Annals of Rome
Amiga cover art
|Developer(s)||Level 9 Computing|
|Publisher(s)||Personal Software Services|
Annals of Rome is a turn-based strategy video game developed by Level 9 Computing and published by Personal Software Services. It was first released in the United Kingdom for the ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Atari ST in 1986. It was then released in Germany for the Commodore 64 and Amiga in 1987 and 1988, respectively. The game revolves around the late Roman Empire and its objective of surviving for as long as possible against rebelling European states.
The game is played in two windows. The first is the troops movement window which is for controlling the placement of troops in the Roman state or for attacking computer players. This window shows the number of forces for all players, inflation, popularity and national score of the Roman state, and human player score. The last step for the player in this window is to set the tax rate, between 1.0-2.0% (higher taxes cause higher inflation). In the next window, the player decides which of the 21 Senate members will receive command of the various Roman armies. To help him in his decision-making, all Senate members are listed with numbers, the first two which indicate their military ability and loyalty, respectively. The last number indicates their age. If the government's popularity falls below 2 (popularity is measured by a range between -5 and +5), armies with disloyal commanders can revolt and try to take Rome. If this happens before 50 BC, the successful rebel will be declared dictator, and if this happens after, he will become emperor, which will lead to a dynasty.
Personal Software Services was founded in Coventry, England, by Gary Mays and Richard Cockayne in November 1981. The company was known for creating games that revolved around historic war battles and conflicts, such as Theatre Europe, Bismarck and Falklands '82. The company had a partnership with French video game developer ERE Informatique, and published localised versions of their products to the United Kingdom. The Strategic Wargames series was conceptualised by software designer Alan Steel in 1984. During development of these titles, Steel would often research the topic of the upcoming game and pass on the findings to other associates in Coventry and London. Some games of the series were met with controversy upon release, such as Theatre Europe. In 1983, the company received recognition for being "one of the top software houses" in the United Kingdom, and was a finalist for BBC Radio 4's New Business Enterprise Award for that year.
In 1986, Cockayne took a decision to alter their products for release on 16-bit consoles, as he found that smaller 8-bit consoles, such as the ZX Spectrum, lacked the processing power for larger strategy games. The decision was falsely interpreted as "pulling out" from the Spectrum market by video game journalist Phillipa Irving. Following years of successful sales throughout the mid 1980s, Personal Software Services experienced financial difficulties, in what Cockayne admitted in a retrospective interview that "he took his eye off the ball". The company was acquired by Mirrorsoft in February 1987, and was later dispossessed by the company due to strains of debt.
Popularity and conversions
This game, despite poor graphics and interface even for 1986, received an 85% rating from Crash magazine in 1987. And on 27.11.1986, Popular Computing Weekly called the game a "perfect choice if you take your strategy games seriously". Because of such popularity, the game received conversion to all computer platforms in its day. Originally, Personal Software Services released the game for C-64, Spectrum, Amstrad CPC and Atari ST (platforms until September 1987) followed by versions for PC and Amiga. Today, the game has become a forgotten classic
Computer Gaming World gave the game a positive review, noting innovative mechanics such as the variable turn length. The review noted that the game felt unfinished and unpolished, citing the lack of victory conditions and poor save mechanism. In 1990 the magazine gave the game three-plus out of five stars, stating that despite the poor graphics and seemingly incomplete, "it succeeds on many levels", especially the superior 16-bit versions. In 1993 the magazine gave the game two-plus stars. Orson Scott Card wrote in Compute! that Annals of Rome's programmers did an excellent job of recreating Roman history, but that sales would suffer because it "looks like it was programmed in the Bronze Age".
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- Arnot, Chris (26 March 1995). "Taking pain out of gain". The Independent. Retrieved 4 October 2015.
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- PSS catalogue
- Mobby about Annals of Rome
- Brooks, M. Evans (April 1989), "Annals of Rome", Computer Gaming World, pp. 22–23
- Brooks, M. Evan (October 1990). "Computer Strategy and Wargames: Pre-20th Century". Computer Gaming World. p. 11. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 16 November 2013.
- Brooks, M. Evan (June 1993). "An Annotated Listing of Pre-20th Century Wargames". Computer Gaming World. p. 136. Retrieved 7 July 2014.
- Card, Orson Scott (April 1989). "Gameplay". Compute!. p. 11. Retrieved 10 November 2013.