Showing posts with label macintosh. Show all posts
Showing posts with label macintosh. Show all posts

Sunday, September 24, 2023

My Friends, I Have Wasted a Year - Civilization II Gold Review

Title: Sid Meier's Civilization II Gold 
Publisher: MacSoft
Author: MicroProse
Year: 1999
OS: Mac OS 7.1 up to OS 9.2
Overall Rating: 5 of 5 stars

The misquote in the title is from Emperor Titus in 79 A.D. and is apt for a review of any of the Civilization Games. 

There were so many changes from Civ I to Civ II and the Gold version expanded on those, this version is like a brand new game. This particular version is my favorite despite being "made of glitch". I have delayed reviewing this game due to the incredible breadth of content and play options. 

This is an exploration strategy game, if not THE strategy game of the late 90s and early 2000s. You pick a civilization headed by an avatar representing that culture/civilization. From there you select a map type, either pre-made like the one below or a randomly generated world. Next comes scenario modifiers, where you can race for Alpha Centauri or have a slugfest to dominate our Earth (or approximation of Earth). 

From there, you explore and build cities to support both combat units and non-combat units like explorers and settlers while also competing to complete Wonders. The incredible number of wonders, improvements, and units keeps the fun going for hours if not weeks or months.  

Now, here is where the fun begins. In Civ Gold, you get a wonderful introductory video (if you have the CD-Rom, that is) and a scene cut of your wonder being built. These videos are beautiful and well-timed so as not to disrupt gameplay while also being fine enough for educational purposes. They actually enhance gameplay rather than being annoying. 

The Throne Room option is annoying because it adds nothing. 

In addition to the basic game, the Gold came in the form of a scenario editor, a cheat mode, hot-seat multiplayer options, and three collections of scenarios. Conflicts in Civilization, 8 "Best of the Net" designed by fans, and a final collection called Civ II: Fantastic Worlds based on MicroProse games. 

Additionally, the AI was much improved over the last iteration... Ha-ha, Just kidding!

Seriously, there must have been some improvement made to the AI, considering it would have to deal with random scenarios, new city improvements, new wonders, new units, and a mess of different scenario concepts all of which could be modified by hot-seat multiplayer or scenario parameters. This is asking a lot of any AI, even today. 

So it was taught to cheat, like instantly constructing units or improvements at will while having barbarian hordes wash over the map. Add in some actual gitches and you have comedy in the making. My personal favorite is you can use a wrapping map that the AI doesn't get. It will try not to go off the non-existent edge and send troops the long way around the world.  

The most famous glitch was allowing the AI to have Gandhi. Each AI-controlled civilization has a preassigned level of aggression, 1 to 10.  One is non-aggressive and 10 is omnicidial manic. This would be fine if it weren't for the modifies applied by technology gains. Democracy applies a -2 to aggression right about the same time cultures start getting cruise missiles and atom bombs. Gandhi starts at 1 then goes two less with Democracy. In computer math, he ends up with nukes and an aggression level of 255 on a scale of one to ten. Amusingly, if you disable nukes (through the scenario editor), Gandhi's opts for a Macrosss style cruise missile massacre. 

Either works exactly like this: 

Despite all of this, it is very easy to kill a week or more playing this game non-stop. I give it 5 stars due to the endless replayability provided by the scenario editor and the excellent modding tools provided out of the box. 

Monday, February 8, 2021

Dark Queen of Krynn - Macintosh Version - August 24, 1992

Welcome to These Old Games, 1992 edition. The Dark Queen of Krynn was a part of SSI's Gold Box series of D&D games. It happens to be my personal favorite. 

This was part 2 of a three part sequence. You could (and should) bring your characters over from Death Knights of Krynn. Back in the day, I was buying these games singly, and I had no idea Death Knights of Krynn existed because it wasn't on CompUSA's shelf that week. Actually, Death Knights would not appear for 2 more years on Macs. 

I am not sure where I'm going with this post, as this is neither review nor walk-thru. Perhaps it is a retrospective. I should just star it up and add some publication information to make this a full review. I don't know, maybe someday. 

