As you may have realised, Frontier: Elite 2 contains a handful of bugs. It isn't bug-ridden like its sequel was, but it still has its fair share of mistakes. Most likely, Frontier, which had already been in development for five long years, was rushed out in time for Christmas, 1993. Most of the bugs have been fixed in the latest versions and some are fixed using various patches. The good news is that none of them are really detriment to the gameplay and most you won't even notice.
The Beta Tester
In January, 2009, Richard Hewison contacted me with some interesting information and screenshots:
Many years ago I worked freelance for Konami in the UK on testing the Amiga version of Frontier: Elite 2 (I'm credited in the manual as being a tester, but I was only ever involved with the Amiga version). I also plotted the stars from the 3D map in the game onto graph paper which was then used as the template for the poster that came with the game.
I've attached two slightly doctored screenshots of the Frontier development disk for v0.17 on the Amiga. I've removed the name of the person whom the disk was created for, and the telephone number that David (Braben) included. FYI the name was within the square brackets on screen #2 (although I have moved the brackets closer together than they were originally) as well as in the obvious gap.
I also re-discovered a text document on the disk from David, describing the various fixes and new things he had implemented since the last version (in response to things reported to him via me, Gary Penn and Chris Sawyer).
Major Bugs with game versions
Here I will tell you about all the major bugs, how they are fixed, what version they appear in and what to do. The Frontier Developments web site has some FAQs which you may find useful and there are many useful patches on the Files page.
UK version, 1993
The first version of Frontier that was sold to the public. The player can actually use the bugs contained in it to cheat in various ways. However, because of the wormholes bug, some consider it the best version of the game. Here are the major bugs present:
- Passenger Bug:
- Fit a passenger cabin to your ship, and take up a contract to transport somebody. With the person now aboard your ship, go to the shipyard and attempt to sell your ship for a less expensive one. Each time you try, your bank account is credited with the price difference.
- Wormhole Bug:
- Explained in more detail on the Wormholes page.
- Bribe Bug:
- Commit a crime, and attempt to bribe the police over and over. Your fine will be in the thousands. Simply claim "I didn't do it!" and your fine drops to 500 credits.
- Elite rating Bug:
- There is a moon that orbits Mars called Phobos. If you purchase a mining laser and park your ship roughly 5km from it and begin shooting, your Elite rating will improve.
- Mining Bug:
- The only bug that warranted a patch. Every time you leave an unattended MB4 Mining Machine in a system and try to hyperspace out, the game will crash. The patch can be found on the Files page.
- Imperial Ship Bug:
- The two Imperial ships, the Courier and the Trader, both only require one crew member. Since that's you, these ships can be flown without the need to hire additional crew members. The game manual, despite erroneous in other ways, stated that the Courier and Trader in fact required three and six crew members respectively.
- Cemiess Negativity Bug:
- You are paid staggering amounts for the trouble of removing gems and precious metals from the Cemiess system. This creates a very lucrative trade enterprise.
NB: The Amiga and Atari ST versions of the game also feature the same bugs as the original PC UK version.
US and other language versions, 1994
These versions of Frontier are almost totally debugged. From the above list only the Bribe Bug remains.
Amiga CD32 version, 1994
This version of the game is totally debugged with regards to bugs from previous versions. Even the Bribe Bug has been rectified (thanks to Paul for noticing this). There's also no password protection on this version, and apparently it can be copied over to a floppy disk and played on a normal 'real' Amiga for the ultimate Frontier: Elite 2 experience. This version also features the Navigation Computer, an item sold in FFE that allows easier plotting of courses within star systems. According to Stuart Wilson, the CD32 version has a unique bug (the 'CD32 joypad/mouse bug'), whereby the front lasers will fire intermittently when using the mouse. It also has another new bug (the aptly-named 'Flying Instructor' bug, discovered by Paul Roberts) whereby the ship's computers will dutifully attain approximately 50% of your set speed, whether it's high or low, and whether you're flying in space or in an atmosphere.
CD version, 1997
Essentially identical to the 1994 releases, this version was packaged on a games compilation called the 'Award Winners'. The Bribe Bug remains.
The manual contained many mistakes and had no instructions on how the password protection scheme operated. A later version of the manual had some of these errors fixed but the most notable ones are the errors in the ship specifications. The specs were incorrect all over the place and this made them useless. The Frontier manual, in WRI format (Wordpad) with the old incorrect ship specs, is available.
