Pirates

Once upon a time it was a lot more avante-guard to be a pirate, long before the unwashed masses embraced the Disney Jack Sparrow movie juggernaut, and even before some wag convinced enough people to celebrate Talk Like a Pirate Day.  In the heady days of the dawn of the PC graphic adventure, pirates were nothing more than literary devices or the stuff of all things dastardly; pirates portrayed in PC games were more Blackbeard or Captain Hook than Errol Flynn. And then along came Sid Meier.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meier is a gaming legend today, a name that is as much a brand and promise of great gameplay, but in 1987, this was not the case.  To be sure, Sid Meier’s name already carried some weight in the simulation community, as a designer of games such as F-15 Strike Eagle and Silent Service.  His games were always enjoyable and well-coded, but more importantly, sold well.  The marketing gurus at MicroProse suspected that people were buying Sid Meier games because they were designed by Sid Meier, so it seemed reasonable to help make their buying decisions for them by announcing his involvement directly in the product title.  From this reasoning the very first game to feature “Sid Meier’s…” in the game title was born: Sid Meier’s Pirates!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Sid Meier – Gamer godThe game was for single players, made long before the mad, lemming-like multiplayer rush of today that all gaming companies seem to have embraced.  (Wait, was that an editorial?)  It was an open-ended game, letting the player make the choices on where to travel and what to do, with the only caveat being that eventually the player’s character would grow too old to continue on the pirate’s path, and would retire.  Depending on what actions the player took (that is, what rewards and successes they achieved during the game), the game would then give a litany of how their character lived the rest of their days, from a lowly beggar in the streets to the prestigious role as adviser to the King.  The game world itself was created using a series of questions-and-answers, beginning with what pirate era the player wanted to play within (1560: The Silver Empire; 1600: Merchants and Smugglers; 1620: The New Colonists; 1640: War for Profit; 1660: The Buccaneer Heroes; and 1680: Pirates’ Sunset).  This was followed by which nationality they wished to be (Dutch Adventurer, English Buccaneer, French Buccaneer, or Spanish Renegade), which Difficulty Level they wished to play in (Apprentice, Journeyman, Adventurer, or Swashbuckler).  Finally, a Special Ability was chosen: Skill at Fencing, Skill at Gunnery, Skill at Medicine, Skill at Navigation, or Wit and Charm, each with its own advantages (for instance, Wit and Charm was used to keep on a Governor’s good side; whereas Skill at Medicine kept injuries to a minimum and prolonged the character’s life).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Swordplay in Sid Meier’s Pirates!The game world was then generated from these questions.  Of course, the final variable was the copy protection, which requested when either the Silver Train or the Spanish Treasure Fleet arrived in a particular city.  Failure to provide the correct answer stacked the odds so far against the player that even the game manual stated, “Heed the advice and start over, otherwise you’ll find your situation most bleak.”  Takethat, software pirates!  Actually, in some ways the manual was as interesting as the game, as there was a wealth of historical information on pirates and the historical context within which they plied their trade.  Well worth reading!

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Decisions, decisions in Sid Meier’s Pirates!

As for actual gameplay, the live of a pirate was sometimes short, but always challenge-filled and exciting, which the player soon discovered for themselves.  Since a pirate fought with a sword, fencing was part of the game.  Since pirates sailed the seas to prey upon treasure-laden ships, navigation and naval combat was part of the game.  Since pirates often sold their loot to merchants (money laundering was alive and well in the pirate era), trade was part of the game.  Since pirates sometimes sacked small townships, that, too was part of the game.  Since pirate ships didn’t magically manifest crewmembers to sail the seven seas, recruitment was part of the game, and since a silver tongue helped a pirate live a longer life, diplomatic contact with town governors was also part of the game.  All in all, this was an impressive pirate simulation.

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! Gold for the Sega Genesis

If the Career Mode was too large of a time investment, Sid Meier’s Pirates! offered six historically accurate scenarios to test your swashbuckling mettle.  Each scenario was in a different time period, and each offered unique challenges to overcome.  These scenarios were: John Hawkins and the Battle of San Juan Ulua  – 1569 (wherein you have a slow, but powerful galleon to command, with many ports unwilling to trade and a fleet not powerful enough to force them to comply); Francis Drake and the Silver Train Ambush – 1573 (can you match the verve and skill Drake showed battling the Spanish Fleet at the height of their power with only two small ships?); Piet Heyn and the Treasure Fleet – 1628 (your fleet is powerful, but the season is late and finding the treasure ships is becoming a difficult task and will take expert planning to locate and dispatch); L’Ollonais and the Sack of Marcaibo – 1666 (an abundance of manpower but a shortage of powerful vessels make ship-to-ship battles difficult, but port sacking attractive, with the additional challenge of the fragile nature of your men’s morale);Henry Morgan the King’s Pirate – 1671 (the dangers of having a powerful pirate fleet in both naval power and manpower in that you must keep everyone fed, content and treasure laden to succeed); and Baron de Pontis and the Last Expedition – 1697 (the munchkin scenario, in which you have a large strike force and a more than reasonable certainty to win any battle, making the only challenge how much treasure can you loot?).

