A San Francisco video game company is hoping to tap into a new legion of 49er fans.
1849, a new simulation game from developer SomaSim, tasks players with building and managing cities in 20 California counties during the Gold Rush. Released today, the game can be played on PCs, Macs and both Android and Apple tablets.
The setup is simple: Players are given a patch of land and limited resources. Its up to them to create and maintain mines, roads, houses, farms, stores and services that will potentially grow into one of Californias cities.
Successful communities require workers, and workers need equipment, food, clothing and yes, even liquor, which can be acquired by buying, selling and trading goods. In addition, players take on certain tasks at different levels, such as establishing wineries in St. Helena and selling pallets of wine to San Francisco.
Geographic-specific history serves as the games backdrop but doesnt overwhelm 1849, said SomaSim co-founder Matt Viglione.
Since its a simulation game where you build things from scratch, it isnt about one city so much as it is about a context and a location, he said in a recent phone interview.
So while players wont hear mention of John Sutter or James W. Marshall, they will get the chance to make Sacramento a roaring hub of gold trade, and in one case, help keep the city from perpetually flooding.
Californias population explosion and the up-from-nothing nature of Gold Rush cities sparked the idea for the game, Viglione said.
Thats ... what happened during the Gold Rush, he said. Three hundred thousand-plus people showed up in six years and built most of the towns in Northern California from nothing.
Viglione and Rob Zubek, who previously worked games such as CityVille and FarmVille 2, wanted to make a city-building simulation game when they co-founded SomaSim in April 2013, but struggled to find a thematic focus.
During a trip around Northern California, they realized that they were surrounded by cities that fit the have nothing, grow into everything construct perfect for simulation games, Viglione said.
From there, they visited other Gold Rush towns, researched period architecture and poured over The Shirley Letters, a collection of missives that detailed daily life and conditions of mining camps.
While sharing similarities with recent resource-management games such as FarmVille, 1849 is perhaps more closely aligned with titles such as Sim City, Civilization and Caesar III, which saw their heyday in the 1990s and early 2000s.
Were really trying to hit people who are essentially like my generation, who played these kind of games in college and in high school, who were at their peak of game playing when these games were at their peak of popularity, and who have fond memories of them like we do, Viglione said.
That doesnt mean that the game is only for experienced sim geeks. With tutorials that explain the necessary tools and actions to start and grow a city, the game is accessible to anyone interested in playing.
Also, we think that because its on tablets, we hope that it will hit a demographic that didnt grow up with these kind of games, Viglione said.
Early responses from beta testers and video-game journalists have proved positive, hinting that the hunger for old-school simulation games hasnt yet died out. Were hopeful that this is the start of something, a renaissance of simulation games, Viglione said.
Some of the games most fervent interest has come from Europe, he said, adding that the Germans and the French seem to have a strange affinity with the American West.
1849 can be purchased for desktops and laptops through www.gog.com, IndieGameStand.com and through the digital distribution service Steam for $15. The tablet version, which is functionally similar but does not contain the desktop versions sandbox mode, can be downloaded through Google Play and the Apple App Store for around $5.
The game is rated appropriate for children 12 and older and features infrequent/mild alcohol, tobacco or drug use or references; infrequent/mild cartoon or fantasy violence, according to the Apple App Store.
For more information about 1849, visit www.somasim.com/1849.