Tao of the Machine

Programming, Python, my projects, card games, books, music, Zoids, bettas, manga, cool stuff, and whatever comes to mind.

Day 3: Civilization

Another great game from the days of wayback. Its latest incarnation, Civilization 3, doesn't run very well on my computer (which admittely isn't state of the art). Fortunately, the first two versions are (still) just as playable.

This game is so well-known that I can expect most people to know what it's about, but for those who don't, here's the concept. You pick an ancient civilization... Egyptian, Roman, Aztec, Indian, Chinese, etc; or maybe not so old... German, American, English, French; or you create your own. The goal is to make your civilization a world power, or at least survive. That isn't as easy as it sounds, considering you start with only settlers and a very rudimentary grasp of technology. You have to build cities, invent technologies, multiply, explore, keep your people happy, and keep neighboring civs at bay.

This is a great game if you like world-building. Starting from scratch, you expand your empire by building more and more cities. You create armies to defend yourself or attack opponents (if your civ is the last one standing, you win the game). You can create ships to explore the world and settle new continents. You can create diplomats to negotiate with other civs (and do less noble things, like stealing their technologies). You can create caravans to trade with other civs.

Of course, your resources are not infinite. The location of your cities affects whether they are rich or poor, have little or plenty of food. This in return affects what cities can do, how long it takes them to build certain improvements (granaries, barracks, temples, warriors, settlers, wonders of the world, and much more) and how happy their inhabitants are. (Unhappy cities tend to revolt.)

You can win the game in several ways. As said, one way is to get rid of all competing civs. Another is to advance all the way to the "future" and launch a spaceship that reaches Alpha Centauri. Personally, I strongly prefer the latter.

No game is without flaws, and Civilization is no expection. The micro-management tends to get very tedious once you have a lot of cities. Every turn a handful of cities have completed a project, and you have to assign a new one. You'll spend a lot of time zooming to cities later in the game. (Civ 2 Gold has an "auto" feature to alleviate some of this pain, but this usually doesn't do what I want. :-)

The game is much richer than the concise description I just gave, and is definitely worth playing. Even the very first (DOS) version.

Reviews (of both Civ 1 and 2): at Gamesdomain, Adrenaline Vault, ATPM.

GameFAQs for Civilization, Civ 2, and Civ 2 Gold.

DLH cheats, trainers, etc, for Civ, Civ 2 and Civ 2 Gold.

UHS hints for Civ 2.

Finding a place where it can be downloaded or bought is left as an exercise to the reader. emoticon:smile

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-25 20:22:57   {link}
Categories: games, nostalgia

Day 2: Monkey Island

Yes, this is another LucasArts adventure. (And no, to reassure you: the other 5 days will not be LucasArts games. Nor will they be adventures, for that matter.) The official title is "The Secret of Monkey Island". I played it in 1991 or so, when I had my first PC.

Monkey Island is much like the earlier LucasArts (or LucasFilm as it was called back then) games on the C64, Maniac Mansion and Zak McKracken. Except that it goes a level up; it's bigger, better thought out (IMHO), and has better graphics than its predecessors.

This is the tale of Guybrush Threepwood, mighty pirate. Or at least that's what he wants to be. So he has to pass "The Three Trials", which is the first part of the adventure. No sooner does he complete the trials, than governor Elaine Marley of Melee Island is kidnapped by the evil ghost pirate LeChuck, and Guybrush has to assemble a crew, get a ship, and go after her.

This game was quite innovate for its time (and still is very good, really). For example, it has a nifty dialog system. When you talk to someone (who actually has more to say than just a line), you get multiple choices, and depending on your choice you can steer the conversation in a certain direction. You can't really say or do the wrong thing, though; you cannot die in this game. 1) (I love games where you cannot die; it leaves you free to explore without fear of an untimely and unexpected death, and you don't have to abuse the Save option every time you are about to walk around a corner.)

The game is also *fun* to play (as opposed to some other adventures in that day that lacked in the humor department). The game is full of puns, funny situations, and even cameos. (It doesn't go overboard though, like Monkey Island 4.) Also, the puzzles are quite innovate and have clever solutions. One of my favorites is opening the cell door using mugs of grog (I have a feeling that I talked about this before in my weblog :-). Or beating the sword master (using insult sword fighting, picking up new insults and retorts by dueling random pirates).

