History's Dumpster Mobile Link

History's Dumpster for Smartphones, Tablets and Old/Slow Computers http://historysdumpster.blogspot.com/?m=1

Wednesday, June 01, 2016

Shadow President

I love simulation video games. Especially the "civilization building" types like Sim City.

But there's one game in particular I have a special fondness for that has never been updated or given a modern makeover and it's still every bit as challenging (although graphically challenged itself) as it was when it came out in 1993.

It's called Shadow President.

In this game, you are the Commander In-Chief. Yes, you. You have the ultimate power to create world peace, a roaring economy and make the quality of life in the world a global benchmark. Or you can send us all back to the stone age. You can be a wise peacemaker and a statesperson. Or a brutal tyrant hell bent on world domination. You can force regime changes. Or live and let live. You can test your deepest held ideology. Or define yours through a series of surprisingly accurate situations and how you would handle each of them. Any way you go, there are benefits and ramifications to every decision you make. Just like what a real president has to deal with.

The game starts in June of 1990. If you remember that time (and it seems like yesterday to me), The Berlin Wall had come down, the Soviet Union hadn't become Russia again (and it wouldn't until 1991, but the change was already afoot in the Kremlin.) And most of all, Saddam Hussein's Iraq was getting it's dander up with Kuwait and would eventually invade it. This would be your first major test of how you would deal with a major world crisis in the Oval Office.

Like I said, this game isn't big on graphics. And it's not a high action game. It can be pretty tedious at times with all the seemingly mundane things going on. But each situation, no matter how trivial they may appear has some indirect benefit or consequence to your leadership effectiveness, popularity and world standing.  It's one of those games that really belong in a classroom. But if you love a good game of mental chess rather than 3-D explosions and insane graphics, this is for you.

You can also balance the budget, increase or decrease spending in the Military, Social spending, Investment in the country and Foreign Aid. You can raise or lower Personal, Corporate and Sales taxes and well as Tariffs. You can consult with your advisors on which route to take that would ultimately shape your presidency. This means encountering a lot of things you weren't even prepared for. You may be forced to make decisions that fly in the face of your own ideals (like all presidents are forced to do sometimes.) But then again, being President means inheriting a nation and world left behind by the previous President and what you make of it will determine your legacy.

When you select a country (just move the mouse cursor to a country on the map and click on it until it lights up. Another way is to press the ? key and use the up/down arrows to find the specific country you're looking for), move your mouse cursor the the extreme left on the map, the options menu will appear. Click on SOC/ECO/CIA/MIL or NUC for each option menu and decide what you will do to the selected country.
You can decide what to do with each country. You can send them humanitarian, economic, intelligence, military and nuclear aid. You can declare war on them or defend them. Arrange for surgical strikes, issue peace delegations, give them Most Favoured economic status or block trade. Set up coup d'etats  Or blow them up in a nuclear holocaust. But remember, your every move is going to either have success or catastrophic ramifications.

Your popularity level is what ultimately determines if you get elected to another term. A popularity level of 50% or higher can mean you get another term. But anything lower could jeopardize that. A popularity rating of less than 30% can set you up for serious trouble and less than 20% could put you at risk for impeachment or even assassination. It's very very hard to build your popularity, but much easier to screw it all up. You're walking on eggshells - just like a real president.  

The Game:

Shadow President is a DOS game (it's 23 years old.) And while DOS is pretty much the Latin of the computer languages these days, it's not entirely defunct (you'd be surprised at what our own government computers still use in 2016.) But regardless of your computer operating system, you can still play it on DOSBox. Download DOSBox here and install it on your computer (there's versions for Windows, Mac and Linux and others as well as an Android version for your smartphone or tablet.)

Next, download the game here (it's free abandonware as there are no current versions of this game.) Unzip and place the SHADOW folder in your Games folder. When you want to play, just click on the SHADOW.exe file in the SHADOW folder. DOSBox should handle it from there.

