Game Review

Since the game will already have been out for some time when this article reaches print, plenty of game reviews will be available on-line. C|Net's (,6,0-2635,00.html) had one available even before the PC version hit the streets.

From a Linux perspective, what are some features and issues of importance to those who have not yet seen the game? Well, first is installation. The folks at Loki made use of a native Tk environment to provide a graphical installation of the game's components to disk. The process is quick (as fast as it takes to unpack the massive tar file) and quite painless. I did hit a minor bug at the end of the installation, but it had no ill effects on playing the game. Sam mentioned that the bug should be fixed before the initial Linux release.

From a stability standpoint, the game played perfectly for about six hours before it died with a segmentation fault. I attribute this to a somewhat less than optimal system configuration of 64MB memory (which had to tackle the game, Netscape and about a dozen other X applications at the same time). In general, the game doesn't seem to have many run-time problems. In all cases, the game does seem to catch the problem, since the messages (directed to standard out, i.e., the console from where the game was started) are not quite the typical core-dump messages.

There are some annoying playing features, which are not part of the Loki port but an aspect of the original game design. For example, the game will automatically select a “unit” (one of the people or cities you control) at times, especially after you just clicked on another one. On slower systems (like mine), mouse clicks can be queued up, so when this automatic unit switch occurs, you accidently cause that newly (and unwanted) selected unit to move to an unexpected location.

The game played well, although a tad slow at times (system: 200MHz Cyrix with 64MB). In a few places, the dialog boxes wouldn't go away or were not redrawn correctly after an expose event (e.g., playing a movie). I had to guess where the Close button was on some of those boxes. This happened only while playing the tutorial game. In a normal game, these problems didn't show up.

It was also not clear how to remove some of the message boxes along the left side of the screen. Some seem to go away after the end of a turn, but others stick around seemingly forever. This means the boxes stack up over time, although the game handles a large number of these fairly well, giving an arrow box to see overflow entries. Again, this problem showed up only during the tutorial game, which I played long after the tutorial ended. When I switched to a new game, this problem went away completely, even after an extremely long play with a moderately advanced civilization. All the icons on the left side of the screen during normal (non-tutorial) game play were removed either at the end of a turn or when I clicked on the “eye” icon to address the issue immediately.

Other pluses for the game: