Happy Friday! Thanks again for joining us for another episode of Nerdy by Nature. On today’s show we reminisce about the good ol’ days of PC gaming, while MicroProse was so influential in the gaming world.
MicroPose was founded by Bill Stealey (a pilot) and Sid Meier (programmer), responsible for such greats as Civilization and X-Com which currently have a legacy of sequels. It was a humble begining in 1982 with the release of “Hell Cat Ace”, a flying combat simulator. It was very basic by today’s standards.
The main focus for MircoProse was on combat/racing simulations, and strategy type games. I never realized how many games I played over the years that MicroProse had developed, until I started researching this topic. In fact my most favorite game would have to be the Railroad Tycoon series.
Most Notable Games
- Civilization (1991)
- Civilization II (1996)
- Darklands (1992)
- F-15 Strike Eagle (1985)
- F-19 Stealth Fighter (1988)
- Formula One Grand Prix (1992)
- Gunship (1986)
- M1 Tank Platoon (1989)
- Master of Magic (1994)
- Pirates! (1987)
- Project Stealth Fighter (1987)
- Railroad Tycoon (1990)
- Red Storm Rising (1988)
- Silent Service (1985)
- XCOM UFO: Enemy Unknown (1994)
“Pirates!”, released in 1987 was a considered a pioneer with the ‘open world’ concept, and the multiple opportunities a player had. The game adapts a point and click feel, and you essentially create a role for yourself, choosing your own path from sailing, exploring, trading and killing.
“Railroad Tycoon”, released in 1990, was considered a pioneer with the business simulation genre. It incorporated many themes of economics and finance, and borrowed concepts from SimCity (1989). The player is able to start their own railway; setting up stations, transports goods, passengers and remain prosperous as competition becomes fierce.
Perhaps their greatest achievement was with Sid Meier’s Civilization. It incorporated turn based strategy. It also contained an extensive reference guide built into the program which was never done before nor had most of the game in darkness until the map is explored. The game’s objective is to “Build an empire to stand the test of time”, and begins in 4000 BC. Selecting from a number of well known civilizations, expand land and develop their empires. This game essentially inspired Age of Empires, and spawned 5 more sequels, not to mention re released on all platforms.
In 1994, “Colonization” was released, based on principles as seen in “Civilization”, except this time the focus is on colonizing the western United States. There was so much thought put into it, that it was highly criticized for its realistic dark look at colonization.
For those who wanted to imagine what is would be like to colonize a planet in space, Sid Meier released “Alpha Centauri” in 1999, set in a science fiction depiction of the 22nd century where the player takes turns colonizing the planet Chiron. The game won over all kinds of audiences, and some even compared the plot lines to such science fiction works of Stanley Kubrick, Frank Herbert, Arthur C. Clarke, and Isaac Asimov.
Role Playing Games
Another milestone mention is “Darklands” (1992), an RPG which is set in the Holy Roman Empire during the 15th century. This game is another example of open world play, and on top of all that, historically accurate less the supernatural theme. Complete quests that will give a positive reputation, or pursue a negative reputation by performing evil deeds. Just like in any RPG, players have the ability to set up their character attributes and skills.
So where are they now? Well, in 1993 MicroProse were bought and acquired by Spectrum HoloByte, then in 1998 Hasbro Interactive acquired them, and lastly now under Unfogames from 2001-2003. However, Bill and Sid had left the company in the early 1990’s. Sid now works for Firaxis Game, and was fortunate enough to get the rights for most of his games back under his control from Atari Inc.
MicroProse made a good range of games in the early days that were not bad for their time. Clearly there was a division; arcade combat style and vehicle simulator or turn based strategy. Which style did you like? Let us know and continue the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. We hope our podcast inspired you to go retro and relive the pioneering days of PC gaming.