Utopia (video game)

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Box art
Developer(s) Don Daglow Edit this on Wikidata
Publisher(s) Mattel
Designer(s) Don Daglow
Platform(s) Intellivision, Mattel Aquarius
Genre(s) Turn-based strategy[1][2][3]
Mode(s) Multiplayer

Utopia is a 1981 strategy video game by Don Daglow released for the Intellivision and Mattel Aquarius. It is often regarded as among the first city building games and god games. A turn-based strategy game with some real-time elements,[1][2][3] it is credited as "arguably the earliest ancestor of the real-time strategy genre."[4] In July 2010, the game was re-released on Microsoft's Game Room service for its Xbox 360 console and for Games for Windows Live.


In-game screenshot

Utopia is a two-player game in which the two players each control one of the game's two islands. It lacks an AI opponent, although a single player can play to achieve a high score and ignore the other island. When starting the game, the players may choose how many rounds to play (up to 50) and the length of each round (30 to 120 seconds). The winner is the player with the most points at the end of the game.[5]

Each player rules their own island and uses the controller disc to move a rectangular cursor around the screen. Both players spend gold bars to construct different buildings (houses, schools, factories, hospitals and forts) on their islands, build fishing boats or PT boats, or to fund rebel activity on the enemy island. As each island's population grows, the ruler is responsible for housing their people, feeding their populace and keeping them happy, or else risk rebel activity, which decreases the player's score and sometimes destroys buildings. Income is generated when randomly generated rain clouds, (and sometimes hurricanes) pass over a player's farms, when a fishing boat is positioned over a school of fish, and at the end of each turn, based on the player's factory output and fishing boats.[5]

Most rounds consist of constructing a building, then continuously maneuvering the player's fishing boat over a moving school of fish in order to maintain fishing income, with occasional interruptions to construct new buildings whenever the player is able to afford them. Alternatively, the player in the lead might spend considerable time maneuvering a PT boat to try and sink the losing player's fishing boat in order to keep their income down. Game algorithms generate and determine the course of rain clouds, tropical storms, hurricanes, schools of fish, and pirate ships.[5]

Reception and legacy[edit]

GameSpy included Utopia in its Hall of Fame in 2004, commenting': "Considering the state of home video-game technology in 1981, Utopia is an astonishingly detailed simulation."[3] GameSpot featured Utopia in its series Unsung Heroes: Ground Breaking Games, calling it a "surprisingly complex game (often referred to as 'Civilization 0.5') [that] laid the foundation for PC sim classics such as Civilization and SimCity."[6] In 2012, Utopia has been included in the Smithsonian Institution's "The Art of Video Games" exhibition.[7]

Utopia was a turn-based strategy game with some real-time elements.[1][2][3] Ars Technica cites Utopia as being the "birth of a genre", stating that its "real-time element" was "virtually unheard of", and that it is thus "arguably the earliest ancestor of the real-time strategy genre".[4] Matt Barton and Bill Loguidice say it "helped set the template for the real-time strategy genre",[8] but has "more in common with SimCity than it does with Dune II and later RTS games."[9] Brett Weiss argues that "[m]ost experts consider Utopia" to be "the first real-time strategy game."[10]


  1. ^ a b c "The evolution of gaming: computers, consoles, and arcade". Ars Technica. 2005-10-11. 
  2. ^ a b c Encyclopedia of Video Games: M-Z. ABC-CLIO. 2012. p. 582. ISBN 9780313379369. 
  3. ^ a b c d GameSpy Hall of Fame Article on Utopia
  4. ^ a b Moss, Richard (September 15, 2017). "Build, gather, brawl, repeat: The history of real-time strategy games". Ars Technica. Retrieved October 20, 2017. 
  5. ^ a b c "UTOPIA Cartridge Instructions". Intellivision Productions, Inc. Retrieved 2014-10-30. 
  6. ^ Baker, T. Byrl, Unsung Heroes: Ground Breaking Games – Utopia, GameSpot, archived from the original on 2010-07-07, retrieved 2014-10-30 
  7. ^ "Smithsonian "The Art of Video Games" exhibition site". Archived from the original on 2016-12-03. Retrieved 2016-12-04. 
  8. ^ Loguidice, Bill; Barton, Matt (2009). Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time. Boston: Focal Press. p. 238. ISBN 0240811461. 
  9. ^ Loguidice, Bill; Barton, Matt (2012). Vintage Games: An Insider Look at the History of Grand Theft Auto, Super Mario, and the Most Influential Games of All Time. CRC Press. p. 73. ISBN 9781136137587. 
  10. ^ Weiss, Brett (2011). Classic Home Video Games, 1972–1984: A Complete Reference Guide. McFarland & Co. p. 291. ISBN 9780786487554. 

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