The Settlers (video game)

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This article is about the 1993 video game. For the series, see The Settlers. For the 2009 handheld game by Gameloft, see The Settlers IV § Portable versions.
The Settlers
Settlers boxscan amiga.jpg
United Kingdom cover art
Developer(s) Blue Byte Software
Publisher(s) Blue Byte Software
Producer(s) Thomas Hertzler
Designer(s) Volker Wertich
Programmer(s) Volker Wertich
Composer(s) Haiko Ruttmann
Series The Settlers
Platform(s) Amiga, MS-DOS
Release date(s) Amiga
June 1, 1993 (1993-06-01)[1]
MS-DOS
December 31, 1994 (1994-12-31)[2]
Genre(s) Real-time strategy
Mode(s) Single-player, multiplayer

The Settlers (German: Die Siedler) is a 1993 real-time strategy video game developed and published by Blue Byte Software for Amiga. In 1994, it was ported to MS-DOS. Blue Byte published the DOS version in Europe under its original title, but in North America, it was published by SSI as Serf City: Life is Feudal. Due to the complexities of writing a codebase which understood and could realistically duplicate the nature of supply and demand, as well as ensuring the computer could handle military and economic matters simultaneously, the game took over two years of development and programming.

The Settlers is set in a medieval milieu, and the primary goal in every level is to construct a settlement with a functioning economy, producing military units so as to conquer rival territories. To do this, the player must engage in economic micromanagement, construct buildings, and generate enough resources to build up their army to the point where they can attack and defeat their opponent or opponents. The game can be played in two main modes; a series of thirty sequential missions against computer-controlled opponents of increasing difficulty, and "open" mode, in which the player competes in individual games involving either computer-controlled opponents, human opponents, or a combination of both.

The game was very well received, especially on the Amiga, where it was more widely reviewed. Critics especially praised the interrelatedness and complexity of the game's economic system, as well as the graphics and sound effects. While some critics saw it as a god game, comparing it favourably to Populous, others saw it as a city-building game, comparing it favourably to SimCity. Others, however, felt it defined a new genre altogether by blending elements of god games and city-building games. It was also a commercial success, selling over 215,000 units worldwide. It went on to form the basis for The Settlers series, one of Blue Byte's most successful franchises.

Gameplay[edit]

The Settlers is a real-time strategy game in which the primary goal in each level is to construct a settlement with a functioning economy and produce military units so as to conquer rival territories.[3] To achieve this end, the player must engage in economic micromanagement, construct buildings, and generate enough resources to build up their army to the point where they can attack and defeat their opponent or opponents.[4]

The game is controlled via a point and click interface, and can be played in one of two modes. The first is a series of thirty sequential missions where the player, either alone, or teaming with a second player, progresses against computer-controlled opponents of increasing difficulty.[5] The second is an open-ended game, in which the landscape is either randomly generated, or based on input by the player.[6] The player can then choose up to three computer opponents against whom to play. Additionally, split screen mode allows two players to either team up together to play against one or two computer opponents, or play against one another and up to two additional computer opponents.[5] There are ten computer characters, who vary from peaceful and placid to warlike and aggressive.[5] In this mode, the player can change three different settings prior to beginning the game; the amount of supplies in each characters' headquarters, the intelligence of the settlers and knights (soldiers) in each characters' service, and the rate at which each characters' settlers produce items.[6]

Settlement[edit]

Whether playing a mission or an open-game, every game begins the same way; the player is presented with part of the map, usually a green area on which it is easy to build, and must construct their headquarters so as to begin their settlement.[7] In the HQ are a set amount of raw materials and tools. To expand their settlement, the player must gather and process additional raw materials such as granite, lumber, iron ore, gold and coal, as well as produce food such as bread and meat.[8][9] The basic gameplay revolves around serfs (the titular "settlers") who transport materials, tools and produce, populate the various buildings, and perform the requisite task of each particular building.[10] At no point in the game does the player directly control any individual settler - instead, the player issues general orders to the settlers as a group (such as ordering the construction of a building), with the AI handling the delegation of orders to specific settlers.[3]

The Settlers HUD in the MS-DOS version. The image shows part of the player's settlement, with the various buildings linked by roads.

