Rama (video game)
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Rama is a first-person adventure game developed and published by Sierra Entertainment in 1996. The game is based on Arthur C. Clarke's books Rendezvous with Rama and Rama II and supports both MS-DOS and Windows 95. It is the second Rama game to be produced. Earlier, a text adventure with low-resolution semi-static view graphics for every visited location was released in 1984 by Telarium (a sub-brand of Spinnaker Software, previously called Trillium until forced by a lawsuit to change the name) and ported to systems such as the Apple II and Commodore 64. In 1998 a PlayStation version was released in Japan.
As in many Myst-like adventure games, the player is an anonymous character; an astronaut who is assigned to replace the late Valeriy Borzov who died during the mission under mysterious conditions, as the introduction explains. Much of the gameplay is done with the "wristcomp", a device that is used for communication with other characters and mapping or transport to other locations. The player also has in possession a small android based on Puck which will comment and give descriptions of the surrounding objects or events (therefore used as an interface element for examining objects).
Four years ago, a gigantic cylindrical object entered the solar system. The International Space Agency (ISA) named it Rama and sent an expedition named 'Newton Team' to investigate and find its purpose and origins. They soon discovered that Rama is a hollow, rotating cylinder with enormous cities, populated by other alien species that have been collected during its travels: Myrmicats (seen in images but never encountered in the game), Avians, Octospiders. The 'native' beings of Rama are the Biots (biological robots) constructed by the aliens who built Rama, and are a part of it.
The player at first must investigate the area known as "the Plains" and find items that will help solve the logical/mathematical puzzles. Two Raman cities, nicknamed "London" and "Bangkok" by the expedition crew, will be visited in order to learn more about the species that accompany the astronauts. To proceed, the player must solve "complete with the shape which is logically missing" puzzles as well as mathematic exercises in the octal and hexadecimal number systems.
After the Plains have been explored (actually when the player has managed to reach and obtain all the useful inventory items), Rama changes towards an impact course with Earth and a special team inside the expedition (originally consisting of Heilmann, Borzov and O'Toole) proceeds to the "Project Trinity" and arms a bomb network to destroy Rama and its inhabitants. The player is then free to explore the island within the Cylindrical Sea, nicknamed "New York", that is the location for one of the bombs. While there, the player learns that Rama's course has diverted away from Earth and is no longer a risk, but the bombs have already been armed to explode in six hours. Unfortunately, O'Toole who knows the code to disarm it, is lost, and during the six in-game hours, the player has to interpret the code and find the bomb in order to disarm it.
The epilogue implies a sequel, which was already scheduled for production, but was never completed.
Many of the characters the player will meet first appeared in Rama II. There are also some characters who are never met but are referred to elsewhere in the game:
- Shigeru Takagishi (Scientist)
- David Brown (Mission Commander)
- Francesca Sabatini (Video Journalist) (played by Tiffany Helm)
- Otto Heilmann (Chief Security Officer)
- Michael O'Toole (Codemaster)
- Richard Wakefield (Chief Engineer)
- Reggie Wilson (Print Journalist)
- Irina Turgenyev (Career Cosmonaut) (Voiced by Sharon Mann)
- Nicole des Jardins (Medical Officer) (played by Amy Hunter)
- Hiro Yamanaka (IBI Agent)
- Janos Tabori (IBI Agent)
- Valeriy Borzov (IBI Agent; Deceased before the game and replaced by the player character)
Characters are played by live actors, each with their own behaviour towards the player. Although this largely doesn't affect gameplay, it enhances the realistic feeling. There are several hints throughout the game about the characters' relations that point to a secondary backplot.
Rama's environments are designed consistently to the descriptions of the books. Rama is a huge, featureless cylinder of 50 km length and 20 km height. Rama's length is spanned by 3 huge beams that produce light and create an artificial day-night cycle. The game begins at night but becomes day soon after.
Rama is divided in 'Northern' and 'Southern' hemicylinders, divided by the Cylindrical Sea which during 'winter' is frozen.
An arrow in the lower part of the interface, points towards the Raman 'north', which is the opposite end of the cylinder, so that the player has a better orientation while exploring.
The 'entrance', where the ISA installs the Hub with supplies, lockers and living quarters, is the southern 'pole' which contains the airlock and climate controls. The game starts there. Built in the centre of the cylinder's rotation according to the book, the Hub should have no gravity, but in the game this details is neglected, because navigation would be awkward without gravity.
The South is occupied by the Plains that feature hills and cities, named after Earth places. In the game, the player will visit several places, but of the cities, only Bangkok (actually a museum for each of the species) and London. The player travels in the Plains by the means of a map, projected by his wrist communication device.
The Plains are connected to the Cylindrical Sea which in the game, is seen frozen. The Sea is occupied by a huge island of enormous structures, for that reason named New York. There, there are three 'plazas' for each of the species, the Avians and Myrmicats, the Octospiders, and the Humans.
The opposite part, which contains the propulsion mechanisms according to the books, is never visited in the game. Cities like Rome, Paris, Moscow mentioned in the books are never brought into consideration.
The game supports MS-DOS, Windows, and Macintosh platforms and was created using version three of the SCI game engine. As was usual in that time, the graphics are combination of 3D rendered scenery and live-action actors. Although it only supports 256 colours, the filmed videos are still of exceptionally high quality.
The game comes on two CD-ROMs, with a third reserved for videos. The first part of the videos show the prologue, concerning the reaction on Earth when Rama was discovered in a form of a journalist show, and hosts interviews of the characters that will be seen later in the game. The other features a brief interview with Arthur C. Clarke and Gentry Lee.
Clarke himself appears in some scenes of the game, such as when the player dies, and in the epilogue, gives advice to the player. He is implemented into the scenery and humorously interacts with it - provoking a Biot into a fight in one example.