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Pirates! for the Nintendo Entertainment System

Sid Meier’s Pirates! was first released in 1987 on the Apple II, Commodore 64 and IBM PC (PC Booter) platforms.  It was quickly ported over to the Macintosh (1988), Amstrad (1988), Commodore Amiga (1990), and even the Nintendo Entertainment System (1991).  It would be remade in 1993 with improved graphics and sound, then published under the title Pirates! Gold, for IBM PC (both DOS and Windows), Macintosh, and – because Nintendon’t – the Sega Genesis. The remakes didn’t end there, as it was again remade in 2004 for Windows XP, returning to its original title ofSid Meier’s Pirates!, and then again in 2008 for mobile devices, imaginatively calledSid Meier’s Pirates! Mobile.  Perhaps in the next decade it will be remade once again.  (I recommend they try Sid Meier’s Pirates! Gold as the title for next time.)

Sid Meiers - Pirates - PC - Gameplay screenshot

Box art for Pirates! Gold

Sid Meier’s Pirates! was not only popular amongst gamers, it also performed well in the eyes of the gaming press.  It was awarded “Action Game of the Year” by Computer Gaming World, and also the Origin Award for “Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1987”.  The game also ranked at #18 in the Computer Gaming World’s 150 Best Games of All Time.  Clearly, this game has remained in the gaming public’s eye for a reason, making Sid Meier’s Pirates! a worthy addition to anyone’s game collection.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s2RigX8BVlc[/youtube]

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

My Unparallel Loathing of Gaming Hipsters

WoW Ret Cat
WoW Ret Cat

My Unparallel Loathing of Gaming Hipsters

I can’t take it anymore, reader. I simply cannot suffer the pretentious attitude of gaming hipsters. They leave my stomach churning, tie my throat in a knot, and cause an unpronounced level of pain in my scrotum. Why God? I ask you this! Why do they exist to believe themselves to be upon a celestial pedestal of understanding and ownership of some delusional knowledge they do not possess?

Hipsters.

The word alone makes me want to go on a punching jamboree at a local Starbucks. Those bastards just weren’t content on having the indie scene, huh? They had to someone seep like a poison into the gaming community. And it wasn’t like they miraculously appeared out of nowhere. No, no. I just noticed they’ve been here for years, secretly hiding like some Massachusetts Witch Covenant biding their time for an unveiling.

But you know what?

No one gives a shit about them or the opinion of their Gaming Hipster Community. But contrary to that last sentence, I do care to a degree. I’d like to point out my disliking for them in detail. Yes, reader, you will become more knowledgeable on who is a gaming hipster and may even come into the realization that you yourself or someone you hold dear to your hearts may even be one of these aberrations.

    • No one cares if you were in beta.

    Aside from narrow-minded children and frat boys, no one cares that you’ve played since beta. When someone asks a question as to whether something is a good talent specialization or how to beat a certain raid boss, don’t reply with “Trust me, I’ve been playing since Beta.” This doesn’t make you more knowledgeable to specializations or strategies. Especially don’t say this in games like World of Warcraft. The game at its current state is completely different than its original incarnation at this point and your opinion is null and void. Another thing, games that go into Beta maybe have 10-15 people who are actually voicing legit opinions in that gaming community. The rest are people who whine and shit because they don’t understand gaming mechanics or can’t even offer viable solutions aside from nerfing the entirety of a class. Oh, and speaking of classes…

      • No one cares if were an underpowered class pre-buff.
          “Mmm, I liked a Shadow Knight before they got buffed!” Wow? Really? Holy shit, that is amazing news. I’m glad you stuck through your underpowered character until they got revamped. You know why classes get revamped? It isn’t because it only takes “skilled” people to play them and make them viable. Any other class that isn’t gimp with an equally “skilled” player is going to steam roll you in numbers and efficiency. They buff classes to bring them up to par. Aww, don’t cry! Just because people can now faceroll as your favorite underground class doesn’t mean you suck. If you really were skilled you’d still be better than the rest of them by far, right? Or is it because no one played the class you had no real competition to gauge yourself? Wait. What was that you muttered underneath your breath? Oh, that’s what you said? Well guess what…
      • No one cares if your guild beat content before it got nerfed.