A vital element in the game is the layout of the road network so as to allow for an efficient transportation system.[11] Any settlers transporting goods must use roads; the only settlers not bound by roads are knights during battle and workers situated in buildings whose jobs take them outside (such as lumberjacks and quarrymen for example). To build a road, the player must place a flag in the ground (a flag is automatically placed when the player selects to construct a building). The player must then manually build the road from one flag to another using a series of on-screen prompts advising as to the best direction in which to build.[12] To maximize distribution via the road network, the player must set as many flags on each road as possible, although it is only possibly to place flags on long roads. Flags can be set on existing roads at a certain distance apart from one another, and serve as transport hubs; a settler will carry an item to a flag and set it down, at which point the next settler on the road will pick up the item and continue, freeing the first settler to return and pick up another item at the previous flag. As such, the more flags the player has, the more settlers will operate on a given road. This cuts down the distance each settler must travel between flags, and hence reduces the time it takes them to transport one item and return for the next, thus avoiding items building up at each flag, which leads to congestion and slows down the distribution network.[12] When more than one item is left at a flag, the game has a priority system, which determines which item the settler will transport first. This system is adjustable, allowing the player to dictate the order in which items are transported.[13] Waterways can also be constructed over small bodies of water in the same manner as roads, although the settlers need boats to cross them.[12]

Just as important as a good road network to efficient distribution is the geographical placement of buildings. This can manifest itself relatively straightforwardly. For example, lumberjacks should be placed near to forest rangers, who repopulate the trees cut down by the lumberjacks.[14] However, deciding how to organise buildings can be more complicated. For example, miners need food, so the player should build a bakery and/or a butcher shop near the mining area. However, a bakery needs flour, so it should be placed near a windmill, whilst a butcher needs pigs, so it should be placed near a pig farm. Furthermore, both pig farms and windmills need grain, so should be placed near a farm. Placing all of these buildings close beside one another may not be possible, meaning the player must make informed decisions about what building to place where and how best to connect those buildings via roads.[15]

Economy[edit]

The economy of the settlement is under the player's control throughout the game. For example, the player can control the distribution of goods, determining what resource is transported where first, under five headings; food, wood, iron, coal and wheat.[16] Under the food heading, the player can select which mining operation gets the majority of food. Under the wood heading, the player can adjust the priority between construction and sawmills. Under the iron heading, the player can adjust the priority between the blacksmith's shop and the tool maker. Under the coal heading, the player can adjust the priority between the gold foundry, the iron foundry and the blacksmith. Under the wheat heading, the player can adjust the priority between the mill and the pig farm. The game has a default setting for all five headings, but the player is free to manipulate each one as they see fit.[16]

In a similar manner, the player can select the priority with which tools are built; by increasing the significance of a particular tool, that tool will be produced before others.[17] Tool production is important in the game's economy insofar as all buildings require certain raw materials and a worker with the right tool. The player has access to an inventory which lists the total amount of every item currently in the stockpile, allowing the player to check if the necessary tool for a particular building is available. For example, if the player has built a blacksmith, and it is fully stocked with raw materials, but is not occupied, the inventory may show there are no pliers available for a settler to become a blacksmith. As such, the player will need to prioritise the production of pliers so as to have the building occupied as quickly as possible.[18]

Military[edit]

At the start of each level, the player has access to limited territory, which can only be expanded by creating one of three military complexes (guard hut, guard tower and garrison) near the territory border.[19] Each complex must have at least one knight garrisoned for the player's territory to expand. The different buildings hold varying numbers of knights; guard huts hold three, guard towers six, and garrisons twelve.[19] Knights are automatically created from the pool of existing settlers, with each knight requiring a sword and shield.[20] Once knights are stationed in a building, gold coins can be transported to the building to improve their morale, allowing them to fight more fiercely.[9] They can also be promoted through five levels (2nd Lance Corporal, 1st Lance Corporal, Corporal, Lieutenant and Captain). They receive training in the HQ or when stationed in a building, although they level up more slowly when stationed, as they are also on guard duty.[21]

