Just Imagine... a game by David Lester, a man familiar to computer strategists, although he is normally associated with reviewing games rather than supplying material for review. His game, Just Imagine is slightly reminiscent of Software Star in that you have to run a software company successfully until £500,000 pure profit has been made.
Procedures are handled very differently to those in Software Star however. Initially your company has £2,500 in the bank. Games have to be bought rather than developed. Each month a selection of three software titles is presented along with percentage probabilities for success. Each program belongs to one of five categories: Strategy; Simulation; Arcade; Adventure and Utility. After selecting one of the programs available, an offer has to be made on the royalty payment for the author. Don't be mean if your offer is too derisory, the author will take his game elsewhere and you incur £750 in costs.
Once a game has been obtained, a retail price needs to be selected. There is an upper limit of £15.00 on the price, so this reflects the current market fairly well. Packaging has to be bought and this is available in varying qualities. An option to buy the services of a cover artist is also presented. Then advertising (in terms of pages bought) is handled and number of copies to be made that month needs to be determined. At this point, various random elements enter the game. These are presented as news items in a magazine. At one point, I was told that burglars had wrecked some company equipment and stolen copies of the game but they thought they were so bad that they returned them! Sometimes however, good news is the order of the day and this can influence the next stage of the game.
You are given a choice of marketing managers. One of them is expensive but efficient, offering all kinds of promotions for the product from TV interviews to buying a celebrity's name to support the game. The other choice is a little cheaper, but the kind of services he offers are more suspect to say the least. Anything goes, from bribing reviewers to sabotaging other companies' efforts. In fact his chart is used to show the position of the game later in month. Get involved with this guy though, and the chances are he will be caught and your company reputation takes a dent as a result. The last choice is simply to avoid a marketing man altogether, but this means any chances of extra publicity for that month will be missed.
Eventually, the number of copies sold during the month becomes known and the top five games are displayed with your game and its position shown below (assuming it failed to make the top five). After that, revenue is determined alongside costs incurred for the month. It's only at this point that the difficulties of this game really become apparent. The bankers are evidently unwilling to supply much credit (even though this is a necessity for most companies) and debt at this stage generally results in the end of the game. There is the chance to sell off any games you have to other companies to cut your losses but this measure rarely works.
This approach makes the game very difficult. With little chance of survival for more than a month without an immediate success in the charts, a good feature would have been the chance to restart from scratch at any point. Instead it's necessary to play right through to the end of a month before getting the proverbial boot. Another problem of the game is its speed. Little tunes are often played before different section of the game commence. These are usually quite pleasant but become irritating nonetheless because of the wait involved while they play. Another wait is necessary while the charts for the month are being sorted out. A message does appear asking you to be patient, but the whole process could and should have been implemented faster.
The game has its plus points as well. When certain decisions are made, the computer sends a little message to comment on them. Sometimes it agrees with your pricing policy and at other times, it comes up with comments like, 'Oh dear. I don't think that's quite the right price for this but let's see.' At the end of the day however, I was disappointed. Initially I was impressed. There seemed to be more attention to rather simplistic and inaccurate Software Star but the game has problems all of its own. Speed (or lack of it), inflexibility in play and an unfortunately abrupt end make this a frustrating game.
There's a sense of humour pervading the game which does a good job at making some cynical digs at the worst side of the software industry, but none of its excitement come through either. I'm afraid that this game is unsatisfying to play despite some of its more interesting features.
As an added incentive, the inlay states that if you achieve a pure profit in excess of £500,000 on the game, you will receive 'rights' to a game called Laser Shoot. It seems you will receive a copy of the game to do with as you wish…
Easy to learn through play but little in the way of packaging or options.
Dubious quality but straightforward once you become accustomed to the game.
Easy to get started but difficult to make a game last.
Pure text only.
Some aspects of the game reflect the mechanisms of the industry but too many are glossed over.
About as much as you could really charge for this.
Something of interest for those prepared to persevere but otherwise lacking in satisfaction and entertainment because of the abortive nature of play.