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SimCopter is a 1996 flight simulator from Maxis. This game is a 3D offshoot from Maxis's normal fare, putting the player into a 3D city. Like Streets of SimCity, SimCopter lets the user import SimCity 2000 maps into the game. It is also the first game to use the official Sim language, Simlish.
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As the name suggests, SimCopter puts the player in the role of a helicopter pilot. There are two modes of play: free mode and career mode. The free mode lets the player import and fly through cities of their own or any of the 30 cities supplied with the game. However, user cities sometimes need to be designed with SimCopter in mind, and most of the time the player must increase the number of police stations, fire stations, and hospitals to allow for speedier dispatches. The career mode puts the player in the shoes of a pilot doing various jobs around a city. These jobs include:
- Rescues - Players will occasionally be called upon to rescue Sims from perilous situations. All rescues can be aided by the use of a rescue harness. There are three subtypes:
- Rooftop Rescue - Involves rescuing Sims from the rooftop of a building. This mission often occurs as the result of a fire.
- Boat Rescue - Involves rescuing Sims from capsized boats.
- Train Rescue - Involves rescuing Sims from the top of a fast-moving runaway train. It is one of the more difficult and higher paying missions in the game.
- Traffic jams - A simple mission that involves using the megaphone to redirect traffic, or dispatching police to clear traffic.
- Aerial fire fighting - This type of mission involves extinguishing a fire somewhere in the city. It is usually on buildings, but it can sometimes be as small as a burning car or a tree. Sometimes a plane or train crash will start a few fires scattered over a small area. Putting out a fire is accomplished by flying above a body of water and filling a Bambi bucket, and then flying directly over a fire and dropping the water on it by tipping the bucket. If it has been purchased, a water cannon can also be used to spray a stream of water over a distance. The player has to be careful not to fly too low over a fire, as it is extremely dangerous to the helicopters. Provided that the fire is near a road, a fire engine can be dispatched to help put out a fire.
- Catching criminals - There are four types of criminals in this game: robbers, arsonists, muggers and burglars. Arsonists may start fires on buildings, and muggers may kill nearby Sims. The first three types of criminals roam the streets on foot. All types of criminals can be arrested by picking up a police officer from the roof of a police station, and then dropping them near the criminal. Police cars can also be dispatched to aid in the arrest of a criminal. Criminals on foot can also be stopped by landing on top of them with the helicopter, which kills them, but this risks damage to the helicopter. Burglars drive around the city at high speed and are difficult to catch. To catch a burglar, the player must dispatch police cars and guide them to the crook. It becomes easier to catch by slowing and/or stopping the car through the use of a spotlight, water bucket, or water cannon. Another more direct but riskier method is landing on top of the criminal's vehicle while it is in motion, at which time the burglar will pull over and exit the car, making capture easier.
- Riot control - There are three ways to stop a riot. The first way is to use the megaphone to order the rioters to disperse. The second way is to dispatch police cars and/or fly police officers directly to the site of the riot. The third way is to drop tear gas from the helicopter. However, tear gas may injure or even kill Sims, which makes the player lose points. Riots often cause MEDEVAC, traffic jams and fire missions. Riots do not appear in career mode until level eight.
- MEDEVAC - These missions involve transporting injured Sims to the rooftop of the nearest hospital. Help is available in these missions in three ways. The first way is to pick up a paramedic from the rooftop of a hospital and take him to where the victims are. He will help carry the victims back to the helicopter. The other way to get help is to dispatch an ambulance to the area. The third way is for the player to get out and carry the victim to the helicopter and drop him or her off at the nearest hospital (This can be dangerous as the patient may still die on the way to the hospital if the player takes too long). After landing on the hospital rooftop, a paramedic will help the injured get out of the helicopter. The player should not attempt to manually eject the victims, as it may cause them further injury or death.
- Transporting Sims – These missions involve picking up Sims at a given location and transporting them to a particular destination. The rewards for these missions are based on how quickly the player picks up the clients, how comfortable the clients are during the ride (depending on speed and altitude), and the time the ride takes.
- Speeding cars - If none of the above jobs are available, the player can earn some cash and points by seeking out speeding drivers and commanding them to pull over, and then dispatching the police to charge them. The player can tell if a car is speeding if its tires are squeaking and smoking when the car turns around corners. For the player to earn the points, they must stay where the speeder is until the police arrive, or else the speeder will just drive off. Catching speeders rewards the player with points and cash.
Money and Points
The player starts with a small, weak helicopter that comes with just a megaphone and a bambi bucket; it can only hold two passengers. As the player accumulates money in the game, they can purchase better helicopters and new equipment. Some jobs require certain equipment in order to complete them, and better helicopters offer greater speed, handling, and can carry more passengers. By completing jobs, the player earns money and points. When the player has accumulated enough points, the game lets them move on to the next city. The player then has a choice of going into a new city of the same difficulty or advancing to the next level. There are twelve levels of difficulty, with new types of jobs being introduced and previous types of jobs increasing in difficulty. Jobs will be randomly spawned around the city, but the player's actions can also create jobs (see below).
Any of the following actions will cause the player to lose a substantial amount of points and cash:
- Ejecting a passenger from the helicopter while it is up in the air may injure or kill the person and may cause a MEDEVAC mission. Ejecting them over water will kill them instantly.
- Landing the helicopter on a road and keeping it there for more than a minute will block the traffic, causing a traffic jam mission.