On the down side, some puzzles are rather difficult and/or require a lot of walking to and fro. Still, the solutions aren't illogical, although they might require a bit of a twisted mind. :) All in all, a great game, worth playing even in 2003. It's still for sale too (see yesterday's entry).


Also, see yesterday's links of the LucasArts Classic Adventures package, which includes Monkey Island as well. ScummVM runs it as well.


FAQs and walkthroughs

1) Although there is (at least) one place where it seems like you die... but it's really a pun on certain Sierra adventures. One of the many highlights of the game.

Posted by Hans "the poodles are only sleeping" Nowak on 2003-07-24 18:26:28   {link}
Categories: games, nostalgia

Day 1: Loom

This is possibly the best game I've ever played, in spite of its limited replay value. Loom is a point-and-click adventure, released in 1990. I first played the EGA version; later a VGA version was available with 256 colors. Even with 16 colors, the game's graphics are worth looking at.

The game is not flawless. It's been described as too short, and too easy. Then why do I like Loom so much? Mostly because it's subtle and elegant.

For example, take the controls. Other point-and-click adventures back in the day had a command line (e.g. Larry), or a list of commands and items on the screen (e.g. Monkey Island). In Loom, the protagonist (Bobbin Threadbare, from the weaver clan) only has a so-called distaff, which replaces commands and inventory. It can be used to play notes, and sequences of notes function as spells. You only start out with three notes (C/D/E), so the spells you can choose from are limited at first, but along the way you learn new notes and new spells.

The notion of drafts (series of 4 notes) as spells has another implication. The spell that means "open", for example, can be played backwards to have the reverse effect; in this case, to close something. This is crucial when it comes to solving some of the game's puzzles.

I like the story too. On a superficial level, it's just another "world being threatened by dark forces" plot. But it's done very well; when the story moves along, it doesn't become too predictable or feel like a drag. Bobbin starts out in his own country (weavers), then visits shepherds, blacksmiths, etc., all with colorful characters and places to explore.

Yes, it's too easy and too short. Still, I play it again, once in a while. I already know the outcome, and know what to do in all situations, but I still play it. It's like rereading a good book.

Walkthroughs and solutions


I'm sure it can be found in other places as well. If you're interested, consider buying the official version though (see below). Or maybe it can be found for cheap on Ebay.


Other links

(Unfortunately, there's no 100% guarantee that Loom (being an old DOS game) will work on modern computers running Windows 2000 or XP. It did work for me though, on both systems (and Windows 95/98 should be no problem either). If you're running XP or 2000, and your copy of Loom (or other DOS game) has no sound, take a look at VDMSound.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-23 20:04:38   {link}
Categories: games, nostalgia

7 days of games

The next 7 days, I will review 7 great (computer) games, just for the hell of it. At least I think they're great. ;-) If at all possible, the reviews should be accompanied by links to downloads, walkthroughs/cheats, and other reviews.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-22 20:04:35   {link}
Categories: games

The road taken

Jarno Virtanen links to an interesting paper [PDF] in his latest blog entry.

I'm not sure who to agree with, but that is not important right now. What strikes me as interesting is this list on page 58 of the paper:

Formalisms of Mutability

Construct a formal language in which it is possible to measure and express the degree and manner of mutability of a system.

Example mechanisms that provide mutability or tinkerability:

  • Interpreted
  • Strongly-dependent on configuration files/uses macros
    • humanly readable/writeable
    • additive
  • Not statically typed
  • Late/dynamic bound
  • First-class user-created "objects"
    • system/user-supplied indistinguishability
  • Doesn't require (global) recompilation, restarting, reloading
  • System hacks: hooks, plugins, APIs, layers, callbacks, frameworks, modularity
  • Open source
  • "undo"

Except for the 'undo', these are all characteristics of Python. (And one could argue about "strongly-dependent on configuration files", I guess. What does a configuration file mean in this context? Could a Python file be considered one?)