      I remember going into threads that said “Fenrir’s Pups beat Ragnaros” and reading the replies of smug faced, Rockstar drinking hipsters who would sneer the achievement with “Congratulations on beating old and nerfed content.” What a monster you must be! Let’s look at those virtual muscles. Wow! You’ve been really hitting the E-Gym. We all know beating Ragnaros pre-nerf was like fighting Muhammad Ali in his prime and fighting him after the nerf was like fighting him today. We get that. No need to boast about it, though. Your past efforts fall upon deaf ears because not a single person today gives a shit.

      Hey, what’s that you’re playing? Is that an NES emulator? What game are you playing? Is that Super Mario Brothers 2? It isn’t? It sure looks like… holy shit don’t say it.

      • No one cares if you played Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic before people played Super Mario 2!

      I’m glad that you are in touch with the origins of a game and know that Super Mario Brothers 2 is a rehashing of another game but don’t toss it away because it wasn’t indie enough for you. Most of the creatures in Yume Kōjō: Doki Doki Panic were created by Nintendo anyway.

      This sick need to do the polar opposite of anything popular or mainstream brings me to my last point.

        • Fuck You.

        Fuck you, gaming hipster. You’re the person who finds the Playstation Network vastly superior to Xbox Live. You’re the person who guffaws at Apple products (and yes, I admit, I was once this type of person) without even trying to grasp why people like them. You’re the person still playing your NES because all new games suck like some grumpy old man who still plays that game with a hoop and stick. You’re the person who demands nostalgia and only subscribes to progression servers for a month and quits within 3 days because those memories weren’t as fond as you thought they were.

        There is no means to stop you from these self imposed habits and traits and there is no wisdom or knowledge I can bestow to remedy the hipster hivemind so I will gladly end this article in the simplest but most profound way I know…

        Eat a dick, gaming hipster. Eat a steaming plate of dicks on a bed of rice.

        There Are Games On Macs. It’s True!

        PC vs Mac Steam
        PC vs Mac Steam

        For those late to the party, Macs are finally getting some PC gaming love from Valve’s digital gaming distribution service called Steam. With this new cross-platform addition to the Macs arsenal, the chic liberal Starbucks drinking hippies can now play Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Portal, and other Valve games built on Source. For those who weren’t aware, there was an offer to get iPod ear buds for the purchase of a Mac copy of Team Fortress 2 which could carry on to your PC version as well since the Steam Cloud works cross platform. I mention this because it also means that whatever saved state you have on your PC will move over to the Mac and vice versa so you don’t have to start all over again.

        One other neat little quirk is that Mac players don’t play with only Mac users as some other games seem to segregate them to their lonesome selves. The battle against the PC and Mac can now take place with more than just words. Someone in your L4D2 team using a Mac? Let a tank flip a car on him while you rush to the safe house. Tired of the shit talkers on the PC talking down to your little apple? Become a spy, pretend to be his friend, sap his sentry and take a nice stab to their back. Finally, the war can be waged.

        The scenario I described does sound a bit immature but I assure you that the internet is serious business. From personal experience, playing TF2 since the Mac launch I have seen Mac and PC users alike verbally assault one another in a brutal fashion and even personally attempt to dominate the OSX or Windows lovers specifically. It has brought a new flavor to gaming online in Source games and it’s a welcome rivalry that I think many are glad to finally play a more aggressive stance in. The only downside I find in all of this is when someone asks me if they should buy a Mac I can’t say “There are no games on a Mac.” With World of Warcraft and Source’s amazing multiplayer online games that’s all you’d really need to have as a Mac user. Before someone begins the debate that Call of Duty is better than Team Fortress 2 and that is reason enough to not buy a Mac… you need to eat a bag of dicks. Team Fortress 2 is superior to Call of Duty. I know this may cause some internet rage but that’s my stance on it and if you haven’t given Team Fortress 2 or any Valve games a chance yet you can purchase the entire Valve Library for $66.99 this weekend. That’s 22 games for the PC and 6 are available for the Mac. For those who have yet to play Steam on the Mac, what are you waiting for? Let the shit talking and rocket flying begin!