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Entry 1098 posted in: 3. Gamebits

Syd the Sim A couple of weeks ago I made a small comment about the Sims [cfr. (insert title here)] and that made me look for that CD-rom and insert it once again. My harddisk still had an old neighbourhood peopled by Floydian personnel and I found a little man in a little house listening to the name of Syd Barrett. He was aptly dressed in a madcap costume and the first thing he did, after I had activated his personality, was setting the kitchen on fire. Pixels imitating life.

The Sims, I only have the first one plus a couple of extension packs, still is a very neat game and for the last couple of days I haven’t even checked my mails or bothered thinking about me blog. Such is digital life that it replaces reality.

If you know the game you will probably be acquainted with everything I’m going to write in the next couple of lines and if you don’t know the game you’ll probably don’t care. Sims is, let’s smash in an open window, a digital dollhouse and its concept is of devilish simplicity. You start, like in all simulation games, let it be SimCity, Transport Tycoon, Submarine Titans or others, with a limited amount of resources and in order to get a better life, what is what they make you believe is needed, you need more resources.

To get more resources, you need to have a job.
To get a better job you need friends.
To get more friends, you need more free time.
To get more free time, you need better household appliances.
To get better household appliances you need more resources.

Sims is as addictive as booger sugar and probably the best hidden persuader since Donald Duck to promote good old capitalistic consumerism.

One of the earlier simulation games that catched me drift was Settlers II. This 1996 (second) instalment of the series is still believed to be the best in its genre. I checked a magazine-giveaway Settlers IV later on but that game soon disappeared from my harddisk. I do remember that it had become too much of an Age Of Empires clone, all about military expansion but with too many supernatural powers, so I decided I’d better stick to the originals (AoE or Settlers, pick your choice).

Settlers II is one of the few games whose missions I’ve played more than once. I liked the ingenious transport system to be compared with a line of people passing buckets full of water in front of a burning house. Only in Settlers they pass every economical product: wood that needs to arrive at the carpenter to be turned into logs, grain and water that need to be turned into bread (at the bakery), fish, gold, weapons, etc… Trying to create an effective transport system without congestion was one of the absorbing aspects of the game. Although you had soldiers to protect and increase your territory this was not a military sim pur sang.

In 2005 I discovered an open source remake of the game called Widelands.

Widelands is a slow-paced real-time strategy free computer game under the open source license GPL. Widelands takes many ideas from and is quite similar to The Settlers and The Settlers II. It is still a work in progress, with development still required in graphics and bugfixing. The game runs on several operating systems such as Linux, BSD, Mac OS X and Windows. (Taken from Wikipedia.)

The problem at that time was that, although it had a game engine, lots of graphics were still missing and in quite a few occasions you had to look at small white squares moving over your screen representing a woodcutter or a soldier.

But, now 3 years later, the game developers list is quite impressive and the 13th build of the game can be played smoothly although some graphics still look a bit odd.

For those remembering the Settlers II days it is quite enjoyable, really, and on of the plusses is that it will now run in network mode, something that Settlers II refused to do.

Note: A thing I should mention is that the game saves a lot of debug or logging information and that these files can quickly run into the gigabytes. But if my memory is correct these sync stream dumps (with a .wss extension) are not really needed and can be deleted manually. Just have a look at your harddisk will ya.

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