30
Oct
11

Lincity on NetBSD

Title screen

Title screen

Lincity is an interesting simulation game very much like SimCity for DOS.  It seems from the documentation and the website that the first version was released in 1995, and updated until 2003. Whilst the main premise of the game is very similar to that of SimCity, there is actually a goal. You must either manage to build a sustainable society, or build rockets to escape to another planet. Fortunately you have much more control over the economy, as opposed to SimCity where the free market decided what zones were filled with what industry. Here’s a brief description of some of the important elements.

Residences

The first thing you’ll notice that’s different is that you select and build buildings instead of zoning land. Positioning your houses needs to be carefully thought out, they need access to several basics in order to be happy. Jobs, food, and goods are the basics they will need, they can either get these from transport (such as track, road or rail) or from a nearby market within walking distance. In order to make locations more desirable you will need to have cricket grounds nearby to keep them entertained and nearby health care, and fire protection. If people are unable to find a decent home they will build a shanty town on their own that causes large amounts of pollution and fills map space you often want for construction.

Markets

Advanced tech level city

High Tech City

You can think of markets as being like commercial zones, they are the locations that people come to buy and sell goods. Almost every type of building will require a market to get workers (called jobs), or raw materials for operating. The markets act as a conduit for goods and services to get where they need to go, so connecting them together by transport  is a good idea. Transport can be used instead of the market, but they do not keep a lot of stock of items, so anything required in industrial quantities best come from a nearby market.

Industries

Industries provide raw materials,  and jobs to local transport and markets. In order for them to run and be productive, they must be provided with particular goods, workers from nearby houses, and in some cases electricity (for the higher tech stuff). You can often enhance the production capability by providing power from windmills, or other extra materials that speed up the process. Again like residences you select which type of industry you are going to build, so it is important to make sure to balance the construction out across the different industries. If you fall short on a particular type of goods or workers, you will be left with unused buildings or worse, people will run out of food and start starving, or will be unable to  get a job and draw money from the cities purse.

Technology

Zones mixed together

Another building strategy

Technology plays an important part of this game, it unlocks the buildings that can be constructed, and can also affect their efficiency after they are built. In order for the tech level to go up you have to build a structure that boosts it, either a monument, school or university. The monument only uses jobs, and only during its construction. It is only really useful to unlock the first building to unlock, the school. Schools use jobs and goods to boost the tech level. Universities operate the same way schools do, except on a larger scale in both tech increase and resource usage.  Your tech levels can drop if your schools or universities run out of goods or jobs. Getting high-tech levels can require a large amount of jobs and goods, so having a large economy and industrial base is important.

Despite the amount of depth and complexity you never feel lost, or find yourself not knowing what to do. The online help system is very good and describes in detail how all the different elements work together. When you first unlock a building and click the icon to build it, the online help shows you the basics of how it works. This can be a bit tedious if you’re a veteran player and already know what the buildings do, they could have perhaps had a setting to turn this off.  The main display has some graphs that are informative, left clicking changes the type of graph, and right clicking brings up the online help for the current graph. This was a bit counter intuitive, and there was no visual cue to let you know help was available. I found out about how they work purely by accident. The graphs themselves are quite useful, and you can overlay the minimap on the main screen using the V key, which was quite useful when trying to line up a coal mine, or locating unemployment. To scroll around you use the arrow keys, you can scroll with the mouse by holding the middle mouse button.

Expanded first strategy

Expanded first strategy

The graphics are simple yet colourful and appealing. It is easy to identify the buildings, and see which buildings are actively producing. There is no sound to speak of, at least where I was playing it. I found that the gameplay was addictive, but could be quite slow. With the Simcity games, you would basically go on a building spree as long as you had funds. With this game I found myself trying a few different strategies and waiting to see how they panned out. Once I succeeded in creating a decent sized city, I basically tuned and tweaked things here or there trying to achieve the sustainability ending. Whilst this certainly is enjoyable and addictive, it takes an extremely long time to achieve sustainability. I found that the slightest small thing could set you back to square one, and you be waiting again for a long time. If you were to play the game with the goal of getting the rocket into space, I’m sure it would be more exciting, and have more involvement in building up the economy to achieve it. I suspect however that this too would take a long time, although I may be wrong, as I have not tried this for myself (yet).

First Strategy

First Strategy

I’ve been playing on my Sparc Station under NetBSD, and didn’t have any trouble building Lincity from pkgsrc. It is available on pretty much any platform however so you don’t have to set up a special system in order to play. Like with jetpack I had to use X over the network in order to play, and I found that this worked pretty well providing you are on a LAN. The only time I noticed any slow down was when I accidentally changed desktops and switched back. I had to wait a little less than 5-10 seconds for the screen to complete refreshing. Otherwise the animation works quite well. The amount of CPU resources used depended on the game speed I set, but even at the highest setting the game played quite well. I thought this was pretty impressive considering the hardware I’m running it on!

All in all Lincity is a good city building game, I wouldn’t call it a clone of SimCity though, and that is what makes the experience new and fresh. I had to think about the design of my city in a whole new way. I found it to be addictive, fun, and a good way to make hours and hours of time disappear.

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