Donald B. Trivette
Games People Play
In February I wrote about a new adventure game called King's Quest-and about a million of you wrote back asking me for the dwarf's name. Now the sequel is out. Sierra On-Line has just published King's Quest II: Romancing the Throne, and it is every bit (sorry) as challenging as the original game.
Playing the role of Sir Graham-now King Graham in the sequel-you can move through 93 three-dimensional animated screens looking for your true love, the fair maiden Valanice. But before you can find and rescue her, you must swim with a mermaid, bargain with an antique dealer, pray with a monk, and defy the curse of Dracula. Yes, there's even a mushy kissing scene at the end. To accumulate points, you have to solve such problems as crossing the poison lake surrounding Dracula's castle-although the points are secondary to rescuing Valanice. Like the original King's Quest, the game is full of hidden goodies: If you visit the entrance to the Hag's cave often enough, occasionally a Batmobile comes roaring out. (If you keep falling through the bridge, write and I'll tell you why.)
Ken and Roberta Williams, the husband-and-wife founders of Sierra On-Line, live in the foothills of the Sierra mountains in a real stone castle-complete with spiral stairs, three hot tubs, and a racquetball court. (Incidentally, the most technically difficult part of Kings Quest II was to program King Graham realistically winding his way up the castle's spiral stairs.) Roberta writes and draws the storyline on a giant sheet of paper, and Ken works with a group of programmers to turn her ideas into computer language and a finished game. Then Ken's brother John helps promote the product - he's the director of public relations (and he lives in a conventional house).
If you've never played an adventure game, and are reluctant to part with $49.95 to try King's Quest II, check around for a free demonstration disk. Instead of spending a lot of money running advertisements, Sierra On-Line has produced 15,000 incomplete versions of KQII and shipped them to dealers and computer clubs across the country. If you like the demo, you'll love the game.
King's Quest II runs on all IBM PCs, PCjrs, and most compatibles with 128K RAM, one disk drive, and a color monitor. (An Apple II version is under construction.) This is one game that no PCjr owner will want to be without; the color and sound are excellent.
Climbing The Money Tree
If galloping around 93 screens in search of a maiden isn't your idea of fun, then how about slogging through 77 weeks' worth of financial data in an attempt to make a million dollars?
Blue Chip Software creates games for the Walter Mitty in us. Millionaire is for wheelers and dealers on the New York Stock Exchange; Tycoon, for the commodity speculators; and Baron, for those who believe that the only sure way to millions is real estate. These games are available for the IBM PC family of computers, most compatibles, the Apple II series, Macintosh, and Commodore 64/128. The IBM version costs $49.95; the others a little less.
Which of these games you'll want to play depends on your perspective and experience. I bought my first stock when I was 12 years old. The company promptly went bankrupt and my three-share certificate now graces my wall. How to invest in real estate has become the biggest TV-ad fad since how to grow hair on a bald head-and about as successful, I imagine. The only thing I know about commodity speculation is that I shouldn't. Therefore, Tycoon was the game I chose to test my financial acumen.
Before you can begin Tycoon, the computer takes about four minutes to generate a unique trading environment from 300,000 possibilities. Once the environment is set, you are given $10,000 and a list of 15 commodities to buy and sell.
Although I've never seen a soybean, and can't stand soy sauce, I selected them as a likely vehicle for my fortune. Somewhere I read that the way to play commodities is to pick one and stick with it-not to jump from wheat to pork bellies (yuck!) to heating oil. Apparently that is sound advice. By ignoring all other commodities and concentrating on soybeans, I parlayed my $10,000 into $1,082,598 in just 60 weeks. (If only I were so lucky in real life!)
But Tycoon is more than a game for those of us too chicken to buy real soybeans. Like Millionaire and Baron, it is an educational game which closely simulates actual economic situations and the workings of real markets. Blue Chip Software says these programs are used at all levels of instruction-from fifth-grade economics classes in the Chicago Public Schools to college courses at Penn State and Southern Illinois University.
It's true, you will learn about interest, commissions, taxes, margins, short-selling, and options, but these games may not make you a more successful investor. They may have just the opposite effect. Once you see how easy it is to make money, once you think you've mastered the technique, you may be tempted to mortgage the house and play in the real world. But before you do, give me a call. I've got a tonic guaranteed to grow hair....