The year of the sim. (Game Insider)(new simulation game software and devices) (Column)
by Shay Addams
MicroProse, acquired recently by Spectrum HoloByte, has quietly killed its animated adventure game department. In early fall it shipped Bloodnet, a role-playing game from the Paragon design team, but Dragon-sphere will be the last such quest, and the company is also dubious about a follow-up to Darklands.
MicroProse will return to producing the kind of games that made it famous: simulations such as F-14 Fleet Defender, which should be on the shelves now, and strategy games like Sid Meier's Civilization. The Civil War sim Meier was working on has been put on hold until at least the fall of 1994 while he finishes CPU Bach for the 3DO. And he may decide to do an add-on for Civilization (or even a brand-new version) first - maybe something like Civilization in Space. MicroProse's new Coaches Club Football simulation and a space strategy game called Masters of Orion should already be in the stores.
More sims. Simulations continue to multiply, perhaps because so many kinds of games - planes, tanks, city builders - fall into this category. One of the most unique is Detroit, Impressions' ultimate automobile simulation. Detroit re-creates various aspects of the automobile industry by providing the tools for designing and mass-producing your own car. Marketing plays an important role in this resource-management challenge.
Interplay is doing CD-ROM versions of Maxis's SimCity, SimEarth, and SimAnt. The company is revamping each game extensively and adding digitized video. A 40-person film crew is currently shooting footage for the CD-ROM version of SimCity, which is due out in the spring. The SimAnt CD-ROM should be on the shelves now. interplay also released a CD-ROM version of Alone in the Dark recently, and at press time the company was saying that it hoped to ship an interplay tenth-anniversary CD-ROM with Wasteland and nine more of its biggest hits by Christmas. Stonekeep, Interplay's landmark role-playing game, is now set for a spring release.
Not a simulation. The computer game industry is a bizarre one. You'd expect the hottest title from a company called Strategic Simulations to be a simulation, or at least a strategy game. But it's actually the latest release in the AD&D role-playing series, an all-new world set in the time of The Arabian Nights. Al Qadim is the name of the fantasy world, and Genie's Curse is the first role-playing game that takes you there. Unlike most AD&D games, it's a one-character quest. Your character is pregenerated, allowing you to jump right into the action.
You can get a batch of adventures in Legend Entertainment's Spellcasting Party Pak, which contains all three of Steve Meretzky's wacko Spellcasting games. Two recent Legend adventures, Eric the Unready and Gateway 2, have been released on CD-ROM. For something new from Legend, try Companions of Xanth, which sports a new, easier-to-use interface. Legend's Bob Bates calls the adventure, based on the works of popular fantasy writer Piers Anthony, the company's "most beautiful" adventure.
Better late than never? You may have noticed that a few of the games I reported on in recent columns have inexplicably missed their ship dates - not an unheard-of event in the world of computer games, certainly, but that's no excuse for less-than-accurate coverage by a game insider such as myself. Sir-Tech has rescheduled Jagged Alliance from last fall to this spring, for instance. The second title in its Realms of Arkania series, Star Trail, is now planned for January or February. LucasArts' the Dig, Brian Moriarty's graphic adventure, is now set to hit the shelves in late spring. (I did learn that the mysterious Hollywood type involved in the project is none other than Jurassic Park producer Steven Spielberg. After deciding that a story he wanted to produce for the screen might work better and cost less as a computer game, he teamed up with Moriarty at LucasArts.) However, last month, when I said TIE Fighter would dock in time for Christmas, that was my mistake - I confused it with B-Wing, the X-Wing mission disk. TIE Fighter is a spring product.
Buttoned down for a dogfight. The most effective flight peripheral I've seen in years is the new CH Flightstick Pro. Based on the classic CH Flightstick, it's armed with three extra buttons atop the stick and a coolie hat that serves as a four-way switch. All the advanced flight sims support the new buttons for game-specific functions such as dropping bombs or switching guns. Most of them use the coolie hat to shift between views from the cockpit. I've seen similar features on more expensive joysticks that weren't as well engineered, and I highly recommend the Flightstick Pro. (The extra buttons require a two-stick game card; many inexpensive multifunction cards only support one stick.) If this stick doesn't improve your scores, you may as well go back to Pong.