Frontier Developments also released the complete flight manual to Frontier in HTML format, with graphics, in 2001.
Strange happenings and minor bugs
Though not strictly bugs per se, all versions of Frontier are beset with some strange happenings. These are listed below and most are pretty comical. You are welcome to contribute any findings you may have.
- Fly low over a landing pad that's occupied by another ship. You'll get a warning from traffic control. Then there's a chance that both your ship and the grounded one will blow up. This is quite amusing.
- If you eject from your own ship using an escape pod, you can 'talk' to your old ship. Try asking it where it is going, for example. This is feasible if you have crew members aboard, but most likely it is just an overlooked scenario.
- There are a lot of graphical bugs. You can fly through planets, mountains, civilian buildings and domes. You can shoot at the police through a space station wall. There are many such glitches which are extremely annoying. For example, when flying low on a planet, the sky and ground flickers between the space colour and its proper colour, and a space port will appear to be there (ie, red lights visible) but it will in fact be on the opposite end of the planet. If you fly towards the horizon of a planet, strange graphical effects may happen, showing pie slices of the planet flashing everywhere. Also the horizon may jump wildly up and down. The same effect happens if you are in the midst of a fight at the right height above a planet. Your enemies will wildly jump around making them impossible to hit.
The graphical glitches can be very annoying indeed. Sometimes spaceports and the area around them flicker constantly and change between green, the proper colour of the land, and blue, which represents sea. Sometimes it's hard to take the game seriously.
When very close to a space station (within 5km) a large cloud of fire covers all of the screen when you fire your laser(s), as you can see in this picture.
- The Police are stupid. They find it impossible to launch from space stations without crashing into each other or shooting each other. They will crash into the ground on planets and invariably will fly directly at you kamikaze style to take you out. The mind boggles at such wasteful stupidity.
- Sometimes you'll enter a space station and the 'ship under attack' warning appears. No such ship will be in the vicinity and the message will persist every time you attempt to use the stardreamer. This can be extremely annoying if you are waiting for crew members and need to accelerate time.
- When you have a Panther Clipper and an auto refueler but try to fill your tanks manually it sometimes empties your internal tanks. This could be a hardware malfunction inserted on purpose but I doubt it.
- If you have had some passengers for over a month they will get impatient and leave at the next starport but it results in your cabins being 'occupied' forever. You can't sell your ship, or its cabins, and the damned occupants won't disappear. The only solution is to eject using an escape pod. At least you'll be able to buy a new ship.
- There is a 'Free up space' bug. This was noticed by Lee Jackson and is quite useful. You need to buy some hydrogen fuel and then 1t of rubbish. Then make a jump and go to the jettison screen and click where the jettison button would appear if you had cargo underneath the rubbish. The game will jettison 'nothing' out of your hull but will free up as much space as you want.
- There is another 'increase cargo space' cheat (thanks to Stuart Wilson). This one will work if you have a version of the game in which the conventional cargo space cheat has been fixed. Purchase a military drive and auto-refueller. When you run out of fuel (both cargo and internal tanks) the autopilot can still fly. Dock at a space station as per usual. Buy a tonne of military fuel, which will be automatically transferred to the internal tanks by the auto-refueller. You will end up with 1t of radioactives. Sell this and your cargo space will increase by 1t.
- The 'Missile Bug'. Apart from the fact that missiles are usually useless, when you fire one and radar map it, it is always fitted with the drive your ship is carrying. Also, if you have a Hyperspace Analyser the missile is shown as having one too.
- Mountains are sometimes placed directly on the landing pads of a starport on planets with a breathable atmosphere. Either this is just another graphical glitch or some pretty lame architects and engineers were employed when construction these starports.
- If you are slowly descending to land on a planetary surface, put the time accleration to three and your ship gains altitude, but on normal time mode it falls slowly.
- On taking a basic delivery mission from the military, go to the options screen before the military has received the message. Eventually they will give you the 'Your delivery has been successful' message, but, due to a bug, part of it is overlaid by the text of the options screen, hence 'Message from the Valkyries..., which is part of the music selection 'Ride of the Valkyries'.
