Sid Meier's Pirates!
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|Sid Meier's Pirates!|
Ultra Games (NES)
|Distribution||ROM cartridge, floppy disks|
Sid Meier’s Pirates! is a video game created by Sid Meier and developed and published by MicroProse in 1987. It was the first game to include the name "Sid Meier" in its title as an effort by MicroProse to attract fans of Meier's earlier games, most of which were combat vehicle simulation video games. The game is a simulation of the life of a pirate, a privateer or a pirate hunter in the Spanish Main in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries.
The game was widely ported from the original Commodore 64 version, first to the Apple II (1987) and later as a PC booter (1987), Apple IIGS (1988), Macintosh (1988), Amstrad CPC (1988), Atari ST (1989), Amiga (1990), Nintendo Entertainment System (1991), PlayStation Portable (2007), BlackBerry (2010), iPad (2011) and Windows Phone 7 (2012).
Pirates! is set in the Caribbean. The Pirates! playing field includes the Spanish Main (namely the northern coast of South America), Central America and the Yucatán Peninsula, the entire Gulf of Mexico, Florida, and all Caribbean islands, plus Bermuda. The player is free to sail to any part of the above mentioned lands, stopped by an invisible barrier southeast of Trinidad, all the way north to just northeast of Bermuda.
Pirates! was released in several different versions for the PC; the original 1987 game (which came on a self-booting disk), a 1989 DOS rerelease (otherwise functionally identical to the booter version), a 1991 release which came on high density floppies and only had the manual copy protection, and the 1994 edition which was a fully modernized CD-ROM game with VGA graphics. The 16-bit versions of Pirates! have an extra feature where governors assign you missions that was not in the 8-bit versions. A port for the Nintendo Entertainment System appeared in 1991, developed by Rare Ltd. and published by Ultra Games. Notably, tobacco is replaced as a trade item by "crops" because of Nintendo's family-friendly requirements.
Pirates! is a single-player, open world game. The player receives a letter of marque authorizing service as a privateer for the Spanish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the Kingdom of England, or the French colonial empire in the Caribbean. The player's loyalties may change over the course of the game; he may also hold rank with multiple countries and may turn to piracy at any time. Gameplay is open-ended; the player may choose to attack enemy ships or towns, hunt pirates, seek buried treasure, rescue long-lost family members, or even avoid violence altogether and seek to increase his wealth through trade. The game also has no predetermined end, although as time goes on, it becomes more difficult to recruit crew members. As the player character ages, fighting becomes more difficult, and deteriorating health will eventually force the character into retirement. The game ends when the player retires, at which point he is given a position in his future life, from beggar to King's adviser, based on accumulated wealth, land, rank, marital status, and other accomplishments.
The era of play is one of the choices given to a player at game-start. Different eras provide a different challenge, as political and economic power shifts between the four fledgling European empires. Choosing 1560 (the earliest choice) as the starting year places the player in a Caribbean almost devoid of influence but that of Spain, while 1680 (the latest choice) provides a mature Caribbean with many non-Spanish colonies and an overall higher degree of activity in the region. The other choices include 1600, 1620, 1640, and 1660, with progressive effect of reducing Spanish dominance in favor of the other nations, while increasing seafaring traffic. Ship designs are also era-dependent, with some types of ships appearing more frequently in certain eras and less in others, and certain ship types being used near-exclusively by certain nations.
The game tests a wide range of skills: hand-eye coordination during the fencing sections, tactical ability during the land and sea combat phases, and strategic thinking, for everything from choosing a wife to deciding when to divide up the plunder. Moreover, each game is likely to take a different course, as most events in the game are random, including the economic and political systems, and early in the game these can greatly affect future strategic options. In the course of the game a player may try to tack in a frigate in order to run down a smaller and faster pinnace, but must be fortunate enough to have the weather gage.
One of the most innovative features of Pirates! is the introduction of a dynamic playing field. In Pirates!, many of the most important factors which affect player decisions are randomized at the beginning of the game, and continue to shift during gameplay. This not only creates a new experience each time the game is played, but also requires the player to remain flexible, and be ready to exploit possibilities when they occur. Changes happen whenever time passes and they are unrelated to player actions. In fact, in this game in the series, random events do not have any graphical representation, and the player can do nothing to prevent them.
The most important random factor in the game lies in the diplomatic relations between the four nations laying claim to the Caribbean. Relations may differ greatly from game to game, and can shift in an instant, creating and removing opportunities, possibly even for long periods of time. The player generally benefits from periods of war between two or more countries, because any aggression towards a country's ships or cities, which occurs often if not specifically avoided, will gain recognition with its enemies, prompting them to bestow the player with land, titles, and other benefits. During peacetime, the player can only benefit from the capture of pirates on the high seas, which is seen as favorable by all nations, but is a rare occurrence.
