October 25, 2009
If there’s one thing to appreciate about Golem, it’s the unusual level of candor the game’s creators were willing to express in the PDF manual regarding the source of most software problems:
Golem is a real time strategy (RTS) game developed by a Polish house named Longsoft (which isn’t in the database yet, which likely means that most of the developers listed in the credits are not in yet, which means I need to break out the Polish diacritics for copy and pasting). I have had limited success with RTS games so far but why should I let that stop me?
The manual establishes that there was an unspecified “cataclysm” that thrust the earth into chaos. The very well-produced opening FMV indicates that the cataclysm came in the form of radioactive meteors taking down the Statue of Liberty, the Eiffel Tower, and the Sydney Opera House. The upshot is that the destruction of civilization in the ensuing tidal waves, combined with mutations, or lack thereof, caused the survivors to form 3 separate factions. The manual actually had a lot more detail. But am I the only one who gets bored extremely quickly when faced with a large volume of background story, particularly for sci-fi or fantasy games?
The game has to do with building facilities that harvest natural resources and then putting those resources to work building machines of war with which to attack the other factions. That’s the general impression I got from the manual. I’m pretty sure that this is the thrust of the famed Command & Conquer games, which I have never actually played (though I have collected several of the titles for the purposes of studying their multimedia). I gave the tutorial a whirl but when the game cut me loose, I was at a total loss. I came to the sad realization that today will not be the day that I learn to start caring about RTS games.
But that’s okay because I think I collected enough data for a reasonable MobyGames entry. I just wish I could figure out a way to rip the intro FMV, which appears to be encoded in Indeo 5, and upload it for posterity.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under RTS Games,Simulation Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
October 17, 2009
I have had these two games sitting in my inventory for a long time, procured from various eBay raids, and waiting to be entered into MobyGames: Build City and Create City. Since they sound so similar, I wanted to attack them both at the same time. I assume they both fall into the category of city building games, the archetype of which is SimCity which, I must confess, I have never played. I have, however, played a game called Moonbase which had me managing said lunar installation. I also greatly enjoyed Skateboard Park Tycoon very early in this experiment.
Proceeding alphabetically, I delved into Build City first. I found no manual on disk and no in-game help. However, there was a demo mode which tutored me just a little bit. So I jumped into the first mission delegated by the monarch. I can place farms, roads, houses, and markets anywhere on my little plot of land. But building this stuff costs money and I only start out with 400 gold. I’m expected to grow this town to 500 people and have 1500 units of food harvested into storage by the end of 2 game years. I got off to a difficult start.
Indeed, the very beginning of the game is the toughest part as you’re trying to spend your precious 400 gold in such a way as to build the population up to just 100 people. Why is that important? Because at that threshold, the town can support a church. When a church is near a housing unit, that unit becomes more prosperous. More prosperous households are more reliable taxpayers. After awhile, the treasury sort of takes care of itself. But getting to that point is a big hump to get over. At other population thresholds, the player also gets to build schools, medical offices, and most importantly, taverns. There is only one means of recreation in the early 1700s when this game is set, and that is alcohol consumption.
I had to toy with a number of configurations of farms, roads, and houses at the outset. Once the gold started going down and into the red (there is debt in this game), I didn’t know any way to recover so I would start over. Eventually, I remembered that there is a configurable tax rate. It is possible to raise that at the cost of some citizens leaving.
There are 10 missions in Build City handed down by the monarch, each with very clear cut, measurable goals that can be monitored through your status screen. Some missions build on previous missions. E.g., the first mission has you building a new city from scratch while the second and third missions specify that you monkey with that established city. The mission goals make for some odd gameplay decisions, like when I needed to demolish some farmland to make room for new houses. Actually, just as I was about to do that, an earthquake struck my game, obviating the need for such tough choices. But then later on, my town’s recreational rating was too low. This meant I needed to erect a new tavern next to a church (I think I demolished a medical clinic to do so) and I even went so far as to demolish a block of housing to build another tavern. Hey, I already had enough population according to the mission parameters but I needed that recreational rating to climb.