- The 'Black Hole Bug', as reported by Alex from Germany. This one sometimes happens when you want to land on a rocky planet with a mass like Mercury or Mars but it doesn't work: the gravitation pulls you down almost immediately on entry into orbit and the spaceship crashes due to the speed of the descent. There's definitely no chance of landing on such planets; it is sometimes posible to succeed in staying at a constant altitude by giving full power to all engines and looking straight away from the planet. This bug means such planets cannot be mined.
- Sometimes a starport is reported to be busy even if there are free landing pads and no incoming ship exists that may have been assigned to the pad. This happens frequently in Ross 154.
- If you crash during a failed attempt to rough land, the game may crash with a memory exception, or an illegal operation.
- A mouse click that misses a function icon or the scanner display in the lower part of the screen deselects the current target. As a consequence you often have to reselect your target only because you missed an icon by a small amount.
- The system map allows centering on planets only if the planet is annotated with its name. The annotation sometimes happens only shortly before the planet vanishes from the screen. For some planets it is very difficult to find a rotation/zooming combination that works, and it may be near impossible to even select some planets.
- If you travel in space with your undercarriage down, you will eventually get a message telling you to bring it up as it will be damaged. This message is given to you no matter what ship you are in so is silly because some ships do not have an undercarriage! An Imperial Courier, for example, actually brings its wings inwards when the "lower undercarriage" option is selected.
- Unless you are stationary, missiles fired from Imperial Couriers and Traders (and a number of other ships) will simply crash into your ship.
- There is a mistake at starports with long names. The name displayed on the police launch bays and will be longer than the bay itself. The end letters which do not fit simply float in mid air and are transparent. For an example of this, see Sutherlandville on New Caledonia, in the Beta Hydri system (0,-2).
- Lots of ships cannot handle turrets. The Lion is such a badly designed ship that its turret fires straight into its wings. Also, on a lot of ships that have a top and a bottom turret, when you're firing and it automatically switches between them, at the crossover point the laser seems to hit your ship very briefly and this reduces your shield strength momentarily. One has to wonder at the ineptitude at some of these ship's designers.
- Clemi from Germany noticed this bug: If you don't finish an Imperial Navy mission in time you may be demoted in rank. However, should this happen, your Federal rank will also be reduced even though you failed finishing an Imperial mission. Your Imperial rank remains the same and seemingly stays untouched.
- Thanks to Gunnar for this amusing error: The German edition of the game had the slogan "David Braben stellt dar" on its cover, which is a very bad translation of "David Braben presents...". "David Braben stellt dar" in this case would mean "David Braben shows up as" or "David Braben means".
- Courtesy of Dave Leeds: "Something I recently discovered is that you can have a cargo scoop on your ship without a fuel scoop. I found out completely by accident when my fuel scoop was destroyed in combat and I could still scoop cargo. What I invariably do these days is fit the fuel scoop and cargo scoop then immediately remove the fuel scoop. Cheating a bit I know..."
System bugs are related to specific star systems in Frontier and problems that you'll encounter there. (Thanks to Stuart Wilson for noticing some of these bugs.)
- Go to Mizar (0,5) and then try to jump to Alcor, also (0,5). The range will show as 0.00 light years and therefore the hyperspace icon won't show up. You have to jump to a different system (any one will do) and then jump back.
- Cannot access economy/social structure icons on Zeioqu (-17,-29) Greandqu (-19,-31) and Andlaar (-27,-32), or hyperspace to these respective systems. If you do, your computer will crash.
- A jump into the Beta Lyrae system (-146, 85) crashes the game.
- Tiquwa (-34,-29) causes a crash when trying to access the details of the system.
- When you try to access economy/social structure info in many unexplored systems it results in an illegal operation (see below) and the game crashes.
- Greliain (4,1) cannot be safely hyperspaced into, nor can you obtain F6 system information (thanks to Andrew Cowling).
The Illegal Operation
When running Frontier on Windows 98 you'll often get this error message. It seems to happen most when flying very low over city landscapes on planets. I don't know what causes it but when it happens Frontier will instantly quit and you will be taken back to Windows and greeted with the below message:
There is nothing you can do when this happens. Yet another reason to save your game often!
Bad newtonian-physics modelling
The common method of thrusting at maximum speed all the way up to your target (planet or space station) then switching to autopilot to get the ship to easily dock is a bit silly to say the least. While it's invaluable for shaving time off military missions and the like, it's not very realistic. As Rodrigo Cunha points out:
...Considering you reach the vicinity of the planet at nearly the speed of light I can't really understand how can the ship stop so quickly (in a few thousands of kilometers at most). Bug, bad newtonian-physics modelling, call it whatever you want :-)
Problems in German
I would like to draw your attention to two very typical bugs in the German version of the game Elite 2 Frontier.
Sometimes in multiple systems the speed controller system doesn't work. For example when I reach the Candaess E - Homeland planet in the Candaess system, the reference stays on the center orb, even when the ship is a few houndred KMs away from it. In these situations the landing is possible only with the robot pilot.
The other problem is: When I would like to find a landing station, the program sometimes switch the data to a multiple systems near object, occasionally even to a star. For example I found this bug on the landing station of the planet New Australia (Griffiths and Chan), in the sector [-6, 9] (A, B1 planet).
The problem is similar when for example the Dickens-Scott, Town-Fortress, Wagner-Hooper landing stations appear on the LUYTEN-154-4165 asteroid.
Commander George from Hungary.
I only do miss two things on your site.
First of all is the freezing bulletin board, this occurs most of the time when the messages are all scrolled down and having two or less messages on screen. If you weren't done with the bulletin board, you have to fast forward time until midnight.
Second thing is when you do a mission, photograph or destroy. When flying very low to the surface of the planet (6000m, maybe a bit higher), approaching the target, all enemy ships will crash on the surface of the planet after take off, but the casualties will count for your eliteranking, this saves a lot of shooting ;)
I don't know if you are still maintaining your Frontier site, but thought I'd point out a mistake on it anyway!
If you have a fine to pay to the police you state there is a bug that if you claim 'I didn't do it' the fine resets at 2500 or whatever it may be. That's true in as much as the text says that, but if you pay the fine, the large amount you had racked up is still deducted. I thought this was the case and put it to the test - bribed until my fine was over 1m credits. Even though I claimed I didn't do it and it reset to 2500, when I tried to pay it said I didnt have enough and had to pay 1m by midnight or face jail.
The only good things is that I was at Sol so could take off without clearance - also let me discover that evading fines is another criminal record offence to add to my list - one I had never had before!
Mike (Michael Parrett)
It's basically just a timing issue with pulse lasers. I played the game on an old Amiga only, so I am not sure if this bug was fixed in later versions. But if you fit your ship with a pulse laser and stop time, you can fire once. Although time is stopped it will still do damage. So to put it to best use was to buy a big ship with a turret and fit it with the biggest pulse laser available. When you got the message of an attack, just pause time and switch to a turret. Then scroll around until you find the enemy and blast it. Usually it just requires one shot. The enemy ship will be replaced with "rubbish" and debris. When you resume time, it will look like it just self detonated.
MB4 Mining Oddity
I found your site searching for a black hole on the Amiga Version of Frontier: Elite 2. I want to share with you a cheat I found several years ago (on the Amiga version). If you have a big ship, you can buy 10 MB4 mining machines and an escape pod. If you escape, the mining machines remain in your cargo and when you dock in a space station you have a new Eagle ship with mining machines in cargo: sell that and you will have a big cargo space :-)
Escape Capsule Experiments
If you have a ship with an Escape Capsule, while you're docked, if you are in the Equipment or Shipyard sections, and launch your Escape Capsule, you can remove the Automatic Pilot and Atmospheric Shielding and equip it how you want! Altogether useless but interesting nonetheless to fly around in an Escape Capsule with an ECM, or Radar Mapper.
Note - if you do this in a space station you will alternatively be dumped in the middle of space, and your Escape Capsule will automatically fly to a random object (it could be a nearby star or space station,) however with space stations it'll sit in the docking bay without docking. Or sometimes it will work. You can also buy ships like this which require more than one crew member, but they'll also fly straight to a random object.
If you do it while landed on a planet with a breathable atmosphere, you can equip and fly your Escape Capsule manually, but if you try to buy another ship it'll just blow up.
In underground stations on rocky planets, it's like with the space stations, sometimes it'll work, many times I've found myself sat directly on top of a Lynx Bulk Carrier.
All the best!