Cities are also dynamic, with statistics like wealth and population fluctuating constantly. The player has a list of cities in one of the game's menus, allowing him to see the statistics of any city. Knowing the statistics of a city helps the player plan ahead, especially with regards to trading or any desire to raid or conquer cities.
The original versions of Pirates! sported both disk and manual copy protections. Users were asked the time at which various treasure ships were arriving at port. If the time was wrong, the game would continue, but at a much higher difficulty level that would frustrate most people.
In early 1986, Meier and fellow MicroProse designer Arnold Hendrick wanted to create a role-playing adventure game, but Meier's business partner Bill Stealey was skeptical of producing non-vehicle simulations. The company planned several game elements that it removed before release, including multiple NPCs per town, more detailed sailing including fleet actions, and a subplot involving religion and nobility. Pirates!' success resulted in the similar Sword of the Samurai.
Pirates! was a groundbreaking game in its era. Its puzzles appealed to more female gamers than previous products from MicroProse, a company known for military simulations like F-15 Strike Eagle. Although other open-ended games had already been released, the style of player-directed gameplay in Pirates! led it to be the spiritual predecessor of countless others since, both by Sid Meier himself (Civilization, Railroad Tycoon) and many others.
Pirates! won many awards at the time of its release, including Computer Gaming World's "Action Game of the Year" for 1988 and five stars out of five in a 1990 survey of historical strategy and war games, as well as two Origins Awards: "Best Fantasy or Science Fiction Computer Game of 1987" and "Best Screen Graphics in a Home Computer Game of 1987". In 1989 Computer Gaming World named Pirates! to its Hall of Fame for games readers rated highly over time, with a score of 9.71 out of 12, and Compute! gave it the Compute! Choice Award for Historical Game. Orson Scott Card wrote in the latter magazine that Pirates' use of an unusually strict copy protection was understandable because "the game is so good that even people who drive 55 mph might consider stealing it". He stated that Pirates! seemed misleadingly easy, with players discovering non-obvious nuances to the gameplay.
It has continued to earn accolades ever since. In 1990 the game received the tenth-highest number of votes in a survey of Computer Gaming World readers' "All-Time Favorites". In 1996, the magazine ranked it as the 18th best video game of all time, noting that the Amiga version was by far the best by then. In 2004, readers of Retro Gamer voted Pirates! 84th top retro game, with the staff noting that "people still play the original version, even though Sid Meier himself produced later versions." In 2005, IGN rated it as the sixth greatest video game of all time. In 2011, Polish web portal Wirtualna Polska ranked it as the fifth most addictive classic game "that stole our childhood".
The game was released with minor improvements and better graphics for Windows 3.1, DOS, Macintosh, and Sega Genesis in 1993 as Pirates! Gold. It was also released on CD for the Amiga CD32 in 1994 with enhanced CD audio tracks. The PC versions features a MIDI score and mouse support. They also contained a copy protection scheme requiring the player to identify the flag of a pirate ship sighted on the horizon (similar to the 1987 Atari port). Sea and sea-to-land combat were played in real-time while land battles were done in turn-based strategy. Sun sighting was not present in this version, and there were no special items. The game did, however, include several new features.
- Schick, Lawrence (January 1990). "Designer's Notes / The Secret History of Sword of the Samurai". Computer Gaming World. p. 84. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
- Brooks, M. Evan (November 1987). "Titans of the Computer Gaming World / MicroProse". Computer Gaming World. p. 16.
- Sutyak, Jonathan. "Sid Meier's Pirates! - Review". Allgame. Retrieved March 7, 2013.
- Brooks, M. Evan (October 1990). "Computer Strategy and Wargames: Pre-20th Century". Computer Gaming World. p. 11. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- "Computer Gaming World's 1988 Game of the Year Awards". Computer Gaming World. October 1988. p. 54.
- "1987 List of Winners". Origins Awards. Academy of Adventure Gaming Arts & Design. Archived from the original on 5 January 2008. Retrieved 2009-02-12.
- "Game Rating Chart". Computer Gaming World. May 1989. p. 56.
- "The 189 Compute! Choice Awards". Compute!. January 1989. p. 24. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- Card, Orson Scott (April 1989). "Gameplay". Compute!. p. 11. Retrieved 10 November 2013.
- "CGW Readers Select All-Time Favorites". Computer Gaming World. January 1990. p. 64. Retrieved 15 November 2013.
- CGW 148: 150 Best Games of All Time
- Retro Gamer 8, page 63.
- 5. Pirates! - Gry, które zabrały nam dzieciństwo - najbardziej uzależniające produkcje sprzed lat - Imperium gier, WP.PL (Polish)