
    Loading would not be possible without the source of the save game coder/decoder written by Lloyd Williams. His original source can be found there. Lloyd has given me permission for using his code, and I owe him big for that!
  • An online database! Press I to see the first attempt of that one. There are just a few items in it for now, what else can I put in? Drop me a mail if you have any ideas, it's 1:30 local time and I'm currently all out!
    Before you start editing the database file gps2data.txt yourself, let me remind you of this: I'm constantly adding and removing features, so it might evolve into something quite different. So if you really need some crucial info added to it you'd better ask me before a new version makes your file obsolete. Also, sharing your knowledge is more fun!
    A nice addition would be the possibility to include your own pictures. It could consist of a line like "picture:pic013.bmp", and would especially be cool in conjunction with, for example, the images of stations, ships, stars and planets as seen on Kelpie's site. But I don't know when I'm supposed to draw a picture in this interface (when you click on the item name? a separate button?). And the number of colors would be limited by my "minimalistic" approach, so they would probably be rendered in the same blue&white palette as the text. Suggestions are appreciated.
  • Shows help at the mere press of a button!
    That would be the F1 key, BTW. Press it again to hide Help. The Start screen displays acknowledgements, the Trade/Planet Information screens have their own help.
  • Has three distinctive starting positions!
    Well they do set different positions, don't they? Whack any other key to start at Sol; load a savegame to see your current whereabouts.
  • Highlites systems in Hyperspace Range for your vessel!
    If you want to enter another range, press R. Clearing the range will reset it to infinity.
  • Find any known system! Press F and enter a system name.
    If you wanna locate a so-called 'known' star (one of those in Larry Niven's Known Space: Sirius, Procyon, etc.), you only have to type the first few distinguishing characters of its name. So, Beta H for Beta Hydri, Beta L for Beta Lyrae, etc. For all other (generated) stars, enter the full name.
  • Shows details on almost everything you wanted to know about every star system! Press D for Detail.
    This screen contains: Base price and availability of stockmarket goods;
    Trade Tips, comparing one star to another!
    Militairy Brownie points; What system offers whose militairy missions?
    Shipyard Bargains; see what you can get -- if you have the cash.
  • This text can be copied to the clipboard! Just press Ctrl+C and then paste in your favorite text editor.
    Mine is TextPad. Both the program and this web site are written using that.
  • Shows (virtually) the same galaxy as FFE does! Press M to see it.
    Use your scroll wheel to zoom, drag with right mouse button, M again to return to the main screen. Try also resizing the window.
  • Configurable colours and fonts through ffestarsys.cfg!
    It's pretty self-explanatory. If you want to change fonts, enter its filename only (if it's in the current directory or in your Windows' Fonts directory), with a full path otherwise. The number after the comma is its desired size in pixels. Numerous types of font are supported, all courtesy of Freetype. Whenever there is a problem with a font, the program tries to use its in-built bitmaps but may in fact fail for certain displays...
    The names and number of items here may change virtually at random in future versions!
  • Uses my Frontier Round TTF as default for the large texts!
    The font is included in the package. Not that I'm that proud of it; it looks pretty awful in high-rez. At least you can change it...
  • Runs on the desktop!
  • Still uses no more than 256 colors! But note the semi-transparent buttons!
  • Shows antialiased text, despite that! Courtesy of FreeType
  • Needs a Pentium 2 at least! Preferably running Windows XP, though I'd like to support '95 and '98 as well.
  • Removed: Zoom out on the galaxy screen and you'll see nearby galaxies! Well almost.
    I limited the zoom scale to mimic FFE. Well, why would you want to zoom that far? There is no use at all.
  • Has numerous bugs!
  • Acknowledges both David Braben and Ian Bell for their games!