When you drop into the game, you are presented with a blank screen, where all of the action begins. Once you have some characters, either through import or generation, you can begin. 

What I loved about this game was it's faithful rendition of D&D. You had class and racial restrictions, which were locked to "hard mode". There was no bypassing these. This game was the first to enforce spell limits for Wisdom and Intelligence. Typically, you'd discover this when a character looses a point on a Stat after a certain point. 

Also, the rule booklet doesn't explain that Elves can't be raised and "our elves are different", so they can and do sleep and are subject to sleep spells. So... considered yourself warned. The kinder's have an unusual ability, they can backstab with a blunt weapon which is helpful in more than a few circumstances. 

There were also some bugs which could wipe you out. Save often is the golden rule. 

The first bug is that characters eligible for level up would be highlighted in a nasty pink color. Sometimes, the game would bug and not highlight your character. You could go on forever thinking a character had not leveled. This isn't a major bug because if you hit the train command, that character could train. You just had to watch the experience points to know you could.  

The reason I mention this bug first is, there are a bunch of cheat codes for this game. In the DOS versions, you have to do some junk to access them, but on a Mac they were ready to go out of the box. Pressing a certain key combination would bump your character up to the next level. This could make the game unplayable, or at least unrewarding. (I think it was alt-J or -J). This cheat will completely ruin the game. The ⌘-J cheat could age your characters into losing INT or WIS, so be careful. 

The next bug is frustrating. There is a "quick mode" which would have the AI take control of your character(s). First, the AI is pretty stupid and second, it is faster than you. Once quick mode was in effect, hitting the space bar fast enough to stop it was nearly impossible. One trick to get out of it was to remember the character order and slam the space bar before the next character's turn. Frustrating. 

A third bug was the possibility that the game would teleport the party to a room with no exits. Reboot was the only way out as this bypassed the save game menu. You loose progress, but at least you can recover. 

A fourth bug was basically the opposite of the third bug. A monster would generate in a room with no exits. In this case, you couldn't end the battle. You could select flee. You didn't gain treasure or experience, but at least your game could continue without a reboot.  

The are several cheats that are almost necessary to play the game. The players are horribly short of magical arrows and this game power escalates fast. You need +2 arrows right from the start. Unfortunately, you can only buy magical arrows at one point and they are expensive. The other frustrating part of this game is coins are dead weight, slowing your character down and have relatively little value besides Identifying items. So, when you get to the point of being able to purchase magic arrows, you the game has trained you not to carry steel pieces. 

There are two variants of mugging a character for goods. One is in-game and one is out of game. 

In game, you can create a bunch of characters which always generate with specific equipment. Typically, you'll use fighters who start with 40 +2 arrows. Create Bob, Ted, Jim and so on, add them to the party and transfer their gear to a character you intend to play with. Then remove them from the party and delete them. Instant infinity arrows. (Not really, you'd have to do this a lot.) 

The second method is out of game and carries some risk. It is also labor intensive. In the save folder are some files. You'll see all of your characters appear with the ending .qch for Queen CHaracter. These are the files you want to mess with. 

If a character is awarded a cool item save the game and quit. YOU MUST QUIT! 

Hit the ⌘+D to duplicate the whole folder - Twice! Name one "working copy" and the other "backup". Don't touch "backup" unless something goes wrong. Open the game. Steal the item you want from your character. Save and quit. In the finder, duplicate that character in the "working copy" folder. Rename it to <your character's name.qch> and drop it into the Save folder. You'll get a warning that you are overwriting the file. That's ok. 

When you reopen the game, now two characters will have that item. You can repeat as often as you like. In fact, if you reduplicate the folders, you can double the number of items you can steal each time. So one item converts to two on the first cycle, then you duplicate two items on the second cycle for a total of 4. On the third cycle, you have enough for a whole party. I would create a holder character, so I could dump extra good items to them. That was more labor intensive, but effective. 

