by NEIL SHAPIRO
II Computing Magazine V1N1
October / November 1985
About the Author
Neil Shapiro is editor-in-chief of MacUser Magazine and is also chief sysop of the MAUG Apple Group on CompuServe.
The World of Gaming
The world of gaming on the Apple II is as varied as the people who own the machine. Creating software ranging from dazzling graphics and animation to complex brain-wrenching games ofstrategy and tactics, programmers on the Apple II are constantly striving to achieve new goals and more exciting products. H ere are some games that demonstrate this wonderful ability of the Apple II to amaze and entertain anew.
CHAOS AND ORDER RETURN
Archon II: Adept from Electronic Arts is a followup to its game Archon. That first game was played on a chessboard-like field with pieces moved by joystick. When one piece attempted to take another, the two pieces would engage in fast, arcade-like action to contest ownership of the square. Archon quickly became a classic, with its ingenious combination of chesslike strategy and arcade tactics. Well, Adept is even more challenging than its predecessor, and features exciting innovations.
In Adept, the Master of Order must struggle against the Mistress of Chaos on a battlefield of the four elements of Earth, Water, Air and Fire. The battlefield screen is a bright, almost dazzling display of the four elements arranged in concentric rectangles. The bright-red outer area represents (of course) Fire and features animated flames. In the inner Water area, waves move.Juxtaposed with the rocky green Earth and the calm violet Air, the animated elements make the battlefield screen a visual feast.
The players each control the Adepts of Order or the Adepts of Chaos. One of the players may be the computer opponent, as the computer can play either side. Two people may play each other, but that requires either the special equipment needed to hook two joysticks to an Apple or keyboard control by one of the players. Unfortunately, the quick action in the game makes the keyboard fairly impossible to use. So figure that most of your play will be against the computer, but that’s okay because the computer plays a most respectable game.
Each Adept shown on the screen may cast spells, summon an army of demons and monsters, or simply move and fight. The object is to capture six flashing power points that, from turn to turn, move about the outermost corners of each of the four elements.
An Adept who casts a spell may summon one ofeight varieties ofdemons or monsters, may heal an ally or weaken an enemy, release an ally or imprison an enemy, or (not very often) banish one enemy from the board. An aptly named Apocalypse spell decides everything in one immense battle.
In most moves, the Adepts summon the creatures of Order or Chaos to serve them in subsequent turns. The creatures all have different modes of fighting and different amounts oflife force (staying power), depending on which element they are fighting in. The Firebird, for example, can take more blows before dying if it fights in the domain of Fire than in Water.
When one creature or Adept challenges another, the battlefield screen clears to a tactical display. This tactical display may feature various obstacles or terrain, depending on the element field. But the action can be fast and furious, as the fighters are controlled by joystick. Some fighters, such as Giants, throw rocks; others, such as Sirens, have more innovative ways of close-in fighting. Learning how the various occult soldiers fight is one of the game’s most attractive features.
It’s good to see a sequel to a successful game that is not only as good as the first but extends the boundaries of that game’s system. Adept is such a success
OF JEWELS, BUTTERFLIES AND AMOEBAS
Finding a new idea in arcade games that is both different and playable is like finding a jewel in the rough. And no one knows more about finding jewels than Rockford, the personably animated main character of Boulder Dash from MicroFun, a rock-and-rolling excursion into fantasy and tactically governed reflexes. Featuring 16 caves, this game can satisfy the most jaded arcader. At first glance it seems to resemble the Dig-Dug school of games: a joystick-controlled little guy who tunnels about underground. As he tunnels, he can undermine various boulders, causing them to fall through tunnels already dug and crush his enemies-or himself. But whereas DigDug depends on a shoot-em-up philosophy (or at least blow them up), Boulder Dash demands that you think almost as fast as you can scream, madly yanking the joystick back and forth.
You see, scattered about in the caves are both jewels to grab and strange enemies that you must overcome. For example, the amoeba, a green amorphous blob, inexorably advances on Rockford from behind and begins to fill the tunnels as Rockford digs them. But wait, the deadly butterflies hover and glide about in the dangerous caverns-and their very touch is death to Rockford. But if you drop boulders just right, you can guide the butterflies to impact the sides of the growing amoeba. When that happens, a quick flash lights the screen as the butterfly explodes from its brief amoeba contact and turns into a scintillating jewel for Rockford to try to pocket.
Bright, colorful animation coupled with a breezy story line make this game more than just a momentary diversion.