In order for the player to attack an enemy building, they must click on that building, select the number of units they wish to carry out the attack, and then click the "attack" button.[22] If the player's units defeat all knights stationed in the enemy building, they will occupy it, with the player's territory increasing according to the building's radius.[22] Defense of the player's military buildings is automatic; as enemies attack, the player's knights emerge and engage in combat with the enemy, with victory determined by both the numbers on each side, and the rank which each knight has reached.[22]

The player has control over the structure of their military in much the same manner as they do over distribution and manufacture of tools; the player is free to change the amount of settlers who become knights, the rank of first-line defence knights, how many knights from each building are available for the player to attack with and how many remain behind, how many knights counter the enemy if the player is attacked, and how many knights take up positions in military buildings not visible to the enemy, buildings visible but not immediately under threat, buildings under threat, and buildings about to be attacked. The player can also order lower ranked knights to leave military buildings and return to the HQ, replacing them with higher ranked knights.[23]

Development[edit]

According to producer Thomas Hertzler, the impetus behind the game was "to create an economy simulation without it being boring."[24] To achieve this, however, proved far from simple, with the game requiring two years development and programming, with much of this time "spent teaching the computer the basic facets of running an economic system."[25] Blue Byte Software's CEO Stefan Piasecki explains the reason for the lengthy development cycle was "due mainly to [the] enormous amount of data that had to be inputted. The Settlers isn't like most games where the player has just one or two characters to guide through the game. The Settlers' world is a unique place with all the elements of the real world."[26]

The biggest challenge faced by creator and lead programmer Volker Wertich was getting the computer to understand and accurately simulate supply and demand, which is the basis for the game's economic system, and which is handled almost entirely outside the privy of the player. Piasecki explains, "if there's a windmill next to a farmer, the program has to check whether that miller has the capacity to grind his corn. If not, the corn must be taken to another mill. But what if the street is crowded? The computer then has to work out the best route for the farmer to take his goods."[26] He further explains the program must also deal with military matters, pushing its capabilities further; "it's a lot of work for the computer as it has to manage all its little people and take military and economic considerations into account as well. As the game runs in 'real time', it can't slow down when a lot of things happen on-screen at once."[26]

The amount of possible on-screen action depends on which model Amiga the player had, with the upper limit of settlers different on different machines. An Amiga 500 was capable of supporting up to roughly 8,000 settlers, whilst an Amiga 1200 could support up to roughly 16,000, and with additional RAM, up to roughly 64,000.[26] More precisely, because the game works on a 16-bit integer, the maximum number of settlers possible is 65,536. However, as any map capable of generating so many settlers must contain four races, the most settlers the player can ever control at any one time is 16,384.[24] Additionally, the game features twenty different jobs and five different knights, a total of twenty-five different roles that a settler can occupy, with each role resulting in a settler who looks different and is animated differently from settlers in the twenty-four other roles. However, each individual settler's head is only 5x5 pixels, the space available for artist Christoph Werner to create twenty-five different looks.[26] Furthermore, when the player zooms in, workers can be seen at work inside buildings, and sound effects change depending on where in the settlement the player is currently situated. All of this added to the complexity when programming the game.[25] The game's numbers are also important in open-game mode, where the player can create the world by inputting a 16-digit code, with each digit ranging from 0 to 9, allowing for a possible 270 billion combinations, and 270 billion slightly different maps.[25]

The game also presented programming problems when being ported to MS-DOS. Thomas Häuser, who did quality assurance work on the game, and was promoted to project manager for The Settlers II, explains "the Amiga source code was completely undocumented. To implement it, we used a team that had written a compiler for the assembly code. With that, the Amiga source was compiled to a PC assembly code and assembled afterwards. This was, of course, very complex and prone to errors."[27]

Reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
Dragon 3/5 stars (MS-DOS)[28]
Amiga Computing 93%[29]
Amiga Format 94%[30]
Amiga Power 88%[31]
AUI 97%[25]
CU Amiga 90%[32]
The One 90%[33]

The Settlers received positive reviews upon its release, especially on Amiga, where it was more widely reviewed than on MS-DOS, although writing in Dragon, Sandy Petersen scored the DOS version 3 out of 5 stars.[28]

Amiga User International scored the game 97%, calling it "an awesome piece of programming." They compared the game favourably to Populous, and praised it as the best god game ever made, saying "The Settlers has broken new programming ground and will be the benchmark in years to come for any up and coming software writer." They especially lauded the interrelatedness of the various buildings, and the complexity of the economic system, calling the game "flawless. A true masterpiece."[25] Amiga Format's Rob Mead rated it 94%, giving it an "Amiga Format Gold" award, and calling it "a major contender for the game of the year award." He too praised the economic system and the connections between the buildings, saying "the game oozes quality," citing the graphics and sound effects as especially noteworthy.[30]

Amiga Computing's Simon Clays scored it 93%, giving it a "Game Gold" award, and writing "it contains some of the most intelligent interactions between player and characters yet to be seen on an Amiga." He too lauded the economic system and the connections between buildings. He also praised the detailed graphics and the variety of sound effects, and he too found the game superior to Populous, writing "with so many of this type of title knocking around, it really is refreshing to see a product that is fresh and entertaining."[29] CU Amiga's Tony Dillon scored it 90%, giving it an "Amiga Screen Star" award. He argued it was neither a god game like Populous nor a city-building game like SimCity, but was instead a new type of game which combined ideas from other genres in a way never before seen. He particularly praised the variety of gameplay, arguing "there are so many variations on the basic game, that you will wonder if you could ever play the same game twice." He also lauded the "intelligent sounds, and graphics that actually mean something."[32]

The One's Simon Byron scored it 90%, calling it "one of the most impressive games ever." He praised the animations of the individual settlers, arguing "it's definitely a game you fall in love with instantly." His only criticism was the steep learning curve, arguing that on-screen labelling of the different buildings would have helped ease the player in.[33] Amiga Power's Mark Winstanley scored it 88%, writing "The Settlers is like lots of things, but still manages to be a unique game, which is truly a rare and satisfying thing to see these days." He praised the attention to detail, citing crops growing in the field, and the different animations of the different settlers. He concluded, "witty, imaginative and detailed, right down to the last leaf and fishing rod. It's as complex or as simple as you want it to be and thoroughly absorbing."[31]

Sales and legacy[edit]

The game was a commercial success. By June 1996, it had sold over 215,000 units worldwide, well beyond Blue Byte's expectations.[34] By May 1998, it had sold over 400,000 units.[35]

The game has been cited as one of the best Amiga games ever made. In 1996, Amiga Power ranked it at #25 in their "Amiga Top 100".[36] In 2011, Wirtualna Polska ranked it at #16 in their "30 best Amiga games".[37] In 2012, the Polish edition of CHIP ranked it at #1 in their "Top 10 games for the Amiga".[38]

The game gave rise to The Settlers series, leading to eight further games, and becoming one of Blue Byte's best selling franchises. Upon the success of the first game, Blue Byte began work immediately on a sequel,[39] seeking out feedback from fans, and working to address anything they disliked or felt could be improved upon.[27] Subsequent games in the series have been released on MS-DOS, Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, OS X, Nintendo DS, iOS, Android and online.

