Qt3 Classic Game Club #12 - Zeus

Qt3 Classic Game Club #12 - Zeus

Time for another installment of the classic games club. What to choose? My first and second picks (Fantasy General and Warlords 3) are unfortunately not available anywhere. It is a little too soon for the likes of Civ 1 and Planescape Torment since we’ve just played those 2 genres. They are also true classics so many in the club have probably already played them. Looking back on past choices, nobody’s picked any city builders yet. I have my genre! There’s so few of them on the market these days but quite a few old ones to choose from.

Why Zeus? I wanted to pick something I’ve never played before. Sorry Tropico and SimCity, you’re both out. It came down to Pharaoh, Caesar 3 or Zeus. We already have more modern builders for Egypt (Children of the Nile) and Rome (Caesar 4), both of which are fine games. Zeus is the last in the Impressions Games series and presumably is the most well-refined. It also has great reviews on GoG, so Zeus it is!

The link for the GoG version is here: http://www.gog.com/game/zeus_poseidon
A community widescreen patch is here: http://www.wsgfmedia.com/jackfuste/Zeus/Zeus.7z

I’ve started playing through the tutorial already. Being a fan of the Tilted Mill builders, I’m already feeling quite at home with the mechanics. Hoping to start on one of the adventures this weekend.

PSA: A fairly critical timing bug on modern OSs remains unresolved. Depending on their sound setup, players will experience broken animations, various inconsistencies in god behavior, and perhaps other issues.

My all time favorite city builder! Gotta make time for this one!

I just checked my GOG library and it is in there! I knew I bought it for a reason. I also have never played it and may have to try this one out.

YEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEESSSSSSSSS!

This was on my shortlist, for sure. I am one who agrees it’s the peak of Impressions’ city-builders. You don’t have to twist my arm!

I don’t think I’ve ever run into the bug Nezz is talking about; I hope it’s not really that big of an impact. I’m pretty sure I’ve played it for hours on my Vista machine without anything game-breaking.

EDIT: Oh, hey, I don’t have this on GOG. I thought I picked it up just as a backup when it was on sale once. Well, time to find my discs!

Found the original CD of this and installed it.
I think I never played Zeus, but I’m not certain, as it looks very similar to the other citybuilders of the era.
At some point, I stopped playing them, and I think I’m starting to remember why that was the case. I just stopped caring about the overly fiddly stuff.
I only played half a dozen tutorials or so, but already I’m kinda overwhelmed with how much crap you have to keep track of.
You need dudes that make sure your buildings don’t collapse, you need wells for hygiene and parks for apparel, you need philosophs and athlets for culture, you need guards and infirmaries, you need farms and fisheries and production chains for olive oil and silk, you need storage facilities and assorted marketplaces … I’m kinda overwhelmed even though I guess only a fraction of the stuff in the game is unlocked.

I do realize that this kind of management is basically the point of these games, but I also think it’s evident they’re very much a product of their time. There were several of these city builders released one after another, and each basically tried to up the ante when it comes to complexicity, and it feels like you should have played Caesar III and Pharaoh at the very least as some kind of “tutorial”. Then you wouldn’t have to go through a hundred tutorials explaining all the stuff in Zeus, it’d all be self-explaining from the dozens or even hundreds of hours you played those previous titles.

There was a time in my life when I adored such citybuilding games - especially I have fond memories of Caesar - but I’m not sure if I still have what it takes to enjoy them these days.


rezaf

Actually, I think Zeus is probably the most accessible of the Impressions games, except maybe Caesar II (which will have a lot more polish issues). Pharaoh is certainly not simpler; it has as many elements while also having a more persnickety labor model and complex farming systems (floodplain farming and irrigation). Pharaoh went out of its way to make the Tetrising of facilities more difficult. I think Zeus is much kinder in this aspect.

Not positive, but I wouldn’t be surprised if you’ve almost maxed out on the number of moving parts per level and are now just at the point where they switch out one for another (in this town, you’re making a lot of marble instead of cloth). Hmm… or maybe not if you haven’t learned about elite housing or importing and exporting…

I think technically Rise of the Middle Kingdom was the last of the Impressions games, wasn’t it? It never got as much press/play as their earlier stuff though. Oh I see - It was the last in the Impressions city building series, but was actually done by Breakaway Games.

It’s a shame GOG doesn’t have Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom, because it’s just as polished as Zeus and worth playing.

FYI, If you’re playing Zeus off discs, there’s a patch available. Also, somewhere out there is a widescreen patch, but I think I read it only works if you also have Poseidon installed (which is true with the GOG version). If it’s anything like the one I used for Pharaoh, it’s nice to have, but makes the UI real small and futzes up a couple of non-critical screens.

Maybe that’s the case, but like I was trying to say, this was a game that came out in the context of the games that came out soonish before (we’re talking about an age in which games essentially had a short shelf-life and then disappeared for the most part - hard to imagine these days) which established UI conventions and stuff, even if they weren’t from the same developer. Kinda like these days many FPS/TPS games feel very similar or what’s left of the RTS genre has jettisoned basebuilding.