What it doesn't do:

  • There is NO black hole
    If you can't find the black hole in the center of the galaxy, that's because it is not there. Being the sole creator of this piece of software, I might have included one just "because I can" -- but it is much harder to accurately emulate the Frontier universe. Whenever you find an update saying there is a black hole in my program, complain loudly and sincere.
    Note: you can still search for "Black Hole" using the F key.
  • As John Jordan noted temperatures around multiple stars are inconsistent. Some programmer forgot to set a crucial variable. I use the same fix as JJ, so temperature values do not match FFE but JJFFE.
  • The Change Date option is left out here, just because I'm lazy!
    In another program of mine, it enabled the curious ones to toggle between FE2 and FFE and spot the differences. This is FFE, in case you're wondering.
    A preliminary attempt is present in this program; pressing the V key (for Version) toggles some values between FE2 and FFE (try it when centered on Gateway or the Pleiades). Needs more work, really.
    If you are really interested in the subject, check this out:
    In FE2, the star Olphiso (3,0) displays a small moon orbiting Olphiso 5. In FFE this moon has disappeared!
    Also: the planet numbering in complicated systems such as Enethze (-3,3) has changed. In FE2 the first planet orbiting Enethze C is called Fisher's Wreck, so the next planets would be numbered on from C2, and so they are. In FFE numbering for the next planets starts at C3!
  • Don't resize the window to be very narrow. My text drawing routine fails and some or all text will disappear. To make the text visible again, widen the window.
    If you think that's ugly, I noticed it because the program actually crashed before I put in this quick hack. Note that the program still may freeze on some screens if you make it too small. Apparently it needs another ugly hack somewhere.
  • You can't rotate the map in real 3D.
    If you think it's a useful feature, lemme know. But there is no way I'm gonna implement it the same way it was in FE2/FFE! Sorry but that sucked.
  • You can't listen to cool Quality Quartet music while scrolling around.
  • You can't press a key to return to the cockpit and shoot some pirates.
  • You can't enter your ship's type & cargo to see the most profitable sale within your range.
    You can't see how much money you would make on sells.

    You can load a saved game: get out your spreadsheet and do the maths yourself?

I am working on some of these issues. Really!

Reasonable wishes

What I'd like to do next:

  • The info database seems quite useful (I use it myself for quick reference), so it might deserve its own icon instead of a hotkey only. The icons are actually an extremely nasty piece of programming so I might clean up that code as well.
  • Still should cram in more info. Ships, cargo, interesting places... and the possibility to add pictures. The Pictures option, though sounding cool, is on hold... In the meantime, Kelpie has given me kind permission to copy any information from his website I might find useful. Thanks! I'll be sure to give you full credit as soon as I use anything.
  • A pathfinder algorithm to show the shortest route from system A to system B. Hmmm... could be harder than you'd think. If anyone has a great idea and it doesn't use spatial subdivision or Voronoi diagrams drop me a mail.
    It would be, for once, a useful addition. Maybe an A* algorithm, with distance = cost? ...
  • The Trade screen is a bit messy. Lots of info, ugly tabs. Does anyone like the Planet screen layout? Could it be re-used for the Trade screen? Does anyone care?
  • 3D representation of star systems. Since it is an option to view save games in 3D, I might as well churn out those few final bytes of info in the planet generator routine. There is an actual reason for this! In a save game all 3D positions are stored, as calculated by the original code. Calculating them myself is quite a lot more work.
  • Planets! Looking at the code it sometimes seems they are a side effect of the original bugs instead of being purposely programmed as such.
    In retrospect it is not that hard to generate them; it's just that there are so much exceptions to "default" systems. I still might have missed a few. Check out The Frontier Galaxy pages for the full monty.



Based on original data and algorithms from Frontier:Elite 2 and Frontier:First Encounters by David Braben (Frontier Developments)

Original copyright holders:
Elite 4: The Next Encounter David Braben 2011?
First Encounters David Braben 1995
Frontier David Braben 1993
Elite David Braben and Ian Bell 1984


For comments -- preferably positive -- you can reach me at jongware.