Posts Tagged ‘Microprose

19
Nov
12

Colonization for DOS

Title Animation

Title Animation

Colonization was released by microprose in 1994 and is a turn based strategy game very much like Civilization. My older brother bought it for my younger brother some years later (in 1997 I think) for Christmas and we used to play it on a Cyrix 166Mhz machine with windows 95 on it. Colonization quickly became a favourite around the house because of its deep game play, good graphics and very good adlib music.

The Title screen

The Title screen

The game is set in the new world at the time when the great empires where expanding into new and unexplored territories. Initially your job is to explore and establish new colonies, trading goods with the homeland to make extra money. The game is less focused on warfare than Civilization, your economy, trade and relationships with the native Indians are more important.

Talking to the King

Talking to the King

You can’t ignore your military need either, Indians and other European colonies all make their presence felt. So it is important to have some military forces available if the need arises, but if you have too large an army the king expands the size of the force he will send when independence is declared. You can get around this by stockpiling muskets and materials for building artillery, and deploying soldiers only when you need them.

Talking to the natives

Talking to the natives

The base of your economy are your colonies that you will try to establish in as many locations as possible. The citizens in the colonies produce good that you can sell back to the home land. Some goods you will produce to maintain and build up your colonies, these include tools, muskets and lumber to build more buildings. Once you’ve produced some valuable goods you’ll need to be able to ship them back, so organising and protecting a fleet of merchant vessels is also important to your economic success.

Introduction

Introduction

Combat units on land consist of musketeers, dragoons and artillery. You’ll need to keep a stock of muskets and horses to make the first two, and tools and lumber to make the artillery units. The dragoons are arguably the most useful as they are fast, musketeers are slow but cheap to produce, and artillery are more expensive but pack one heck of a wallop.

The main game screen

The main game screen

On the ocean you can have your own privateer vessels to steal cargo and destroy the ships of the other powers in the region, but the privateers don’t stand a chance against proper warships. If you were to fight an open war the ship of choice is the frigate, it’s fast and powerful enough to sink most vessels except the large man-o-war vessels the king sends.

Meeting the natives

Meeting the natives

The graphics are in VGA and are quite good, All the sprites are easy to identify and the artwork for the various factions/people you meet is crafted well. To match the time in which the game is set most screens and dialogues have a wooden motif. By the time this game was released VGA had become the standard, and older machines using EGA or older were more of an oddity.

The colony screen

The colony screen

The music in the game is excellent. Music that is from the period, and some new compositions all add to the atmosphere of the game. The music will change in some circumstances to match what is happening on screen, for instance there is a particular piece used when in contact with the native people.

The european status screen

The european status screen

Colonization is addictive in much the same way as the original Civilization was, you keep thinking to yourself just one more turn and soon find you’ve been up past midnight. The challenge is a little different in that you spend much more time managing your economy and transporting goods than you do in other games. Because you can play on a random map, each time can be filled with new exploration and new possibilities. You can still get the game on Good old Games for $5.99 (us$) which in my opinion is very well worth it.

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24
Jun
12

Civilization for DOS

The Title Screen

The Title Screen

Civilization was made by Microprose back in 1991, and is one of the first very popular turn based strategy games. Back on our 386 Civilization was one of the staple games that everyone played, and played a lot of at some point or another. In fact my older brother played it so much that we have photos of him in front of the computer playing it, and he occasionally used to talk about it in his sleep! The main reason we played it so much was because of how deep the gameplay is, and it was always different every time we played. We had many different strategies that we used when playing. Dad would typically tried to conquer the world as quick as possible, avoiding the need to be super good with technology as long as he won before someone got enough technology to beat him easily. My older brother typically tried to develop his economy and build up his cities and technology faster than his opponents, then after he was ready he would either build a space ship or go to war! This would sometimes fail if someone came along with enough weapons to kill him off before he could get his economy running. The enemy AI is relatively strong on harder difficulty levels, but above prince level accomplishes this difficultly by cheating.

The main gameplay screen

The main gameplay screen

The graphics are very good in the VGA mode, and if you had enough memory extra graphics for the terrain would look a bit smoother around the mountains and hills. There are many animations like the palace, and when building are built. This can slow down your game a bit, but you can turn all the extra animations off if you like. The EGA graphics are also fairly good for the mode, but obviously nowhere near as nice as VGA. Tandy and MCGA mode are also supported but I’m guessing that they look very similar to EGA and VGA respectively.

City List

City List

We never had a sound card in our 386, or any of our other DOS machines either, so we used the PC speaker for sound. It was quite reasonable for PC speaker, and let you know what was happening effectively. Adlib, Tandy and MT32 sound is also supported,  but I’ve only tried the Adlib sound. The Adlib mode is quite good, most of the sound is better than the same effect on the PC speaker. For myself  (and my Dad) I like to use the PC speaker mode, partly because of nostalgia for the original 386, and partly because I like some of the sound effects better on PC speaker.

