SimCity: The City Simulator

Sim City - PC - Box

If there ever was a game that you weren’t really sure if you were playing a game or using an educational tool…but you didn’t care because it was so much fun, SimCity: The City Simulator was it.  Published by Maxis Software in 1989, SimCity was written by a young Will Wright (he of the incredibly addictive The Sims fame), and would go down as one of the most influential and popular games in gaming history.

In SimCity, players had to construct an entire metropolis starting from nothing but a bulldozer and random terrain.  Along the way to full city status sims begin to populate your city and make demands.  They may need more housing or shopping centers; perhaps crime is rampant and a police station is needed; maybe frequent brown outs are creating a demand for a new power station; perhaps your sims are bored and want a stadium…and so on.  Meanwhile, the city needed just the right level of taxes to encourage growth, yet still pay for all those fire and police stations.  Random emergencies could wreak havoc on your city, with tornadoes devastated entire zones, earthquakes leveling buildings, airplanes crashing and resulting fires requiring immediate response.  If you guided your city with a steady hand, your tax coffers filled up and your sims considered you Simsville’s best Mayor ever.  If you failed to keep on top of the ever-changing developments within your city you could find yourself in the ranks of the unemployed.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

Although the core of the game was designed for open-ended gameplay, the game also included scenarios which revolved around achieving a specific goal within a certain time period.  These were based on both past situations as well as possible futures that urban planners had already had to solve or were in the process of planning for.  The past scenarios included dealing with crime-ridden and an economically-depressed Detroit in 1972; a post-earthquake San Francisco in 1906, and rebuilding Hamburg at the end of World War II (this one was only in the IBM PC, Amgia, and Atari ST version).  Future scenarios included Boston suffering a nuclear plant meltdown and Rio de Janeiro flooding from global warming.  There was even a fantastic scenario based upon the classic Godzilla movies, wherein the player had to rebuild Tokyo after an attack from the King of the Monsters.  Further scenarios were released in the SimCity Graphic Set 1: Ancient Cities and SimCity Graphic Set 2: Future Cities.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

The path to SimCity’s initial release wasn’t an easy one.  Originally titled “Micropolis,” Will Wright, its creator, developed it for the Commodore 64, a platform he had previous success in with the now-classic, Raid on Bungling Bay.  By 1985 the game was ready to go, but he couldn’t find a dance partner willing to publish it, as the powers-that-be struggled with its open path gameplay and lack of winners versus losers.  He believed in the potential of what he had coded, so he partnered with Jeff Braun (a successful publisher of font packs for the Commodore Amiga) and founded Maxis Software in 1987, and sought the rights to publish his game with his own company.  After two more years of code changes and legal wrangling (which included cementing Broderbund Software as Maxis Software’s distribution agent), SimCity was brought before the gaming public.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

Interestingly, although Will Wright had originally coded Micropolis for the C64, the first platforms SimCity was released on were the Apple Macintosh and the Commodore Amiga, followed by IBM PC (MS-DOS) and then the Commodore 64.  EventuallySimCity: The City Simulator would be ported to the Atari ST, ZX Spectrum, Commodore Amiga CDTV, Amstrad CPC, and even the Super Nintendo.   The game was, of course, a smash hit, and garnered several gaming awards, including: Best Computer Strategy Game (Video Games & Computer Entertainment), Game of the Year (Computer Gaming World), Best Consumer Program (Software Publisher’s Association), and many, many more.  Its legacy is also well-recognized, earning a top ten position on the still-respected Computer Gaming World’s 150 Game of All Timelist.

 

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

The legacy of SimCity is more than just accolades, as its incredible success motivated Maxis Software to publish many variations on the theme: SimAntSimIsle,SimCopterSimLifeSimFarmSimEarthStreets of SimCitySimTown, and SimSafari.  Maxis even picked up the publishing rights for two similar Japanese games, A-Trainand Yoot Tower (which was renamed SimTower to take advantage of the sim-craze).  SimCity also spawned several sequels and remakes, including SimCity Classic(updated for Windows), SimCity Enhanced CD-ROM (which added FMV to the SimCity experience), SimCity 2000SimCity 3000, SimCity 4, and SimCity Societies.  And, of course, there is a direct link between Will Wright’s SimCity: The City Simulator and his epic seller, The Sims (and all its subsequent sequels and expansion packs).  Clearly,SimCity had a huge impact on the gaming universe.

Sim City - Amgia - Gameplay Screenshot -

Sadly, Maxis Software did not last as an independent company.  Although Maxis had been partnered with Broderbund since its inception, by 1995 they hired their own sales team and launched their IPO, taking Maxis public for the first time.  Unfortunately, the buzz from SimCity 2000‘s success had long worn off, and the pressure to fulfill the stock analysts’ projections took its toll on the company.  Wright and the other designers were pressured to abide by a strict deadline in 1996, with Maxis’ management team demanding all four games in development by released.  The designers complied, but the games they published that year did not catch the gamerverse on fire (I’m looking at YOU, SimCopter), and the share price of the new company which had such an incredible history slide precipitously.   In 1997, Electronic Arts made $120 million stock offer that they couldn’t refuse, making Will Wright and Jeff Braun very wealthy young men.  For his part, Braun became the biggest shareholder of Electronic Arts, and gave him the ability to invest in a variety of technology companies.  As for Will Wright, the money afforded him the time to do what he most loved – and did best – in developing new games.  Thanks, Electronic Arts!

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IzHVcvZw_7Q[/youtube]

If you’ve never played SimCity: The City Simulator, you’ve missed out on an integral piece of gaming history.  For a retro gamer, it’s still as fun as it always was, which is a sign of just how well it was crafted by Will Wright.  Between great gameplay and a long-lasting legacy, SimCity deserves to be on anyone’s best games of all time list.  Pick up a copy and see for yourself!