I also found myself messing with the tax rate in unusual ways. At one point, I deliberately raised it in order to keep the population from growing which would put undue burden on the food stores. I did this when I had already hit my population goal and I was just waiting for the mission time period to expire.
Eventually, I hit my stride and completed about half the missions when I took time out to try Create City. I chuckled as I thought about the irony if it turned out to be the same as Build City. That struck me as unlikely since the CD-ROM had a different company on it. I should know better by now. Yep, it’s the same game.
Studying the contents of the disc, I got the impression is was actually an AOL CD. But then I found a PDF manual for the game which described Build City almost precisely save for the title. The instructions explicitly describe the game as taking place in the 1700s. I’m not sure how that picture of modern skyscrapers found its way into the cover art.
So it’s the same game. That doesn’t make the game better or worse by itself. In fact, I tried Create City and I think it might be the better of the two titles. It has a copyright date on the title screen of 2 years later and has a few UI refinements. The graphics are quite different (still 1700s, more so, even). And there are even 3 more missions in campaign mode (though 2 are tutorials), while gone is the demo mode. And there are trees littering the landscape that must be cleared with extreme prejudice. However, there is also an option to plant more trees. I couldn’t find anything in my statistics to indicate that the citizenry would care about more trees, though.
I kind of like this (these) game(s) and I might try again sometime. Now I need to figure out if the titles should be entered into the database separately or combined.
This game was apparently created in Macromedia Director which makes it the single most involved game I have ever seen created with Director (and you know I have seen a lot of them for this project). It was engineered by one individual as well (save for the music).
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Simulation Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)
August 23, 2009
I was struggling to find some halfway decent game to play today, especially after the Outpost bust. Given the kind of games I collect, I wasn’t very hopeful. I turned my attention back to my iPod Touch. I have a whole bunch of iPhone/iPod Touch games but I haven’t been terribly motivated because few of them are at all special. But then I finally decided to try a pair of games that were on sale some months ago — Sally’s Salon and Sally’s Spa. These games have reminded me of the importance of giving a new game a fair shake no matter how inane it might sound from the instructions.
Chronologically, the Salon game comes first (not that it matters much). Sally has a dream about starting a successful salon and you’re going to help her. The reason the game sounds so trifling — and I have this problem with a lot of iPhone games — is that the physical unit does not allow the player to do very much. Customers come in and wait while they have little pictorial balloons over their heads indicating what services they would like to purchase. To grant these services, tap on the customer, which causes them to march over to the correct beauty shop station. Tap on the customer to walk over and service their head. Certain things, like haircuts and colorings, require customer feedback as you iterate through possibilities and read the customer’s smile or frown as to whether they want that style.
As I read the instructions and marched through the tutorial, I could feel myself dozing off and my finger creeping toward the home button of my iTouch. But I stuck with it for a full round and decided I quite enjoyed it. So after playing through enough levels, I was eager to jump into Sally’s Spa.
Strangely, the instructions here nearly put me off as well, but for a different reason– while I was expecting pretty much the exact same game, I instead got one that was pretty similar but had a few more things to keep track of. Essentially, I was afraid the first game would be too brainless and that the second would be too mentally taxing. There’s just no pleasing me.
In Spa, Sally is taking a vacation to a beach resort after being wildly successful in creating a salon franchise when her friend informs her of a void in the local spa market. Our entrepreneur can’t pass up the opportunity.
The spa has more stations for customer satisfaction. Your friend also sells you items to sell through your spa (skin cremes, hair conditioners, etc.) which you can stock based on the weather.
In both games, Sally can purchase upgrades for the salon or spa. These might be waiting area amenities (more comfortable chairs, coffee machines, or outrageously expensive magazine subscriptions), more facilities and facility upgrades (like a spa that helps customers relax twice as fast), or the hiring of assistants, such as the spa jet operator here:
I can tell you that the spa jet operator has to be the most worthless hire in the game. When moving customers to the spa, sometimes, they just want the bubbles, and this monkey can push the button to make that happen. But the customers nearly always want some colored bath bomb which only I can administer for some reason.