TWO GAMES: TWO THEATRES
Simulation gaming used to require a person who wasn’t afraid to learn a lot of complex rules and do hundreds of calculations, could find up to twenty square feet of floor on which to place a map and juggle thousands of tiny cardboard pieces, and also knew at least one other person who shared all these traits and skills. That is no longer true.
The Apple II can bring complex, historical simulations to its screen in a way that makes such simulation games easier than ever to learn and play. Although these simulations do require thought and concentration, they bring a feeling of reality and veracity to gaming.
Carriers At War from Strategic Studies Group (SSG) and Kampfgruppe from Strategic Simulations Inc. (SSI) both simulate various World War II actions at a tactical level. Rather than the bold, strategic action of moving entire armies and divisions, these games simulate the multitude of smaller events and movements that make up a battle.
Carriers At War magnificently simulates the war in the Pacific fought by naval fleets. But even though the rules are complex and tightly interwoven, it uses command menus that make it easy to enter into play and to keep track ofhundreds of different items.
The on-screen display switches from menus to a strategic map that shows the Pacific islands and the fleets present. You may overlay BOULDER DASH the map with a weather map, which also indicates the wind or storm velocity. Furthermore, you may zoom in for a closer look at any part of the strategic map.
You can keep track of every plane aboard every aircraft carrier- individually-as well as each plane and ship present at various bases. The amount of detail would be truly staggering but for the text screens of multiple-choice menus that quickly become second nature to you. By using these screens, you can arm aircraft and send them out on their missions. You can also control the movement and the mission ability of every ship in all the fleets you command.
Many details are taken into account – how long it will take the planes to clear the runways, how long it takes to arm them, the distance to the target, and so on. And because the computer is doing the calculations, you need only sit back CARRIERS AT WAR and see how your decisions have turned out. Once you have played the six scenarios covering Pearl Harbor, Coral Sea, Midway, Eastern Solomons, Santa Cruz, and Philippine Sea (and you may take any side in each action, or even play opposing subsidiary commands!), you can design your own dramas. Using keyboard control to move an on-screen cursor, you can first design a map of water, islands, airports, and bases. Although a joystick might have been more useful here, you can draw maps quickly once you have the hang of it. Then you can design the individual characteristics of planes, ships, and carriers, and even program the weather. It’s no wonder that the Design Manual that comes with the game has 24 pages and the Player’s Manual only 16.
Besides its historical accuracy, Carriers At War is the best-playing simulation ofnaval warfare I have seen on either tabletop or video monitor.
Kampfgruppe from SSI recreates the fire and movement of the bitterly contested Eastern Front campaigns.
For two-player action, each player may take the Russian or German side; solitaire play is also allowed, as the computer can take either side. Of all the computer simulation games on the market, Kampfgruppe gives the most realistic feel of tactical, armored combat. Although played on the video screen, the game brings to mind tabletop armies of small lead models of tanks and men favored by many so-called miniaturist war gamers as well as by the more serious folk in the Pentagon. On the battlefields ofBryansk, Stalingrad, Kiev, and Berlin (as well as random terrain), the German and Soviet commanders in the game have to face many of the same strategic decisions made historically as well as taking a hand in the minuteby-minute tactical maneuvering of tanks, artillery, armored guns and infantry.
Each grouping of units is shown on the screen as a small silhouette. The game takes into account details such as whether infantry has disembarked, what direction a tank is facing, and the terram. But what makes this game innovative is that it implements sight or LOS rules. In noncomputerized gaming, line-of-sight rules often add realism at the expense of playability. Many tabletop players rue the day they started a game that required long rulers, protractors, pieces ofstring, and the patience ofjob. But adrl an Apple computer to such a brew and the LOS rules come alive.
In Kampfgruppe, all you have to do is to move the cursor atop a unit, press V for view and – presto! – the territory that the unit can see and fire into lights up. There’s no longer any doubt as to whether you can spot a particular unit or if the corner of a wooded area blocks your view. Kampfgruppe is not an easy game, but this new method of showing LOS calculations makes it attractive to the computer war gamer.
ARCHON II; ADEPT
2755 Campus Dr.
San Mateo, CA 94403
Requires 64K; $39.95.
2699 Skokie Valley Rd.
Highland Park, IL 60035,
Requires 48K; $40.00.
CARRIERS AT WAR
Strategic Studies Group TTY. Ltd.
336 Pitt St.
Sydney, Australia 2000
Requires 64K; $59.95.
Strategic Simulations, Inc.
883 Stierlin Rd.
Mountain View, CA 94043
Requires 48K; $59.95