Flames are shooting out of the windows. They're almost reaching the roof where the last few inhabitants have fled to. The crying and screaming can hardly be heard through the crashing sounds of more and more of the buildings support structure being eaten away by the flames. The helicopter lowers a rope through the dense smoke and pulls them up to safety one by one.
Has it ever occured to you that none of Maxis' classic Sim games are actually simulations in the strict sense? Well, OK, of course they are, but only in the way that all computer games are simulations: they simulate something, like a city, a planet or an ecological system. I guess that makes Monkey Island a simulation, too.
At first glance Arcanum looks like a role playing game full of great ideas: Its main attraction is its fantasy world, which is set at the time of an industrial revolution, that is about to turn it into a science fiction setting. It is a refreshingly unique place, full of whimsical magic and technical marvels, that has great potential for interesting twists to age-old cliches: How does an ageless being, like an elf, react to the rise of science, which is about to make the magic, that has kept him alive so far, obsolete? Is there a cheaper workforce than orcs, which can be exploited at will, for they are obviously evil and therefore deserve no less? Or what about safety: Should a wizard, whose magical power has an unpredictable effect on machines, be allowed to get close to steam engines or trains? There are so many new stories that could be told…
If you look over the shoulder of a core or hobby gamer today, you will surely find a gamepad in their hands. Such a controller is a must-have equipment and even the showpiece of every console. Further bundled with a sensational game title, the console appears as an irresistible package in the stores. But in the 80s, strange flowers sprouted here and there. At that time the joystick was still very popular and the home computer sector could not be imagined without it. Such a joystick was then also included with the Atari XE console. But for the overall package, Atari even included a keyboard for "advanced games" and – to get to the point – a lightgun. The toy in futuristic design was the means of virtual pest control in the included game Bug Hunt. The novel firearm, together with the launch title Bug Hunt, was the driving force behind Atari's first computer-derived console release. This seems very daring nowadays, since the control via controller is so natural. But in its time, the Atari marketing department apparently saw an advantage in the versatile usability of its console. The XE Game System was supposed to offer real arcade feeling with the help of this lightgun, which you could otherwise only get for many coins at the slot machines. Later, Nintendo also produced a lightgun called Zapper for the competing NES and marketed it together with the game Duck Hunt. In the end, it was clearly the NES that won the race for market share and the lightgun has largely disappeared, not least because of the lack of cathode ray tube monitors. So, did Atari bet on the wrong horse on the usability side, or was perhaps even the game offered in the overall package the drawback? An answer is purely speculative of course, but I mounted the horse, put on the cowboy boots and strapped on the shooting iron.