These games both fall into a category called time management games, simple and addictive. It should also be noted that these are also available for the Nintendo DS and Windows, and that they are published by Real, the people behind the RealPlayer. Did you even know they still exist?
- The Good — I like both of these games enough that they’re going right on my “good” list
- Crazy Burger — another time management game
At the Apple App Store:
Posted by Multimedia Mike under iPhone Games,Simulation Games | Comments (0)
August 23, 2009
I watched a hard science fiction movie recently by the name of Moon in which Sam Rockwell is the lone human operator at a lunar mining operation that harvests energy to meet earth’s energy needs. The movie reminded me heavily of a game from Sierra that I had always wanted to try named Outpost.
So I tracked down the game on eBay (along with a few other fluffy titles that will show up on this blog eventually). The game is already in MobyGames, but not with very many screenshots. Unfortunately, I could not make the game run in Windows XP. I was able to capture the above screenshot using a separate movie player — the game uses many FLIC animations, one of the oldest of the old school animation formats.
Popping the CD-ROM in the tray produces the following dialog:
Clearly, this is a later revision of the game, ideally with some bugfixes. But afterwards, it launches the setup.exe program which is clearly indicated in the task bar:
But does not do anything else, aside from playing a sound. It should be noted that the usual Windows compatibility hacks were fruitless. So, all in all, a disappointment… or was it? The game comes with a 120-page manual in PDF format. While interesting and well-written, it’s also very long. Playing this game would have been a significant time investment, not unlike attending a class on a subject that won’t be particularly useful throughout your life. At the risk of sounding elitist, the more I read through the manual, the more I felt that I should be putting my vast intellectual resources to better use (there are at least 1/2 dozen unentered Barbie games, for example; or maybe even something completely unrelated to gaming).
According to the MobyGames trivia entry, this game was once awarded “Most Brutal Customer Stultification in 1994″ by a gaming magazine.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under DOS Games,Simulation Games,Windows Games | Comments (4)
February 17, 2007
Instead of looking at a new game today, I decided to revisit Creatures Adventures since I certainly didn’t get a good feel for the game the first time around and I didn’t discover the on-disk manual until after I had written the blog post. In order to create a quality MobyGames entry, I would like to gather a little more first-hand experience with the game. Plus, after reading the manual and gaining a mild understanding of what’s going on, the game actually sounds interesting. Further, I think the graphics are nothing short of phenomenal and a sheer joy to watch.
On my first play, I got the distinct impression that the objective of the game was to observe little baby monsters called norns and manually interact with their surroundings using the mouse. There is so much more. The game’s manual claims that the game engine models actual biological processes and that the norns come with their own biochemistry, brains and “Digital DNATM” (which is a trademark that I thought Motorola claimed). In fact, reading through the complexity described in the manual makes it hard to believe that this game is designed with children in mind. But the parents’ control dialog described in the previous post remains substantial evidence of the target audience. The manual must be intended for the parents so that they might be able to explain everything to the young ones.
To review, you begin the game in the nestery where you can hatch an egg by placing it in the cradle. You can accept the default name or enter a different one.
From there, the game becomes an exercise in caring for your your norn by feeding it, clothing it, and keeping it out of obvious danger. There is training and discipline involved. Remember the jet horn and mosquito icons discussed in the last post? It turns out that those are for punishment and reward, respectively. The mosquito is actually a stickler that tickles the norn, which the norn likes. Contrast this with a blast of water to the face via the jet. The norns are supposed to learn the right lessons from this treatment but the manual warns you not to overdo either.
So the norns walk around and explore the world as they see fit, unless you grab their hand using the mouse and drag them in the opposite direction. They partake of the plentiful bounty that abounds from the land. Thankfully, it appears that the norns metabolize everything they take into their bodies. Wait, I may be wrong– the norns are consistently seen squatting, an action which sometimes results in brown spots which can then be picked up. I can’t imagine what I would do with these in the context of the game if I were correct about what they are.