Seems like the future is here already. emoticon:smile

Posted by Hans "except most people don't know it yet" Nowak on 2003-07-21 23:22:34   {link}
Categories: programming, Python

Things and stuff

1. (via Chris Petrilli:) Mind Media Brain Persuasion Test. My results:

Your Brain Usage Profile

Auditory : 40%
Visual : 60%
Left : 55%
Right : 44%

What does this mean?

"""Hans, you are somewhat left-hemisphere dominant and show a preference for visual learning, although not extreme in either characteristic. You probably tend to do most things in moderation, but not always.

Your left-hemisphere dominance implies that your learning style is organized and structured, detail oriented and logical. Your visual preference, though, has you seeking stimulation and multiple data. Such an outlook can overwhelm structure and logic and create an almost continuous state of uncertainty and agitation. You may well suffer a feeling of continually trying to "catch up" with yourself.

Your tendency to be organized and logical and attend to details is reasonably well-established which should afford you success regardless of your chosen field of endeavor. You can "size up" situations and take in information rapidly. However, you must then subject that data to being classified and organized which causes you to "lose touch" with the immediacy of the problem.

Your logical and methodical nature hamper you in this regard though in the long run it may work to your advantage since you "learn from experience" and can go through the process more rapidly on subsequent occasions.

You remain predominantly functional in your orientation and practical. Abstraction and theory are secondary to application. In keeping with this, you focus on details until they manifest themselves in a unique pattern and only then work with the "larger whole."

With regards to your career choices, you have a mentality that would be good as a scientist, coach, athlete, design consultant, or an engineering technician. You can "see where you want to go" and even be able to "tell yourself," but find that you are "fighting yourself" at the darndest times."""


2. I just discovered that Orson Scott Card has a website. I've just finished the first two books of the Alvin Maker series. In English this time; it's better than the Dutch translation I read years ago. But maybe I just don't like Dutch. ;-) Either way, the books are still very impressive and thought-provoking.

3. InBoxer is a tool that fights spam, and it uses spambayes. I haven't used it myself, since it uses Outlook, but it might be worth a look.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-21 21:02:59   {link}
Categories: general, books, linkstuffs

Lost continents

From Wikipedia: Atlantis. I didn't know there were so many ancient sources mentioning Atlantis or "a large island beyond the pillars of Hercules". Hmm. Then again, anybody can edit this Wiki, so I don't know how reliable this is. :-/

See also: Mu, Lemuria. I used to have a book describing these lost continents, complete with maps. Te gek! That is too much to believe even for me. :-)

Related: Maybe not scientific, but interesting, are the stanzas from the Book of Dzyan.

Posted by Hans Nowak on 2003-07-20 17:08:05   {link}
Categories: esoterica

Ancient computers

Kasia Trapszo: The beginnings.

"So what was your beginning in computers? If in fact you are someone who does something with computers.. I'm one of the lucky few to do what I always dreamed about.. how about everyone else? Is this something you always wanted? Was it accidental? Necessity? What, why and when?"

Opa vertelt... Hmm, let's see. I was 12 too, and this was in 1985 as well. That Atari wasn't too bad, considering what types of "home computers" were around in those days. I got a Commodore 16. 16 Kb of memory, or actually 12 since the operating system took up 4. Pity about the memory, because in many ways it was a better computer than the Commodore 64 (which I got next)... a better BASIC, 127 (or so) colors, and comparable sound. (The C64's sound was not bad, aside... it took PCs years to catch up.)

One of the first games I played (loaded from tape, of course :) was a simple program called X-Zap. I rediscovered it on the Net a while ago, and C16/Plus4 emulators to play it. ^_^

Programming was cool, although it was difficult for me (being 12 and not a native English speaker) to figure out what all those commands did exactly. I recall that one of my first programs was something that showed a 3D bar chart, in nice colors. (C64 BASIC lacked these graphical capabilities, unfortunately.)

So I have been working/playing with computers since 1985, and I have been programming (or attempting to program) since then, but I didn't get the idea of doing this for a job until much later. I wanted to, but I was discouraged, mostly because of the myth that you need a very strong mathemathical background to be a professional programmer. But eventually I ended up working as a programmer anyway...

Posted by Hans "and not because of the Internet boom" Nowak on 2003-07-19 01:14:01   {link}
Categories: nostalgia

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