And don't forget the manual. You can download the PDF file here. Keep it in the SHADOW folder for safekeeping (it won't affect the performance of the game.) You will need this as there is a primitive security system of quotes in which you must answer with who said them and the answers are in the manual. If you do not answer them correctly, the game goes on a 30 day trial and that's not 30 actual days in real life, but 30 days in the game itself (on average speed, the clock goes at one hour per second.) The manual also goes into explaining the game in deeper detail.

To stop the clock during the game, press the 0 (zero) key. This helps when you need to make a lot of changes. To start back up/ change game speed, press 1 for 1 hour per second, 2 for 2 hours per second, 3 for 4 hours per second, 4 for 8 hours per second or 5 for one day per second. Beware that faster speeds can make interaction very difficult. You'll have to experiment to find the one that's right for you or adjust as you play. (Click on images to enlarge.)

 In the System Menu, there's even an Auto-Pilot feature where the game plays itself for you. But be aware that the game can often make decisions you may not want or even screw it up for you. 

After going through the "security clearance", you will be treated to the opening scenario and a tutorial overview. This allows you to get a feel for the controls of the game options and there's a button on screen for saving the game. Use it - a lot. Because you may want to play for certain periods of time and pick up where you left off. Or try different strategies. Other options include running the game without elections (oh yes, there are elections.), With/without audio (the sounds are also pretty primitive by today's standards.) Or different scenarios, such as a Super Iraq, Virtual Earth, US Economic Decline and others.

 The game also includes the 1990 CIA Factbook, which is useful in determining the history of a certain country as well as calculating potential strategies of each. But bear in mind as you play, you change the course of world history and the entries can become meaningless beyond that if say, you take over or change the regimes of North Korea. Or Iraq. Or even go full Benedict Arnold and actually support our enemies. (Yes, you can even do that. But there could be some pretty big consequences. Just like in real life.)

 The only problem is the game does not have one very important aspect to the real life workings of the President; Congress. In a real life presidency, you have to work with Congress (the House of Representatives and the Senate.) And that more than anything else determines your leadership effectiveness. If you can't get anything past them, you're what's called a "lame duck". But since this game does not have a Congress to deal with, you're pretty much a dictator in spite of being an elected President. So for the purposes of simplicity and hypothesis, you're in control of everything. A Congress feature would magnify how difficult the presidency actually is, but it would have also resulted in a game perhaps too big and advanced for the old computers of 1993.

My preferred personal strategy to this game has always been the Peacemaker/Good Guy because it's super hard. I follow a sort of Bernie Sanders-like strategy of keeping military conflicts at the barest minimum while keeping a close watch over the economy and spending on Social programs and Investment high. Cut or raise taxes according to what affects common people more than corporations and the 1%. And it works amazingly well. (Click on images to enlarge)

June 1990
November 1992
The changes are pretty dramatic, but they were made very gradually. Just a little bit month by month, but it's given me a landslide election victory the day before in the 1992 screenshot. With massively increased social spending and investment, homelessness is a thing of the past. Everyone has free college, Cannabis is legal. Life is pretty laid back. And it shows.

On the right side of the screenshot you'll see some lines with TEAQ under them. They stand for:

Total Influence
Quality of Life

In the 1992 screenshot, the Total Influence is down because I'm not trying to be world cop and focusing on matters at home. The Economy is roaring, Ambition is very low because we're not picking fights or invading other countries (the legal weed helps too) and Quality of Life is crazy good. And 76% popularity is not too shabby.

On the other hand, you could try other things that are less challenging and more fun, like invading Canada. But I love a hard strategic puzzle.

It's a fun game for the intellectual sort, maybe not so much for the raging gamer. But it's always worth a shot....If you dare.


1 comment:

  1. Awesome write up. I recently came across this game and have to say that I've found it to be very engaging thus far. Kinda sad how there's not really a game in recent history that's as detailed as this one is.


Spam messages will be automatically deleted