Back in the day, this was all done on floppies, so you had a slight chance of having a disk failure. Especially if you were using the free CompUSA disks or had hole punched a 400K so it read as 800K. Working on an actual hard drive is easier. 

Since you are in this folder and you have access to huge hard drives, you can make a copy of your whole save folder in case something gets borked. The files labeled SavGam<letter>.QSV are all of your saved games. It's good to have a copy in case you get happy hands and overwrite one. 

There are 2 files in this folder that I could never figure out. VaultA.DAT and VaultB.DAT. The game won't work without them and editing them with a hex editor doesn't work. They also touch your saves and characters, so you can fry your whole game by messing with them. 

I am pretty sure I am not done with this game. Heck, I'm the guy who ran through 100 days of a pen and paper game by the hour, so no I am not done. Only for now. 

Thursday, April 16, 2020

These Old Games, powered by Macintosh

Well, let me introduce you to the little machine that sparked the idea for These Old Games. I always meant to review old video games, but that never came to pass. Too many people do it better.

Anyway, I have this little odd machine from 1999 that just keeps ticking. It began it's life as a Scandinavian Mac from lord knows where. The prior owner tried to throw 10.4 on it via an external DVD drive and apparently got hosed by the language or the chipset. It ended up as eBay fodder. I picked it up for 20 bucks.

I feel bad about that because they went through all 52 steps to upgrade the hard drive from 6 GB to  16 GB.

I was able to "fix it" by wiping the whole thing down to 9.0 then disc danced my way back to up to 9.2.2 using discs I had lying around. Theoretically, the whole thing shouldn't have worked, but somehow it did. It also required me to install 10.0.3 Kodiak. As beta-ware it's ok. 0.3 is nothing like OSX in use.

Looking at the machine, I can't tell if the prior owner replaced the Apple logo with a newer one or perhaps that logo is made of plastic which is not as susceptible to sun bleaching. I've had to glue the little leaf back into place twice in the past decade or so.

The little beast has an upgraded battery and RAM. I believe it has a 512 mb RAM chip inside, but it can't read it to the full potential. The modern battery gives it a life of an 8 solid hours, or days if I run a RAM disk.

The Airport card works, but doesn't connect to any wifi router with modern security. I can plug into a cable, so theoretically, I can connect to the internet. I'm running Classilla but that is super wonky with modern websites. It's far better not to try.

To supplement the 16 GB hard drive, I have a 32 GB thumb drive which occupies the single usb port. It's a pain because this machine works nicely with my Bamboo tablet.

Over the years, I have been able to pick up editions of Mac Addict at my local thirty store, so I basically have every insane bit of software "1999 Me" would have wished for, two decades late.

This machine is ridiculously overpowered for what it was meant to be, but I can't tell you great it is to open up Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy or Zork.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Harpoon II Review for Macintosh OS 9

Title: Harpoon II
OS: Mac OS 9, 64k and Power PowerPC plus Windows.
Year: 1994
Producer: Three-Sixty Pacific
Setting: Combat Simulation
Number of players: 1
Rating: ★★★★★

One of my favorite games from the 1990's is Harpoon II, by Three-Sixty Pacific. 

If you've ever played Civilization and said, "Hmmm... I wish there were more micromanagement in this game..." then Harpoon is the series for you. The initial offerings for the series were simple 2d images of a simulated radar screen, more recent updates use 3d graphics. Personally, I like to the simple 2d. More natural for a simulation, in my mind. 

The game presents a series of scenarios, each of which allows you select your level of realism, control and side. The scenarios hop around the global from Greenland to Antarctica. Each force has specific victory conditions and you receive a ranking in for each condition.

When the game opens, you have a strategic map and a tactical map. You can create as many as you like. You can create formations and CAP patrols, activate ECM/Radar/Com, determine speed and altitude/depth, and a myriad of other functions for each unit. The group command allows you to keep assets together and a waypoint editor allows you to send them off to battle. Or you can leave it the AI. 

