Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Ship Simulator Extremes - 20/20 hours

Normally, I write a post at around 15 hours, but this time I skipped it, because it would have been exactly the same as the post I wrote at 10 hours, and as the one I'm going to write for 20. And while dullness is not a problem for me, per se, it does make it a little difficult to compose an interesting blog post.

I finished the Greenpeace campaign, and started the tourist one. Ironically, piloting a cruise ship proved to be more exciting than renegade direct-action political protests in the world's most dangerous waters. But it still wasn't exciting exciting. Because the game was still Ship Simulator Extremes. So, you have to rescue your cruise ship with tugboats when it becomes adrift . . . after having spent 20 minutes sailing into and out of ports. Or rescue a passenger that fell overboard . . . by maneuvering around a shallow harbor. I think it sums up the game (and possibly the genre) perfectly to say that the reason it was more interesting to pilot the massive Orient Star is because it is much more lumbering and unwieldy than the Esperanza or the Rainbow Warrior.

I'm not really complaining, though. Part of the romance of the simulation genre is that it can break us free of the crippling overspecialization of a modern, capitalist economy. I will never be a tugboat captain (and after the half-assed way I dislodged the Orient Star, I shouldn't be), but I can, indirectly and imperfectly, experience some of the challenges a tugboat captain might face. Through the simulator, I can get a chance to peak outside my ordinary life and learn something about the world around me.

Which is where (aside from its general bugginess) Ship Simulator Extremes fails. It never bothered trying to educate me. It never explained the ship controls - I'd flip one lever which seemed to make the ship go, and another which seemed to make it turn, but then there were others which did not appear to do anything, and I never found out what they were or why they did what they did. It never explained the theory behind proper boat operations (I'm certain there are complicated physics reasons for why my tugboats could not turn while attached to the Orient Star, but what they were, and how real tugboat captains get around them is never explained). The best part of the game was the Greenpeace videos, and I could have saved myself a lot of time and trouble by just watching a documentary on Greenpeace.

I suspect that I could come to love the hardcore simulation genre. Even with all my complaints, there was still something satisfying about making a tricky turn in a lumbering cruise ship or keeping to my course in storm-wracked Antarctic waters. However, Ship Simulator Extremes is definitely not a good entry point, and my general intellectual curiosity was not enough to help me bridge the gap.

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