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).