Never leave stuff to AI, it isn't that bright. One of the limitations of the game is that the AI only deals with certain parameters, the objectives and can be faked out far too easily. Be careful as you can easily issue orders that will result in losses for stupid reasons, such as planes running out of gas or subs tooling up to a battleship on the surface. The AI happily does that to your opponent.

One of the tricks to this is the time compression settings. You can slow things to a crawl or even pause, then leap to real time or faster to get to the meat of the action. By slowing moments before an important event happens, you can save, proceed to the event and if you don't get the desired result, quit and reopen the game for another chance.
All and all, Harpoon II is very much a tabletop counter game perfectly adapted for the computer. If you like Avalon Hill games, you'll love Harpoon II. It works under Mac and Windows and best of all it's always willing to play with you. 

As this product and equipment ages, I have noticed some bugs. I have a Performa 475 which runs the game very slowly, as it did back in 1994 with no issues. The Performa has OS 7.5.3 and 32 MB of memory, which is about the most it can have. When running the software on a G4, 450 mhz sawtooth, with 512 mb of memory under 9.2, the program hangs on launch. I've tried every solution that comes to mind to fix this but nothing works. One work-a-round is opening a saved game, which allows you to exit that scenario and pick another. There is something about the video file that launches on start up. 

This brings to mind another funny thing about Harpoon II. On a Mac, the Harpoon II folder has a folder called resources, which contains videos used at various points in the game. If you can match the size and name of the old video, you can replace it with something else. Anything else. 

I seem to recall using movie clips at one point...

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Clamshell iBook Hard Drive Replacement Alternative

My aging Blue iBook is suffering from a lack of space. This machine shipped with a 10 GB hard drive way back in 1999. Since I launched, the need for installation space has gone up noticeably. has wonderfully detailed instructions for repair of a variety of consumer products, including the iBook. They are my "go to" site for most repair projects. However, replacing the iBook drive has 10 sections, 36 steps and no time listed for the upgrade. It is also marked difficult. Since I trust them, I believe that this is within my skill range, but will exceed my patience for the task.

When I upgraded my old computers hard drive the task took all of an hour. This is a much bigger project, one I am not convinced that I ready to start.

I had been using a USB thumb drive as an alternative to upgrading the drive, but having a little dongle sticking out the side of the computer was always a recipe for disaster. What if I broke the one and only USB port?

Well, that is where the SanDisk Cruzer Fit USB drive comes in. It's a tiny USB drive with more than adequate storage. This 32 GB drive was less than $20.00. Now you can get several of them for a little less than $35.00.

The SanDisk Cruzer would not be my first pick because I am clumsy and forgetful. Under normal circumstances, I would lose this thing in less than a day. However, once it is plugged into the iBook, it's sleek, small form is perfect for this machine. As you can see in the next picture, the SanDisk Cruzer doesn't extend past the edge of the case.

Perfect! Drive problem solved, no particular downsides other than loosing the use of the USB. Aside from a floppy drive and Wacom Table, I have nothing that uses that port. To be honest, I won't need to use either one for this laptop.

One caveat when plugging any drive into a OS 9 Mac - Sometimes the Mac will want to initialize the disk into a flavor or form it can use. Most modern machines do not have this problem, so plugging the drive into the Mac first, formatting if needed, then putting information on it using a different machine is the route to go.

In a perfect world I'd upgrade the hard drive, but this solution is so handy compared to the real fix, I'm gonna run with it.

Pros: Cheap and easy.
Cons: Can't boot from USB. Utilizes the only USB port on the machine.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Gemstone IV and The Wizard

This week, I will be reviewing the Simutronics Wizard for Mac and PC. The Wizard is the client for most Simutronics' games, I will be focusing on Gemstone IV, but this could apply to any game supported by the Wizard.

My goals are:
Install Wizard on Mac OS 9.
Install Wizard on Chromebook.
Install Wizard on Windows.
Getting the most out of a Mac OS 9 install using other software.

Bonus points if I cover:
Telnetting into the game.
Cover Stormfront for Windows and/or Linux.
Cover other MUD software for Windows, Linux, Mac OS, OS X and Chromebook.

Tall order...