A more advanced Civilization

A more advanced Civilization

The gameplay is of course the main attraction with Civilization. It’s simple enough to understand easily (even if you’re a kid), but also deep enough to keep you playing again and again. There have been a few sequels to the first one, the one that me and my Dad like the most being Civ II. My brothers have both played and seem to prefer some of the more recent versions of the game, but I’ve some of them a bit overcomplicated for my tastes. In any case, all of us sometimes come back to the original for the gameplay. I think the original appeals to us because of its comparative simplicity to the newer ones. It lets you get down to the tasks that you enjoy doing, whether it be waging war, or growing an economy. You aren’t bogged down in being forced to deal with other issues. Not saying that the new ones are bad, just the original has a special appeal all of its own.

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03
Dec
11

Silent Service II on DOS

Title and loading screen

Title and loading screen

Silent Service II is another of the games we got in the microprose simulation pack. The game is focused on the war in the pacific as a submarine commander in the United States navy. You can choose a short single battle, a war patrol or a full war career. I don’t know how historically accurate the game is but it certainly is fun. We normally played the full war career as this gave you the fullest experience of being the captain of a submarine. You have to plan your patrol, how much fuel you need, when you need to resupply or repair, and where you think the best hunting will be.

A War Patrol

Selecting the submarine

Selecting the submarine

I set the simulation to use flawless torpedoes because the historical ones are painful when you go to so much effort to hit a battleship. I chose a gato class submarine as it has the best load out available at the start of the war. I got command of the USS Blue Fish and departed for the southern Japan patrol zone. During transit on the large map screen, you’re given notifications of what is happening in the war. They come in the form of text with a small image describing the event. This would have been similar to what submariners would have actually gotten in the way of news.

USS Bluefish

USS Bluefish

I had my sub travel around the coast near southern Japan and I lucked out and got a large target first up. I end up within about 3000 yards of a group of destroyers cruisers and a super battleship. Jackpot! Being so close I move slowly and try to get in front of the ships I want to target and let loose 3 torpedoes towards the battle ship and 2 others toward a heavy cruiser. The torpedoes pass close by a destroyer which is alerted and heads straight towards me, in doing so however it strikes the second and third torpedoes and sinks.

Patrol map screen

Patrol map screen

My remaining fish hit the battle ship and the heavy cruiser escapes damage, but by now the destroyers are nearly on top of me. So I dive and try to hide. I can see on the sonar that the battle ship has slowed down, but not stopped. I move towards it and on my way am hit by a couple of depth charges, damaging one of my engines. Thats only going to make it more difficult to strike the now damaged battle ship.

Navigation screen

Navigation screen

I launched debris to throw the destroyers off the path, and they begin to circle around a larger area. This gives me the chance to come back to periscope depth to finish of the battle ship with my aft tubes. The destroyers having spotted my scope make chase, but by then it’s too late the battle ship is sunk and I make my escape.

View from the periscope

View from the periscope

The next target I find is a transport that is on it’s own. I surface to take it out with the subs 5 inch gun to conserve torpedoes. The gun battle is relatively quick and the ship goes down. I find another large target in what was shaping up to be a fantastic patrol. Again I end up just within 3000 yards in front of the convoy.

Gauges

Gauges

Looking through the scope I saw another super battle ship and a normal battle ship. Jackpot again! The convoy is at the corner of a larger zig-zag maneuver, so I have to quickly try and decide which way I need to go to stay in front of the convoy. I manage to get close but again a destroyer gets between me and the larger battle ship. So I decide to send 5 torpedoes it’s way and quickly swing around to send 3 torpedoes from the aft tubes towards the other battle ship.

Damaged Battleship

Damaged Battleship

The torpedoes all seem to find their mark. The destroyer goes down and the battleships being relatively close had no chance to get away from the torpedoes. I had already dived deeper and set myself up for an escape as the torpedoes sunk both battle ships. I get hit by a few depth charges but fortunately escaped with minor damage.

Escape

Escape

I realise that I will start running low on fuel and torpedoes if I don’t start to head back to Pearl Harbour. On the way I run into a small convoy of transports lead by a solitary destroyer in the dead of the night. I sink the destroyer with a couple of torpedoes from the periscope. To conserve ammunition I surface to take out the remaining ships with gunfire. During the ensuing gun battle I take several shell hits destroying my periscope.