Magisterrex has been gaming since the days of Pong and still owns a working Atari 2600. He tends to ramble on about retro games, whether they be board games, video games or PC games.  If you’re into classic old school gaming check out his blog here

Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Pirates of Silicon Valley movie review

Steve Jobs and Bill Gates

If you care at all about computers or technology or business or the future, this is a movie you MUST watch. The movie goes hand in hand with other amazing technology business movies such as Micromen and The Social Network. This movie shows you how the megacorps we know as Microsoft and Apple started, according to writer and director Martyn Burke. It was also based on the book “Fire in the Valley” written by Paul Freiberger and Michael Swaine. I’m not saying it’s exactly what happened, but it’s close enough. I used to obsess as a kid wanting to know the exact details of the true history of something but I’m not a time traveler so such details no longer bother me.

It’s easy to watch the movie as they have multiple copies of it on youtube.

The movie shows two camps: Apple with its technology loving engineers and hippie turned businessman turned devil and Microsoft with its college nerds who love to play poker and jocks turned executive geniuses. You get to see Steve Jobs go from this rebel non-conformist into him signing over his soul to the devil to then becoming the devil himself. Gates is just ambitious from the start and his ambition never wanes.

Like all pioneers, nobody at their time took them serious or understood what they were trying to do. They were creating a revolution in technology, in the way we live our lives (especially if you’re a computer person like me). Think about where we would be without the personal computer. Even the things that came after, like cell phones, smart phones, laptops, mp3 players, the internet, social media… none of that would be possible without the work of engineers and businessmen such as these. I’m not saying they were the definite cause for all this but they were major contributors. We must also accredit other people such as all the fine people at Altair, Commodore, Atari, Nintendo, IBM, Sega, Sinclair, Acorn, and more.

Back to the movie… The movie shows both sides eventually doing whatever it needs to get ahead. The movie is not called The Super Nice Nerds of Silicon Valley, it’s The Pirates. Yes, they WILL cut your throat if you are in their way to success. Now, I’m not saying they’re as evil as wall street or the banks that just robbed the world, but they’re no saints!

A recurring theme in the movie is to get people to want what they don’t really need necessarily, which you might not even have yet but you want them to want it, creating demand (and getting the money to get it made).

One of the most important scenes is at the 1977 tech show when Gates tries to talk to Jobs, explaining what they were doing at Microsoft, only to get blown off by him, which in turn starts part of their war against each other.

The best part of the movie is probably when Microsoft sells DOS to IBM. I’ll let this clip speak for itself:

The other best scene of the movie is when Apple gets the GUI from Xerox. I couldn’t find a video of that clip to post here. It is also really interesting when an Apple employee confronts Gates telling him that instead of Apple thinking IBM is big brother that they don’t realize that Microsoft is their true enemy. He points this out to Jobs while he was trying to woo the Apple employees during a conference by showing them the famous 1984 Apple commercial.

Microsoft had the foresight to see that without software the hardware did nothing. Sure, you could have the most incredible monster machine but if nobody can do things with it, who would buy it?

Gates reminds me a lot of myself. He is characterized as being a very good poker player, the kind who will never let you know how good or bad of a hand he has and will make you make the wrong decision. Especially in the beginning, he uses a strategy of making you think that he has many business deals going on, when in reality he had none. Both sides did that actually. He got in trouble with the law, especially speeding (that’s me!), and doing other crazy things (not so much me, well, actually…) such as wrecking his friend’s car. Throughout the movie and in real life, he is a very competent negotiator.

Steve Jobs was just evil to me all throughout the movie. In real life, I still don’t like him, which is funny because I hated everything Microsoft for many years when I was younger, but in reality I didn’t like how he reacted to being informed at the number of record suicides at the Foxconn factories, which make a LOT of Apple products. The transformation this movie shows goes from stoner hippie to egoist pioneer to evil business genius. I just think he’s a real asshole. Through the movie he kept denying that his daughter Lisa was actually his.

Throughout the movie, the characters I enjoyed the most were Steve Wozniak (the Woz) and Steve Ballmer. I felt bad for the Woz because he just wanted to create and then he had to deal with all the drama and bullshit from Jobs, as well as seeing Jobs putting down people and destroying the Lisa. Woz was always trying to do the right thing, like not fuck his friends out of stock or treat employees like subhumans. I felt terrible for him when he quit the company after Jobs had pretty much created a civil war inside Apple (Macintosh vs everything else). Ballmer was just a total trip. He was this crazy jock that would always have the common sense, especially when it came to getting girls, that Bill Gates and Paul Allen did not have.

As a movie critic I give this movie a score of 7 out of 10. As a computer geek I give this movie a 9 out of 10. I think Micromen was a much better movie, about a similar topic. The music selection throughout the movie is excellent and I was really shocked by this as this was a made-for-TV movie. Noah Wyle as Jobs just blew my mind, which you might know as the science teacher from Donnie Darko. John DiMaggio was great as Ballmer, which is a real treat because he is usually known for his voice work in cartoons such as Futurama and also voice work for many video games.

Go watch it.

The Commodore 64

Commodore 64 box
Commodore 64 box

The Commodore 64

Who can forget the awesome and sometimes just plain strange commercials of the 80’s and 90’s for computer and console products? Obsolete Gamer is searching the globe to find some of the classics from the Sears version of the Atari 2600 to the Commodore 64.

Commodore 64 Fact #16About 10,000 software titles were made for the C64.

Don’t forget to visit the Obsolete Gamer YouTube page for more videos.