SimCity 2000 for OS/2- by Ethan Hall Beyer

A perennial DOS favourite tests OS/2 waters

Since 1993, Maxis' SimCity 2000 city simulation software has earned great praise from reviewers, and developed a loyal following among its devotees. Building upon the success of the original SimCity (now referred to as SimCity Classic), the appeal of SimCity 2000 is certainly not bound by what operating system the game player happens to use. Maxis has recognized this and, after releasing DOS, Windows, and Mac versions of SimCity 2000, now offers a version for OS/2 Warp users as well.

What exactly is SimCity?

For those of you unfamiliar with the "Simulator" series or games here, briefly, is what they are. In each Sim game Maxis has produced, the player assumes a somewhat divine control of a specific simulation environment (names such as SimCity, SimAnt, SimFarm are surely suggestive) and attempts to direct it so that everything goes well, the environment flourishes and, overall, everyone is happy. In SimCity 2000, you start off with unmarred landscape and attempt to build it into a prosperous city (GIF 44k). You control most aspects of real city planning, such as water, road and power grid layout, crime, pollution, greenspace management, your citizens' quality of life, natural disasters, etc. Although you are given the tools (GIF 7k) necessary to monitor all these factors, it takes a surprising amount of skill to bring it all together. But trying is all the fun, and there isn't really any "wrong" way to play the game; with enough practice, the "perfect" city can be created.

SimCity 2000 for OS/2?

Yes, there is a SimCity 2000 version for Warp! If you didn't know, you should blame Maxis. The release, while eagerly anticipated, was very underwhelming. It seems that most of the Internet found out the product was available only after one usenet reader had called Maxis for an update, and was told the product was available, and posted this information on the Internet.

But the product is indeed out, and SimCity 2000 for OS/2 is every bit as entertaining as its DOS and Windows counterparts. It is available from Maxis directly for US$29.95 (plus shipping and handling) or only $9.95 if you're upgrading from the DOS version; and it's also available from OS/2 friendly retailers and mail order companies. The program itself ships on three 1.44" diskettes (no CDROM version is available for OS/2) and includes an "OS/2 Warp Quick-Start Guide" but otherwise is identical to the packages available for other platforms. This OS/2 specific add-in covers the basics of installation, system requirements (see below) and some troubleshooting. It is sufficient for most conditions, but I think it could have been made more complete. The manual is well done and comprehensive, and includes a quick tutorial to get you going right away.

System requirements and installation

SimCity 2000 for OS/2 requires Warp. It claims to require a 486 66MHz or higher with 8 MB or RAM, but it performs quite healthily on my 33 MHz processor. It also requires a 256 colour video resolution, and MMPM/2 running with a 16bit soundcard. Approximate hard drive space required is 8 megs, and city files take more.

The installation, while straightforward, could be better. Maxis makes use of the standard IBM installation program (as included with many IBM products) which is functional, but not the most intuitive. A SimCity program object and help object (the on-line help is in INF format) are created, and they can be run right away, with no need to reboot!

Those disappointed with the DUX port of SimCity Classic, and anxious about the performance of SimCity 2000 for OS/2, need not worry. The two programs are worlds apart. While the classic version was slow and inept, SimCity 2000 is surprisingly snappy--you don't notice slowdowns and, unlike the classic version, not once has it hung on me. On startup, you can choose to play one of the supplied scenarios, or work on an existing or new city of your own design. From there, you go right into city editing mode, which is essentially identical to all other versions of SimCity 2000. From then on, you have fun and get to work on building your city.

Problems? Yes, we've got problems

You weren't expecting there not to problems, were you? Neither was I. One of the most significant problems some people may experience, is video support. SimCity 2000 for OS/2 uses DIVE technology and, if your video device doesn't support it, you're out of luck. Though most cards shouldn't have any problem, you should check with other OS/2 users if you want to be sure. (For example, I obtained my copy from someone whose Thinkpad video didn't work properly with the program). Further, there are rumours of memory leaks in the program; in fact, the programmers did indicate that they'd found one, but some players still report strange behaviour. Many others, including myself, find nothing abnormal. (Editor's note: Maxis has released an update/patch to SimCity 2000 for OS/2 which can be found on their ftp site.)

There are a few minor glitches as well. A major disappointment to me is its 8.3 filename limitation. It would have been nice to see long filename support in this native OS/2 product. SimCity 2000 for OS/2 also aggressively uses different mouse pointers (to indicate different activities), and there are conflicts with other programs that change the pointer, such as the PopWatch program I use. Other users have reported similar problems when using a non-default mouse pointer collection, though I could not demonstrate that here. And I saw a few small nits here and there, such as failure to display the selected grid when applying zones as illustrated in the manual.

Should I get it?

If you know you like this sort of game, definitely. SimCity 2000 for OS/2 is a solid, well done version for Warp, of a product that is widely viewed as one of the better computer games available. Maxis is working on OS/2 versions of more of its products and has already released some such as SimTown and Widget Workshop. As far as OS/2 support goes, SimCity 2000 is an excellent start.
 * SimCity 2000 for OS/2
by Maxis
MSRP: US$29.95
Ethan A. Hall-Beyer is a second year Math/Computer Science student at the University of Waterloo, currently on work term at IBM Canada.

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