The gun sights

The gun sights

This is a bit of a disaster as a periscope is essential to take on larger convoys. Fortunately being night time I’m not hit too often and I prevail sinking 3 transports and a tanker. I decide to continue my journey back to port for repairs, but run into another medium target. I figure I should check it out. It turns out to be what I thought was only two freighters and a patrol boat. The patrol boats are pretty pathetic so you can often sink them with your gun. I start to fire on the patrol boat not realising that there was also a destroyer in the group which was circling around to my stern. Before I can react it rams me and I get sunk! That obviously ended my war patrol!

Graphics and Sound

Freighter on fire.

Freighter on fire.

The graphics in the game do the job quite well, but they aren’t really realistic when it comes to the view through the periscope. For the machines of the time, it was pretty good. The sound does a good job of giving you the sense of being in a sub. The engines rumble and the enemy destroyers send out sonar pings that you can hear. The gunshots are the only let down, but given the game supports Adlib and PC speaker this isn’t a surprise.

Conclusion

Dead

Dead

Silent Service II kept me and my brothers busy for a long time. Each time you play you get a new experience. Luck does have a big part to play in what targets you get, but only planning and a bit of seat of your pants cunning will get you the big targets and help you escape when you are being chased by 6 destroyers. The game succeeds in immersing you in the world of submarine warfare. Your decisions have a real impact on how successful you are, and whether you and your crew make it home. If you’re not careful it is common to get sunk, even by relatively small groups of ships like freighters. You never feel like you were cheated by the game, usually there is something you could have done to escape. At the end of a career or war patrol, you feel like you’ve achieved something, the score you get is a secondary thing, and only serves to rank players in the hall of fame. In conclusion this game has stood the test of time for me.

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27
Nov
11

F117a for DOS

Title screen

Title screen

Quite some time ago as kids we got a microprose simulation pack. There were four different games, one of which was a flight simulator called F117a, it quickly became one of our favourite games. You fly the F117 nighthawk aircraft in any one of a number of realistic locations and circumstances. There are several different types of scenarios and locations ranging from cold war missions over Siberia, to full conventional war in the Persian gulf. You can deploy a variety of different weapons including smart bombs, missiles, dumb bombs and bunker busters. The game is actually an improved version of another one called f-19 stealth fighter, it features an improved engine with VGA graphics. This was partly because the nighthawk was kept a secret for quite a long time. When the original game was made it was known to exist, but no-one knew what it’s capabilities were or what it looked like. When some of the details were declassified and images made available to the public, microprose released this update to the original game. Of course as a kid I didn’t know or really care about the details of the original plane, I would have played it and enjoyed it regardless.

Graphics

End of mission

End of mission

The graphics for this game are impressive for a DOS game of it’s vintage. The graphics are VGA and polygon based with some simple shading employed. The speed of the engine even on a old 386sx 20Mhz was still quite reasonable and playable. It is also scalable in that it works quite well on faster machines such as the 486 and Pentium even though they were not available at the time. As a kid I was pretty amazed by the quality of the graphics, I had never seen anything quite as cool.

Sound

Mission Briefing

Mission Briefing

The game supports the Adlib sound card, Roland sound devices, and the basic PC speaker. Not having a Roland I can’t attest to the sound quality, but both the other devices sound good. I often use the PC speaker out of nostalgia for my old 386 which we didn’t have a sound card installed. There is one terribly annoying sound that you can fortunately turn off. The engine sound of the aircraft is a high pitched squeal that gets very tiring very quickly. You can turn it off (and toggle all sound) using Alt+V.

Gamplay

The Cockpit

The Cockpit

The game play varies a lot depending on the parameters that you set up. Being a stealth fighter there is usually very little in the way of dog fighting. Your approach to the mission will depend on the scenario. In a conventional war you can approach the targets pretty much directly and if you happen to be detected you can deal with the threat as you see fit. If you play under cold war rules, even being detected is enough for you to lose. Stealth is everything in these circumstances. You need to plan your path around SAM radar installations and try to avoid enemy aircraft. I usually played on the conventional war setting as a kid as the cold war setting was quite hard. Flying around is generally pretty straight forward. Landing on the other hand can be quite tricky, especially if you have to land on a carrier. Learning to read the instruments is a must for landing on carriers, unfortunately I’ve never mastered it and crash nearly every time.

Overall

End of mission - watercooler talk

End of mission – watercooler talk

F117a has stood the test of time for me. I  still fire it up every now and then to sneak in blow up a bunch of stuff and get out. The variable game play means you can make it as easy or difficult as you like. It gives you an idea of what flying a stealth fighter may be like. After a few flights you may feel the need to change things up, as the auto generated missions for a area can become similar after a while. Changing theatre, rules of combat, or the skill level of the enemy usually changes things up enough. You may also find it challenging to turn on the full simulation for landings, especially in the case of carrier landings.

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