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Chris Crawford

Balance of the Planet

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There is only one reason why any reader might think this post worthy of their time: I'm an old Atari hand who continued in the industry and have done some odd things.

 

I'm here to announce something about Balance of the Planet, which is NOT a retro game, although the first version of the game appeared on Mac and PC in 1990. Instead, I am, with some hesitation, burdening this forum with an announcement that I have launched a Kickstarter project to fund Balance of the Planet.

 

Why should this be of interest to you? Only indirectly. Balance of the Planet is not really a computer game: it's an educational simulation. I won't claim that it's fun, nor do I claim that it has great graphics and animation, and I'll tell you up front that the demo version isn't even alpha-level yet.

 

Are you excited about it yet?

 

Here's the good part: Balance of the Planet is easily the most advanced, thorough, complex, and educational simulation about environmental-economic problems that has ever been made publicly available. Does anybody remember a wretched game I made at Atari back in 1979 called "Energy Czar"? If so, then you can think of Balance of the Planet as "great-great grandchild of Energy Czar". Seriously, this thing will really challenge you to think about how and why we're in such deep doo-doo with our commingled environmental and economic problems.

 

The other good part is that I want to give it away. Yep, I've put it up on the web for anybody to play for free. Of course, it totally sucks right now, but I'm trying to get funding on Kickstarter so I can finish it. So, if you are possessed of noble heart and fat wallet, please go to this URL, look it over, and bestow your largesse upon the project!

 

http://www.kickstart...e-of-the-planet

 

... and we thank yew fer yer time!

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Welcome, Mr. Crawford! It's an honor to see you here on AtariAge!

 

I've been following your "design diaries" for Balance of the Planet (very interesting, by the way, as are all of your writings!), and I posted a brief item about this Kickstarter project after I noticed it on your website the other day. I think there is a need for a project of this kind, so here's hoping that enough of us can pledge our support and spread the word to make it a success!

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Welcome to AA forums. It would be interesting to hear a little more about yourself and your role at Atari. I've been hearing good things about Kickstarter projects and the ability to bring together resources to help create things that otherwise might not get created and wish you well in your venture. Perhaps you will receive input that can result in a more balanced simulation. I've been astounded at the amounts of money (and misguided regulation) spent on "environmental" problems and solutions demonstrated by little or no true scientific evidence, and which often even produce negative results (such as eliminating incandescent light bulbs, Soylindra funding, suppression of oil production inside US borders, etc).

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Well, fiddlepaddle, while at Atari I wrote Energy Czar, Scram, Eastern Front (1941), Tanktics, Legionnaire, Gossip, and Excalibur. I also wrote De Re Atari, ran the Software Development Support Group, and then later ran the Games Research Group under Alan Kay.

 

And I don't put scare quotes around the word "environmental"; it's real enough for me.

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Well, fiddlepaddle, while at Atari I wrote Energy Czar, Scram, Eastern Front (1941), Tanktics, Legionnaire, Gossip, and Excalibur. I also wrote De Re Atari, ran the Software Development Support Group, and then later ran the Games Research Group under Alan Kay.

 

And I don't put scare quotes around the word "environmental"; it's real enough for me.

 

Impressive credentials; you've obviously got great technical and management experience for this project. By the way, those quotes were not meant to diminish your use of the word, only to distinguish those (many) who use the word as a shield and a sword.

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Fair enough, fiddle paddle; I have gone to great lengths to insure that Balance of the Planet presents a reasoned representation of the issues. It all boils down to the numbers; there are about 150 coefficients in the simulation that control its behavior. In the highest level of the game, I give the player the power to adjust those coefficients as he sees fit.

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Fair enough, fiddle paddle; I have gone to great lengths to insure that Balance of the Planet presents a reasoned representation of the issues. It all boils down to the numbers; there are about 150 coefficients in the simulation that control its behavior. In the highest level of the game, I give the player the power to adjust those coefficients as he sees fit.

Kudos to trying this, especially since there are so many people who might plain hate you for not full filling their vision of things. Be it completely ignoring global warming happening or going to apocalyptic opposite extremes.

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I'm very excited about this. In fact, I have a whole shelf in my collection dedicated to Chris Crawford games. I hope when this Kickstarter is successful it also means there is a possibility of an updated version of Balance of Power or Legacy of Siboot.

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Fair enough, fiddle paddle; I have gone to great lengths to insure that Balance of the Planet presents a reasoned representation of the issues. It all boils down to the numbers; there are about 150 coefficients in the simulation that control its behavior. In the highest level of the game, I give the player the power to adjust those coefficients as he sees fit.

 

Hi and welcome to Atariage Mr. Crawford. I'd like to congradulate you (for whatever it's worth) for tackling an important issue (which IMHO is more than real) through your new project. I am sure many of us could and will benefit from it. I for one actually visited the web site and started the simulation, and again IMO it really doesn't need to be more balanced as it already looks and feels well balanced. If I understand it correctly from what I have seen so far the results of the sim will just depend on to our decisions and actions in dealing with the environmental problems just like they do in real life. There is no denying that those problems exist, it's how we deal with them now will make them more or less critical in the future and your simulation will help us, people who are not so familiar with the issues (and their various solutions), to understand the pros and cons of each solution and how they will affect the outcome.

