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Computer Games I Have Known And Loved

I'm not a big computer game player, but here's a few that have reeled me in recently.

Skyrates: One of my favorite types of board games are those using a mechanism we call "pick-up-and-deliver", in which players acquire things in one location (quests, passengers, commodities, etc) and receive points or money upon successfully transporting the cargo to its intended destination. It's perhaps no surprise, then, that I find computer games employing this gameplay to be equally satisfying. I lost several weeks to Escape Velocity back in the day. More recently, I have been hooked on Skyrates, an online, browser-based game where you assume captainship of a plane, and fly around the various "skylands" buying goods where they are plentiful (and cheap) and selling them where they are rare (and expensive).

Two aspects of the game really set it apart. First, it can take anywhere from 30 to 240 minutes to travel between the skylands, in real time. So rather than playing for large blocks of time during the day, you instead give your pilot his marching orders, close the game, and check back on his progress a later. It's the perfect game to "play' at work, as you need only visit the site for five or ten minutes, a few times a day. Second, the economy of the world is influenced by all the players. If diamonds are abundant (and thus inexpensive) on skyland X, you may rush over there to fill up your cargo hold; but if dozens or hundreds of concurrent players get there before you and buy in bulk, the gems might be rare (and thus pricey) by the time you arrive. It's a clever way of introducing player interaction that doesn't involve combat. A solid game all-around, and one which I have become addicted.

Blocksum: Just when the whole "match three" genre of video games (epitomized by Bejeweled) seems played, someone comes up with a new gimmick to revitalize the field. In the freeware game Blocksum, each piece contains a number, and when a certain quantity of pieces containing the same number form a contiguous group, they disappear from play. The gimmick here is that you can merge adjacent blocks into blocks, containing the sums of the merged blocks. (You could merge a 3 block and a 4 block into a 7 block, for instance). A bit more cerebral that most titles in the field, but one that you will nonetheless find enthralling. I defy anyone to get past level 8, though.

ForumWarz: Unforgivably profane and entirely too hard, ForumWarz still managed to gnaw away at my free time for a span of two weeks or so. After a while I found it to be pretty repetitive, but I was undeniably hooked there for a spell. The game allows you to start playing even before having an account, so there's no reason not to give it a try--assuming, of course, you are essentially unoffendable, which is the only people to which I would recommend it. (Also: Andy Baio interviews the game's creator.)

Moonbase Commander: Simple! Fun!! Long out of print now, alas, but if you can still find copies for sale (and, ahem, binaries for download) if you look hard enough.

Posted on April 24, 2008 to Games


Skyrates is addictive indeed! They seem to have sorted out the server issues that came along with massive exposure earlier in the year so might be worth a second look for people who had troubles the first time round. Now I'm off to fly to Cidade and kit my Hades...

Posted by: Julian on April 27, 2008 11:03 PM

I remember losing many evenings to Moonbase Commander. I think I still have it around... maybe it's time to lose a few more evenings. It is quite possibly the best $10 I've ever spent at EB Games.

I just wish the game had a map/unit editor. Then it'd be perfect!

Posted by: effika on April 28, 2008 5:01 AM

Moonbase Commander is also available on the GameTap service.

Posted by: Braden on April 28, 2008 5:08 AM

I have also been hooked on Skyrates for several months now (ever since it was featured on the JayisGames site). Not only does it feature the "pick-and-deliver" mechanism, but it has "Skill Trees" for allocating experience. That's a feature combo that gets me hooked.

Posted by: 18Charisma on April 28, 2008 7:58 AM

while i have not played it in quite a long time, moonbase commander is indeed awesome! my two younger sisters played it (and in the case of the youngest, still plays it) obsessively!

at various sites, not the least of which is MoonBase Command Center ( http://mbc.strategyplanet.gamespy.com/ ) one can find various utilities for MBC, including the MoonBase Console, which gives you the ability to play custom or random maps (not sure if it includes the editor itself, but i know one exists!)... so @effika, it's time to dig that CD out and give it some more play-time!

Posted by: Jeremy on April 28, 2008 8:48 AM

I am currently hooked on Ikariam as it too can be visited once or twice a day and then left alone like Skyrates. Oh browser based games, how I love thee.

Posted by: Rachel on April 28, 2008 9:00 AM

Moonbase Commander is one of the best games I own, and I own a LOT of games. It's even better with LAN play, if you can goad someone into getting past the dated graphics, which were not top knotch even at release. Graphics really do not make a game, though, and moonbase commander is proof of that. Ultimately, I think it did poorly due to a bad name, no fanfare, and poor box art. Seriously, you gotta do at least ONE of those things correctly if you want your game to sell in huge numbers.

Posted by: SupraGenius on April 28, 2008 3:57 PM

The perfect game to play at WORK? What an odd idea of "work."

Posted by: pjcamp on April 28, 2008 6:51 PM

Moonbase Commander was good, but it was an odd mix of strategy and online golf. Some wanted more module tossing and others wanted to precisely place their modules where they wanted them. A bit like the boardgame Stack Market, which combines speculation and dexterity.

Posted by: Jonathan on April 29, 2008 9:18 PM

Who's your Skyrate pilot, Matt? Inquiring minds want to know!

Posted by: Dan Someone on April 29, 2008 10:14 PM

Half Price Books in the Seattle area has copies of Moonbase Commander for $4.

Posted by: Evil Timmy on May 2, 2008 11:34 AM

I read your post two days ago. Now, after playing obsessively for two days straight, I am staring at a picture of an airplane in clear blue sky, doing nothing in particular, and thinking to myself, "If I don't hurry up, oil will get up to yellow and I'll lose money!" And I'm enjoying myself, you bastard.

Posted by: Iggy on May 2, 2008 9:26 PM

You know, I was really thankful for you for introducing our family to both Carcasonne and TransAmerica. We got them at Christmas time and even though I have to unplug the Wii to get the kids to play with me, we love them.

But now you've got me, and only me, hooked on Skyrates. Yes, it's the perfect game to play for 5-10 minutes here and there. Until you decide to create 2 alts so that you can practice combat and try out different planes. Or lose a few hours building the perfect aircraft on The Mechanic.

My space bar may never recover from all the combat. And I don't even like games like this.

Must go. I think my queue is nearly finished and I want to go patrol so I can save up for the Hades.

Posted by: Becca on May 13, 2008 6:03 PM