I decided that an interesting test of any simulation game would be to see what happens if you don’t offer any input for an extended period of time; just leave the critters to their own devices in this case. With that in mind, I leave the game running and go off to watch some old Amiga demos from MindCandy Volume 2. Here’s what happens: They get sick! The manual warned that norns can get sick but I didn’t realize that the attention-hungry little monkey creatures would actually fall ill if ignored. Talk about Attention Deficit Disorder!
So I’m trying to to watch the Demo DVD and eat lunch but that turns out to be difficult because I can still see my computer monitor out of the corner of my eye which shows me the above scene. The green-faced norn keeps bending over in a virtual heave. Fine, I’ll go do something about it. Apply the stethoscope and thermometer to the norn standing at the medical carriage to validate that there is something very wrong with her. Then take her hand and drag her into the magic doctor booth. That’s really all it takes. Until they get sick again a few minutes later after I have returned to my lunch.
Notice that the norns are all grown up now. The manual says that you will get to witness the whole norn life cycle and that the repugnant creatures will pair off, mate, and procreate. Then they will die. Not a violent death. There comes a point in the game when a norn is apparently just sleeping for a really long time. When you click on their overhead bubble icon you will be transported to the garden where there will be a new tombstone.
Winter comes for the norns. They lived full lives busy with exploration of the 1/2 kilometer immediately surrounding their birthplace. May they rest in peace. Following this, there are new eggs in the hatchery. It is unknown whether they are eggs from Chloe, matriarch of the previous round.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Childrens Games,Educational Games,Simulation Games,Windows Games | Comments (6)
February 13, 2007
I told you I would revisit that Skateboard Park Tycoon game. I thought tonight would be a good night to do that thanks to the resoundingly dull experience with last night’s sim, Restaurant Empire (which, to be fair, I will probably revisit as well because I just feel that it should get better). There was at least one facet of SBPT that I had not yet experienced and that was the actual skateboarding action. Before I got into that, I wanted to try my hand at a new game and build from scratch with a fresh cash allotment.
There are three properties to choose from at the start, differing in quantity of real estate. There are also three difficulty levels to choose from: Easy starts you with $50K, medium is $10K, and hard is a measly $5K. It’s a good thing I started on easy again since once my park really got rolling, it seemed to hover in the neighborhood of $35K.
One of my first projects was to lovingly craft this monstrosity:
It looks sort of neat but scarcely any skater wanted anything to do with it, save for the platform on the lower left corner of the picture. That was an expensive lesson learned for when I start a new game.
5 days into my park’s operation, my first skater showed up. I’m not sure how that compares with my last game when I wasn’t really watching (and when I thought the skater was a mouse and tried to squish it). I sprinkled a variety of support structures all around the park which seem to satisfy the customer base. I also used the zoom feature (via the mouse scroll wheel) — something I discovered late in the game during the previous investigation — to great effect which allows me to have much more control over placement of objects. I created a network of railings of varying elevations in one corner platform which saw a fair amount of use. I also created what I would later refer to as the pain pit:
Ironically, this actually fulfills my initial goal laid out in my first SBPT post– to make sk8rs hurt. It seems to be immensely popular despite the fact that about 95% of the patrons go flying off into the pile you see on the right side of the picture. They dust themselves off and, like moths to the flame, come back for more.
But I finally started to hit my stride when I constructed this attraction:
I forget what it’s called, but I was careful to make it in 2 sizes because the manual emphasized that you needed to cater to a variety of skill levels. Indeed, these structures saw significant use. Another statistic the game provides is how much patronage each skating structure is receiving.
With much apprehension, it was finally time to try skating. Just like the main simulation part of the game, I wish I had tried the skateboarding portion earlier.
It’s not so scary after all! Actually, it’s extremely rewarding to be able to skate around and explore the park that you have carefully crafted using this 3D perspective. Above is my commandeered skater about to head up the ramp to the popular skating structure. I didn’t have time to try much in the way of tricks. I guess I can look forward to devoting at least one more gaming evening to this title.
Posted by Multimedia Mike under Simulation Games,Sports Games,Windows Games | Comments (0)