 

Again it's a pleasure and honor to see you in these forums and I truly hope that your simulation project gets off the ground to a well deserved successful start.

Edited by atari8warez

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and which often even produce negative results (such as eliminating incandescent light bulbs, Soylindra funding, suppression of oil production inside US borders, etc).

 

What are the negative results of eliminating incandescent lights?.... We have been using fluorescent lighting in offices for ages and have never seen any of my coworkers suffer from Migraine (due to flickering), even if some did I guess the percentage of the people affected is small enough not to be a concern. Mercury content?... mercury isn't in the fluorecent lights only, used batteries are a much larger source for mercury pollution but we never ever think of getting rid of them. Fluorescent lights use 1/4 of the energy incandescent lights require and that translates into large reductions in exploitation of natural resources and use of fossil fuels.

 

It's about time we take care of how we dispose off pollutants. Here in Toronto we have what we call a "Toxic Taxi" service. When we accumulate enough toxic material at home (old batteries, old paint, used motor oil, old fluorescent bulbs etc...) we just give them a call/email and get an appointment for safe pick-up and disposal.

 

No I am not a tree hugger, I am just a sensible person who thinks that future generations have an equal right with me to enjoy this planet we call our home :)

Edited by atari8warez

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I'm very excited about this. In fact, I have a whole shelf in my collection dedicated to Chris Crawford games.

I'm building a "Crawford collection" also! So far, I only have Eastern Front (1941) and Legionnaire for the Atari 800 and Balance of Power for the IBM PC, but I also have a few of Crawford's books: C.C. on Game Design, C.C. on Interactive Storytelling, Balance of Power, and The Art of Interactive Design. The first of these books is the only one I've read all the way through, but the last has already given me a lot of inspiration for a software project I'm currently working on.

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I don't wish to take all the credit, but I'm the one who suggested Mr. Crawford come here. :) I had seen jay post in my Kicstarter thread that Chris Crawford had one going, so I went to check it out and pledged. Mr. Crawford sends out a e-mail almost every weekday with a update on what is going on, and in one of those he asked for suggestions on where he could post to spread the word about his project. Since I had heard it about from AA, I suggested AA to him, saying this was a mostly older and mature group of gamers and people here who recalled all his great stuff. I'm both shocked and thrilled he actually DID post here. :)

 

Welcome Mr. Crawford, I hope you hang around and as a long time fan of your games I'm very much looking forward to what the final result looks like.

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What are the negative results of eliminating incandescent lights? ...
This isn't the forum for this particular discussion, but suffice to say they exist in my life, and just because they don't in yours is no reason to reduce my options. I use LED lights, CF lights, and incandescent lights, each for their best purpose. I'm sure you can google and fill that void in your knowledge. Pointing out that these blind spots exist was the reason for my original reference to balance.

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I'm sure you can google and fill that void in your knowledge. Pointing out that these blind spots exist was the reason for my original reference to balance.

 

In fact I did that (googling)... and the drawbacks of using fluorecent lighting seems to be migraine in some sensitive people and the mercury content in those lights... to me though benefits outweight the negatives, and you are right this is not the proper venue to discuss these matters however I must note that I wasn't the one who started the subject ;)

Edited by atari8warez

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I'm always looking one or two projects ahead. Right now I have two main projects: Balance of the Planet and a second edition of my book on interactive storytelling. However, my third project, which is already in very preliminary planning, is a completely new version of my old Atari game "Gossip". I chose this not because it was one of my great games but rather because 1) it's a clean, simple game; 2) it can work on a small screen (like iPhone); and 3) it's a very different kind of game.

 

At some point I suppose I have to do Balance of Power and Eastern Front (1941) as well. But for now the only thing on the horizon is Gossip. How many of you ever saw Gossip?

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I'm always looking one or two projects ahead. Right now I have two main projects: Balance of the Planet and a second edition of my book on interactive storytelling. However, my third project, which is already in very preliminary planning, is a completely new version of my old Atari game "Gossip". I chose this not because it was one of my great games but rather because 1) it's a clean, simple game; 2) it can work on a small screen (like iPhone); and 3) it's a very different kind of game.

 

At some point I suppose I have to do Balance of Power and Eastern Front (1941) as well. But for now the only thing on the horizon is Gossip. How many of you ever saw Gossip?

 

I have played it on disk on my Atari 800 and thought it was very clever. According to Wikipedia it was originally a cartridge game? That doesn't sound right as I don't recall APX games ever coming out on cartridge. Was it ever officially released or distributed?

Edited by bojay1997

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I'm sorry that Balance of the Planet didn't reach its fundraising target. Hopefully, the exposure that it received on Kickstarter at least prompted some useful feedback. In the meantime, I'm glad to see that you're pushing ahead with your other projects. I already have the first edition of Chris Crawford on Interactive Storytelling in my library, and I'm very much looking forward to reading the second edition!

 

As for Gossip, I remember obtaining a copy years ago. I didn't have any documentation for it, so I never quite figured it out at the time, but after reading your chapter about it in Chris Crawford on Game Design, I understand it better. I can definitely see the potential of an updated version for new platforms, perhaps even with a live multi-player option.

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