E3, the Electronic Entertainment Expo, invaded the Los Angeles Convention Center and environs from June 12-16, and left craziness and delight in its wake. I’ve never been a great fan of the shoot’em up games, maybe it’s my background as an Infantry officer where the shooting is real. Instead, I searched the humongous displays in the Los Angeles Convention Center for build’em ups.
I found two: a relative newcomer, Farming Simulator, and the newest iteration of a classic, Sid Meier’s Civilization.
Farming Simulator, on the market for about three years, already has a fan base of about 5 million players worldwide. This is such a serious game, I was tempted to write “users” instead of players.
When I first saw it, I expected something more tongue in cheek, like Sim City, where earthquakes and even Godzilla could be unleashed on your city. When I sat down to discuss the game with a representative of Swiss company GIANTS Software, he explained that their goal was to make as realistic a farming simulation as possible.
You learn and experience farming from this simulation. You need to plant, fertilize, and tend to your crops. You even need to plan over multiple years, rotating crops so you don’t exhaust nutrients in the soil.
Another part of Farming Simulator, and I think a key ingredient of its popularity, is the detail given to farming equipment. The demo I saw was release 17, which will be available later this year. Manufacturers of 60 brands of equipment worked with GIANTS, accurately modeling over 200 pieces of equipment. You can buy, if you can afford it, and customize the equipment for your farm and its geographic locale. You even get to pick the color, if that is a choice in the real world.
Release 17 will support moding, so that fans can create scenery elements, vehicles, and animals to add to the game. GIANTS Software offers free tutorials on their site on creating mods.
So if you ever wanted to know what it takes to raise cows, chickens, and bacon, I mean pigs, this is your game. Farm Simulator is available for PCs, MACs, and a variety of consoles.
Sid Meier’s Civilization has been a staple of computer simulations since its first release in 1991. The player assumes the role of the ruler of a civilization and must guide it through history, beginning in 4000 BC. Where Farm Simulator gets you down to the nitty gritty of farming, the farming you do in Civilization is on a much more macro level. You assign members of your civilization to farm in a particular area, and they raise the cows, chickens, and pigs.
Firaxis Games demonstrated Civilization VI at E3. This release keeps the classic turn oriented, hex map design, but adds more tools and new ways to use existing elements.
For instance, instead of just allocating resources for research, you can deploy units to move about and actively explore. Another refinement is the ability to embed units within other units. Now, instead of just having an infantry unit on a hex, you can embed anti-tank support with it.
Civilization VI also expands the role of city states, introduced in Civilization V. City states are independent of any of the players, or rival civilizations. The players may now send envoys to a city state to influence its policies and gain favors. Sounds like lobbyists to me.
The demo at E3, at the end of this article, shows you a civilization move from subsistence agriculture to launching rockets into space. Civilization VI will be available in October.