Outside the official series, The Settlers has also given rise to two free, open source games. Freeserf, developed by Jon Lund Steffensen and made available at GitHub, is an attempt to reimplement the Settlers' game mechanics in C using the cross-platform SDL libraries, although it still requires the original game files to work.[40][41] Widelands, a game also built on the SDL libraries, is inspired by The Settlers and The Settlers II, although it is itself a new game with its own graphics and gameplay.[42][43]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "The Settlers (Amiga)". IGN. Retrieved June 4, 2016. 
  2. ^ "Serf City: Life is Feudal (PC)". IGN. Retrieved June 4, 2016. 
  3. ^ a b Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "On the Right Path". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 1. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  4. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "On the Right Path". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 2. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  5. ^ a b c Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The Main Menu". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 2. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  6. ^ a b Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The Main Menu". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 3. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  7. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The Castle". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 7. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  8. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 3: Making Food and Transporting It". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 20. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  9. ^ a b Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 4: Mining and Using Gold, Iron, and Coal". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 21. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  10. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The First Serfs". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 11. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  11. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Constructing Roads". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 9. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  12. ^ a b c Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Constructing Roads". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 10. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  13. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The Other Menus". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 43. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  14. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 2: Creating Construction Materials". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 16. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  15. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 3: Making Food and Transporting It". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 19. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  16. ^ a b Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The Distribution Menus". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 38. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  17. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The Other Menus". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 42. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  18. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "About Statistics". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 32. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  19. ^ a b Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 1: Land". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 14. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  20. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 5: Making Tools and Weapons". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 25. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  21. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 6: Attack and Conquer Enemy Buildings". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 27. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  22. ^ a b c Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "Training Game 6: Attack and Conquer Enemy Buildings". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 28. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  23. ^ Wertich, Volker; Piasecki, Stefan (1994). "The Knight Menus". Serf City: Life is Feudal Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. pp. 39–41. Retrieved June 5, 2016. 
  24. ^ a b Winstanley, Mark (July 1993). "The Settlers". Amiga Power (27): 17. Retrieved June 13, 2016. 
  25. ^ a b c d e "The Settlers Review". Amiga User International. 8 (2): 80. February 1994. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  26. ^ a b c d e Upchurch, David (July 1993). "Settle Down Now". The One (58): 42–43. Retrieved June 13, 2016. 
  27. ^ a b Langer, Jörg (June 1996). "Interview Mit Einem Siedler". PC Player (in German) (6): 58–59. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
  28. ^ a b Petersen, Sandy (September 1994). "Eye of the Monitor". Dragon (209): 61–62. 
  29. ^ a b Clays, Simon (February 1994). "The Settlers Review". Amiga Computing (70): 128–129. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  30. ^ a b Mead, Rob (December 1993). "The Settlers Review". Amiga Format (54): 85. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  31. ^ a b Winstanley, Mark (December 1993). "The Settlers Review". Amiga Power (32): 52–54. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  32. ^ a b Dillon, Tony (December 1993). "The Settlers Review". CU Amiga: 178–179. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  33. ^ a b Byron, Simon (December 1993). "The Settlers Review". The One (63): 178–179. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  34. ^ Langer, Jörg (June 1996). "Die Siedler 2". PC Player (in German) (6): 54–57. Retrieved June 1, 2016. 
  35. ^ "Interview with Volker Wertich". Blue Byte Software. May 19, 1998. Retrieved November 29, 2016. 
  36. ^ "Amiga Top 100". Amiga Power (64): 24. August 1996. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  37. ^ "30 najlepszych gier na Amigę" (in Polish). Wirtualna Polska. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  38. ^ Wierzbicki, Michal (February 23, 2010). "Dziesięć najlepszych gier na Amigę" (in Polish). CHIP. Retrieved June 2, 2016. 
  39. ^ Dreher, Michael (1996). "Introduction". The Settlers II Instruction Manual. Blue Byte Software. p. 3. Retrieved May 24, 2016. 
  40. ^ "Freeserf Official Site". Jon Lund Steffensen. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  41. ^ "Freeserf". OS4Depot. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  42. ^ "Widelands Official Site". Widelands Development Team. Retrieved June 12, 2016. 
  43. ^ Knight, John (May 1, 2009). "New Projects - Fresh from the Labs". Linux Journal. Retrieved June 12, 2016.