Also, I feel the approach with a hundred frontloaded tutorial missions is just bad game design. If a game has a lot of mechanics, I feel it’s always best when tutorial-campaigns (whether it’s actual tutorials or the first of several campaigns or whatever) gently introduce stuff in the scope of otherwise complete, self-contained experiences. Like when we recently had Red Alert, it failed to communicate some basic things ingame, but also slowly introduced you to concepts such as base building and resource gathering and whatnot by introducing them one after another over the course of half a dozen missions or so.
Here, it’s almost like in a comedy where the new guy at work is handed folders of introductory material, and they just pile on until his face can no longer be seen 'cause the folders stack up so high.


rezaf

Yeah, so I’m with you on the tutorials now that I played through them. I did not remember at all how the tutorials were set up, and my memory was of the way they worked in Emperor and (I think) in Pharoah, which is the kind of tutorial-campaign you mentioned. What a shame! Especially weird that it didn’t take advantage of the cross-level continuity that Zeus added to the formula, but reset the levels between each tutorial and sometimes removed stuff that were in earlier steps in the tutorial (in one there was a big marble industry that then got stripped out; maybe they rearranged the tutorials at the last minute).

Did you try the first Adventure? It definitely doesn’t start out from scratch, but maybe it doesn’t require all the elite housing and stuff. I just got through the tutorials, but haven’t had a chance to check it out yet.

Thanks for alerting us to this. Indeed, my god animations go very slow. A pity, since everything else appears to work fine.

Is this you guys being proper gentlemen or is this a rule? Because Fantasy General would be pretty great. Zeus of course is also a fine game.

There is an official rule about there being a way to get the game legally. Usually this means it has to be on GOG, since they have the best selection of old games, but other digital distribution works. Basically make it so those of us who missed games the first time around (which for me has been almost all of them) can still participate.

The thing I’m thinking most about while I’m playing Zeus (still in the first adventure, just about to set up my first colony) are all the changes they made between Pharaoh and Zeus, because Pharaoh was the Impressions game I played most recently. It reminds me that as easy as it is to think of Impressions running a cookie cutting assembly line to make these games (with different thematic dressing each time), there are not only improvements made but also some true game-changers. I’ve been compiling a list of them, and a number of them are worth talking about.

A particularly impressive one is the consolidated UI. There’s a lot of information to look at in these games: unemployment numbers, vacant housing spaces, happiness, tax revenue, resource stocks, etc, etc. In Pharaoh, there was a separate tabbed screen where you could see all that stuff. Zeus brings those tabs into the side panel interface, and associates an information pane with each building category. The place where I go to build my palace is the place I go to to see my tax revenue. Where I build industry I also look at my labor. I seem to always pick the wrong tab for building a storage yard, but beyond that the divisions are intuitive and the information given is meaningful. The only significant external UI screen is the world map/diplomacy screen as far as I can tell. Pretty awesome.

For some reason I’m really struggling with maintaining a sufficient number of maintainance buildings. Heh.
I pull off a nice (as far as I can tell) starting plot, get a decent number of housings with along all the other stuff the folks are going to require, and at some point I lean back and think “that should be a good start”, which will be the point my food storage with a maintanance bureau right next to it is going to collapse into rubble, with half a dozen other buildings following in quick succession.
Kinda stupid gameplay mechanic, imo.


rezaf

That shouldn’t be a problem, typically, so I wonder if you are controlling their spawning and pathing well enough. Make sure they only connect to a single path, or they might take the one your granary isn’t on. And then make sure the path isn’t too long. I don’t know the exact number, but my guess is 30 squares or something is about their max? If they have to cover a path longer than that (or whatever the value is), they’ll miss something. Oh, and check to make sure that you have enough labor and the maintenance category of labor isn’t getting shorted. Unexpected random collapses shouldn’t be something you just have to put up with.

That might be it, I’m building almost no roadblocks. From what I understand, by “single path” you are referring to a stretch of road between two roadblocks (or dead ends, I guess)?

I can’t quite agree with your ravings about how well information is communicated to the player. Actually, unless my memory is fooling me, I think even the original SimCity was WAY better in this regard, with those colored overlays you could activate in the map and that would tell you the police coverage, pollution or traffic in any given area. In Zeus, I feel like I really have to work to gather all the info I need.

Sure, you can argue in a worker-based city-builder, this is part of the game design - in this maybe Zeus is more closely related to the early Settlers games than it is to other city builders.

Like I wrote earlier, maybe I just don’t have the right spirit to play these kinds of games any longer.

At least I didn’t have any issues with MoO and find myself still kinda longing to launch another game of it. ;)


rezaf

I bought Planescape Torment and Caesar III a while back when they were on sale in the expectation that someone would pick them. :’(

I’ve never played one of these games, other than a Demo of the first Caesar game, so I’m very much looking forward to it :)

rezaf – Yeah, roadblocks are essential. You pretty much want to completely eliminate forks in all your roads (occasionally you might connect two sections of your city with a new blocked off road just to create a traffic shortcut for delivery walkers with a specific destination). Build in either loops or lines (C shapes are very efficient). Have you found the overlays in Zeus? Are you just not finding them helpful? I think this kind of city-builder is very different from SimCity (which I also love) and, yeah, probably more like Settlers. Or maybe the three of them make up the triad of city-building: American (SimCity), British (Impressions), and European (Settlers, Anno)?

Pod – I really hope you like it! For total beginners, my tip would be to pay attention to the walker system and make sure you understand it. It’s the heart of the game. And also, don’t be put off by the tutorial too much, which we (well, I) recently discovered was not as friendly as it should be and a bit overwhelming.