Retro Requisition would like to draw your attention to a classic video game of old that we shall be formally requisitioning to be reborn, revisited, rebooted, or remastered. We will explain what makes each game such a timeless classic still worthy of attention, pitch what it would be all about and get all realistic by discussing the possibilities of it actually ever happening.
“We, the most awesome and fabulous team at That Not Current, have decreed in all our wisdom and obsession with the wonders of retro gaming, that the following game should be brought back to life and hereby submit this formal request to make it so:”
Sid Meier’s Sim Golf (2002)
THE PLAYERS: Si Meier, Will Wright, Firaxis Games, EA
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
SimGolf is a simulation game born from a collaboration of world-building maestro’s of Sid Meier (Civilization) and Will Wright (SimCity) that tasks the player with designing and maintaining their very own golf course. Basically, Theme Park, SimCity or any of the Tycoon games set on the fairways.
To all the naysayers immediately dismissing this a game as it is a golf game then they are very much mistaken. It is so much more.
Players control their very own customisable golf pro who can play their fantasy course in various matches and tournaments. Presented in an isometric view, the goal is to build a beautifully crafted course that looks difficult but is easy to play. Each whole is rated against three key skills of imagination, length and accuracy that combine to give each hole, and the course, and overall rating. Overtime players can earn special landmarks and buildings to improve their course and ultimately increase revenues that are required to build a bigger and better course.
Somewhat of a low-key release towards the tail end of simulation craze, this became a very well-received sleeper hit due to the fact it ran on almost any machine and contained some of the most addictive gameplay ever packaged into a video game!
And it is almost impossible to explain what “it” is that makes SimGolf as addictive, but we can safely say Meier and Wright’s effort has “it” in absolute spades. The game should really be called “just-ten-more-minutes” as that better describes the experience.
With a very subtle undertone of parody and a very prominent ability to never take itself too seriously, it provides an utterly charming experience that shapes around the player. It draws little bits from the bit hitters of the genre; such as the Tycoon games, Theme Park, SimCity and even The Sims. Incredibly simple to get to grips with, it provides a truly accessible blank canvas design game that always feels fresh and engaging.
WHY DOES IT NEEDS TO BE REBORN?
Quite simply because there has never been anything else like it on the market.
Sure, we had a couple of Golf Resort Tycoon games around the same time and Maxis had released their own, very different, SimGolf in 1996; but they were all tragically poor in comparison and never captured the carefree fun of Sid Meier’s SimGolf.
The gospel truth is a game this addictive and engrossing will never officially die and it is still widely played by people throughout the world 15 years after it was originally released. However, despite running on old Windows ’95 machines when it was first released, it has become really difficult to get modern machines to run it, mainly due to its 800×600 max resolution which is a restriction of the tailor built game engine.
And that bittersweet irony that a game designed to accommodate all the old tech is no longer compatible with the latest means that we are at the point where it could very soon be lost to history. Fact is, it doesn’t even need to be remade – just updated to be more future proof.
Sid Meier and Will Wright are both bona fide legends of game design who have arguably made the simulation genre their own, defining it with seen multiple critically acclaimed entries over 30 years. While I adore many of these game – Civilization, SimCity, Alpha Centauri, Spore, Pirates! and even The Sims – SimGolf is the one I have dedicated most hours to in my life; the one that has brought me the greatest levels of unbridled joy and glee.
Should SimGolf be resuscitated and given some love fitting of the modern day we would ensure that today’s kids can bask in the delight of such simple, addictive and highly rewarding game.
WHAT WOULD WE WANT TO SEE IN ANY REBIRTH?
A simply HD upgrade would be more than enough to appease us, although with the restrictions on the game engine that isn’t straight forward. As much as I’m not a fan of tablet/mobile games, this could be absolutely perfect for it and any remastered version could attack all markets.
Naturally, it would be great to see more variation and evolution in the design options. While the isometric display is very much a thing of yesteryear, it would be wrong to verge too far away from what is a real style crux of the game. Switching between the classic view to a more user friendly third person view for playing the course would be cool, but hardly essential. The actual golf gameplay is quirky and decent enough as is.
Providing an online multiplayer mode would make for a nice addition, with more infrastructure for the sharing of players course designs. Maybe a more accessible coding to allow for fan made mods would allow for the game to constantly reinvent them
If it is to go all out, then 2016’s Planet Coaster from Frontier Developments has set a new benchmark for simulation games, and the thought of this scale of simulation game being applied to SimGolf is beyond appetising. However, any full redesign must above all else ensure it maintains the allure of the original, staying true to its style and control.
IS IT LIKELY?
Well, no not really. For one simple reason – Electronic Arts.
They own the rights to the game, and if their recent history tells us anything it is that a remake of a niche game like SimGolf doesn’t offer enough of a return to even consider. With EA it’s all about the dollar signs and any redevelopment needs to be almost guaranteed to make bucket loads of cash before it will be considered, and I don’t think even the most die-hard of SimGolf fans can make a case that it would. In aggressively buying out multiple smaller studios they have basically condemned many of the hidden gems to the history books. Furthermore, their last statement on the game was that there was no intention at all to even bring it to their online Origin platform – such a terminally definitive stance.
The original designers who would be best placed for any revisit, Firaxis Games, are now owned by another gaming conglomerate in Take-Two Interactive. As a rival to EA, it would be very much in their nature to block any attempt by Take-Two to take their IP, and that is assuming it would be deemed worthy of Take Two’s attention in the first place, which it likely wouldn’t.
However, recent developments has seen SimGolf appear on multiple abandon-ware websites over the past year, and EA website for the game was taken down in late 2015. While it has never been confirmed officially, it looks as if EA has cast it adrift. So the possibility of a small independent studio or designer reviving the game, even if under a new name, is a possibility.
There is a wishlist on GOG.com to have it re-released digitally on their site, a solution that would suit EA as it would pass responsibility to another party while still ensuring they coin the royalties from sales. However, given GOG only release games fully compatible with modern systems, the issues with the limitations of the games engine rears its head again and means it wouldn’t be a strait forward patch and release job, but a much more challenging task.
We have seen first hand that Sid Meier in particular likes to reinvent and update his games – multiple Civilization, Railroad and Pirates! games for example – and part of me retains a glimmer of hope that one day he will have an urge to return to his greatest hidden gem and push through any red tape with the games rights. And there is always a chance that a completely separate game could appear, taking inspiration from SimGolf.
So who really knows. Not a definite consigned to oblivion game just yet…
In the meantime, whether you are familiar with it or a newcomer, I urge you to get a hold of the original, and go to the extreme efforts required to get it to run on a modern PC – including sourcing patch 1.03 and likely getting some VM software. Not only will you be in for an undemanding and utterly delightful treat, you will also get sucked into the most addictive game I have ever played.