- Crashing the helicopter into a car (exception: burglar getaway vehicle) will set the car on fire, creating a hazard for the copter. This may also cause a MEDEVAC mission, and if the car is left ablaze for too long, a traffic jam may begin, and the car may explode.
- Crashing the helicopter into a boat will either cause the boat to sink or start a boat rescue mission.
- If an Apache military helicopter is available, shooting missiles at buildings may cause a Fire mission and shooting bullets at people or cars may also cause a Car Fire mission or a MEDEVAC mission. The bullets may also kill the people. In addition, firing missiles at nuclear power plants will cause a nuclear explosion that will destroy the surrounding city as well as the helicopter.
SimCopter's MEDEVAC missions are noted for having a particularly useful 'bug' where pushing a Sim from the copter causes a point deduction, but the resulting MEDEVAC mission rewards more points (and money) than were initially lost.
Crashing the helicopter into a building or slamming it into the ground will not destroy it instantly, but it will damage it. The helicopter can crash into a building about ten times before it is destroyed. The more damage there is to the helicopter, the harder it is to control. Money can be spent to repair a helicopter. If the helicopter is destroyed, it is lost forever as well as all of the equipment on board. When a helicopter is destroyed, it may set a fire to a nearby building or terrain. The player will also lose 100 points and must use their remaining funds to purchase another helicopter. If they do not have enough money to buy a new helicopter, then they are grounded, making it impossible to continue, unless a cheat code is used.
Helicopters in this game have a limited amount of fuel and must return to the hangar about once every half an hour to refuel, which costs money. If the helicopter runs out of fuel while in mid-air, the player can either attempt to keep the motor spinning and land it, or just let it fall to the ground and suffer heavy damage. If the helicopter remains intact after falling to the ground, it can be refueled at a highly inflated price.
The AH-64 Apache is a special helicopter and cannot be bought from the hangar. It is found on military bases that have fighter plane tarmacs on them. If the base has at least two of these tarmacs, one will randomly have the Apache parked on it. This helicopter has a machine gun and missiles in place of the water cannon and tear gas respectively (both weapons have unlimited ammo). Despite having no seats and an inability to upgrade past the rescue harness, points and money can still be earned with the Apache by means of dispatching the proper authorities to fires and medevac situations, and using the harness for rescues without retracting the harness into the helicopter (if it is fully retracted, the Sim will fall). Exclusive to the Apache, one can even earn points by shooting criminals with the helicopter's machine gun. The gun is also capable of killing innocent sims and destroying cars, boats, and planes, all of which have negative point values. Cars part of a traffic jam, however, are immune, and when planes are shot down they may start fires. Missiles are capable of doing the above as well as setting buildings on fire. Firing a missile at a nuclear power plant results in an explosion that destroys the whole city and the helicopter.
Maps that have an Apache in them will also occasionally have a UFO that flies around. They abduct Sims with mysterious force (Sims will "dance" while they ascend), and also randomly shoot vertical beams that start fires if they hit trees or buildings. Should the beam hit the player, the screen fades to white and the copter is instantly destroyed. They generate a sound when nearby. Ten missile hits or 1000 bullets from the Apache will destroy the UFO and award the player 1000 points and 4000 dollars. If the UFO falls into the water, the player can rescue a surviving abductee for more points.
There are five virtual radio stations that can be listened to while in the helicopter: classical, rock, jazz, techno and a mix station featuring all songs from every other station. All stations occasionally play spoof commercials and public service announcements, of which there are more than 100 in the game. Unlike other Sim games, voices on the radio are not incoherent Simlish but are actual English voices. The file format of the audio is low-quality WAV (uncompressed 8-bit, 11,025 Hz, mono). It is possible for players to import their own music and commercials into the game as long as the audio uses an uncompressed WAV format.
Custom videos for drive-in
It is also possible for the user to make custom videos for the drive-in theaters included in the game. The user would have to insert a specially edited[vague] Smacker video file somewhere[vague] in the SimCopter installation directory for it to work.
The game gained controversy when it was discovered that designer Jacques Servin inserted sprites of shirtless "himbos" (male bimbos) in Speedo trunks who hugged and kissed each other, who appear in great numbers on certain dates. Their fluorescent nipples were drawn with a special rendering mode usually reserved for fog-piercing runway landing lights, so they could easily be seen from long distances in bad weather. A bug caused hundreds of himbos to swarm and crowd around the helicopter, where they would be slashed up by the blades, and then need to be air-lifted to the hospital—which earned the player easy money. The easter egg was caught shortly after release and removed from future copies of the game.
The designer was fired afterwards for adding unauthorized content (which delayed the release of the game, and caused Maxis to miss Christmas season). He cited his actions as a response to the intolerable working conditions he allegedly suffered at Maxis. This caused a member of AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP), a gay AIDS organization, to call for a boycott of all of Maxis' products, a measure which Servin rejected. Some months later, a group named RTMark announced its existence and claimed responsibility for the himbos being inserted into the game along with 16 other acts of "creative subversion." Servin stated that he had received a money order of $5,000 from RTMark for the prank.
- "The First Hot Coffee". PC Gamer (Future Publishing). March 2007. p. 62.
- "An Interview with Jacques Servin". rtmark. Retrieved 2007-02-17.
- Silberman, Steve (1996-12-11). "Boycott Maxis? 'Absurd,' Fired Programmer Says". Wired. Retrieved 2008-09-12.
- Frauenfelder, Mark (1997-04-08). "Secret Prankster Fund Goes Public". Wired. Retrieved 2008-09-12.