Money in Space – Earth Orbit Stations

2008 November 18
EOS intro

EOS intro

The intro screen (shown above) for Earth Orbit Stations features a nice animation of a space shuttle launching, and the game that follows that neat intro does not disappoint.  EOS was programmed by Karl Buiter and published by Electronic Arts in 1987.  It puts you in charge of building and turning a profit from, you guessed it, space stations orbiting not only Earth but potentially other planets of our solar system as well.

An interesting twist in the set-up is that you are not simply running a government-funded, NASA-sponsored project – you are one of several entrepreneurs competing to make money with your station, through a combination of commercial and research uses of your station’s modules, and by building new and more advanced stations.  Rivals, who can be either computer-run or actual human players, will be building their own stations and trying to beat you to reach the goal of whatever particular mission you’ve currently chosen.

The interface is very nicely handled, which saves this fairly complex program from being too clunky on an Apple II.   A big block serves as the cursor, which you move by the joystick to select menu options or to inspect and place station modules.  The menus themselves are easy to navigate – moving around to get the information you need goes pretty smoothly.  There is an amount of disk-swapping you have to endure when first loading the game (and when first creating your own mission disk to save gaves onto), but once you’re playing, if you’ve got two drives, there doesn’t seem to be any annoying swapping at all.

Each game turn is a fiscal quarter.  You’ll start by being greeted with news articles for the current quarter, which you can peruse or ignore.  Most of these have to do with the fluctuations of various markets, but there are some flavor ‘scientific discovery’ and such news items.

Once done with the news, it’s wise to hop into the Commerce menu and check the market activity screen, which will show a color-coded summary of which markets (pharmaceuticals, forestry, resources, etc etc) are on the upswing, which are stable, and which are falling.  This info will help you plan what new station modules to buy, and tweaks you may want to perform on your existing modules.

Then you can head to the station screen, where you can peruse, buy, and place new modules, and even start additional stations if you have the funds.  Each station has to have a set number of bare necessity ‘support modules’ (living quarters, power, gym facilities, etc.), after that you’re free to build as you like, constrained by your money (you can take loans, deposit money in savings, etc) and your tech level.  You can, for instance, install a solar collector module which will give you a big energy boost, as well as being available for commercial and research uses.

Each module has its own crew and energy requirements, as well as quarterly upkeep cost.  Each module can either be set to commercial use (you basically lease it out to those who will pay), research (gives you technology points), or deactivated (if you don’t have enough of a support coverage to go around, for instance).  When you buy a module, you rotate it and place it sorta Tetris-piece style in the ‘grid’ of your station.  Connector pieces form the backbone of your station around which the modules attach.

Here’s the humble beginnings of my station in my first game:

My EOS station

My EOS station

And here’s it a little further on:

My EOS station, expanded

My EOS station, expanded

BTW, I apologize for the dodginess of the screenshots (like the washed-out-ness of the first of the two above).  While it would be very simple to get emulator screen captures, I’d rather post images of games running on the actual Apple hardware, but I haven’t figured out the best settings for doing this yet with my Canon PowerShot – so I apologize for scanlines and other ugliness.

You’ll notice in the second station screenshot that some of the modules are green – this represents that they have been set to commercial use for the current quarter.  The non-support modules that are not green are carrying out research (a disabled module will show as blue).  In the commerce menu, you can see how much use paying customers are making of your available modules, and combine this info with the current status of the markets to decide if you’re going to change the rate you’re charging for that kind of module, or switch a module to research or even de-activate it.

Here’s a shot of inspecting a module from the Commerce menu (the big ugly scanline is not on the actual screen but thanks to my poor photography skills) :

Looking at a module in the Commerce Menu

Looking at a module in the Commerce Menu

It’s pretty fun expanding the station, and gives you an immediate incentive to manage things wisely so you’ll have more moolah to expand further and get more advanced stuff.  And, of course, there’s your competitors to goad you as well.

The first mission I tried was a race to see who’d have the most recent points by a certain end date.   You have to have everything set to commerce as first, to build up enough funds to keep you going and expand, and then switch some over to research.   I started to think my two computer opponents, the dastardly ‘apple 2′ and ‘apple 3′, were dim bulbs, because as we neared the end date, they both still had almost all their non-support modules set to commerce, where I had been doing a balancing act for awhile, steadily building up some research.  Unfortunately, I was wrong about their dim bulb-ed-ness – by the very last quarter their increased funds had allowed them to expand very far.  In fact, evil apple 3′s station filled the whole screen:

Apple3s station

Apple 3's station

And he dastardly switched all those commerce modules to research his last turn, funneling in the research points!

Apple 3 is a jerk

Apple 3 is a jerk

This won Apple 3 the game.  I did beat Apple 2 though, who had tried a variation on the switch-at-the-last-minute strategy.  Anyway, it seemed to bode well for the AI not being a push-over.

There’s also a lot of things I didn’t get to see in this particular game – with advanced stations you can have a docking station for space shuttle missions, send out planetary probes, maintain a space hospital, do mining and refining, even attach a propulsion unit to your station to make it mobile and take it other planets.  So I should be getting some more fun out of this well-designed game.

8 Comments leave one →
2008 November 19

Wow… this is cool. I spent a lot of time on my ][+ back in the day… never heard of this game, tho. Thanks for sharing this.

Any info on system requirements? Does it need 128K?

Also, any info on the authors/programmers/designers? Did they go on to build anything we might have heard of more recently? Or, did they fade into oblivion?

Looking forward to more game reviews!

2008 November 19

Hi Jeff, glad you liked the review!

It does require 128k Looking at the cover, I see I was wrong – it only needs 64k! Having two disk drives will help a lot with the disk swapping.

Here’s the MobyGames bio on the designer, Karl Buiter:
http://www.mobygames.com/developer/sheet/view/developerId,6106/

I’d add that link to the article as well. Of those later games, I’m interested in checking out Sentinel Worlds and Hard Nova, which are apparently ‘hard sci-fi’ RPGs. Unfortunately, they’re not available for 8-bit Apple IIs, but I might have to check them out anyway. ;)

I have many more games I want to review – hopefully I’ll have time to get to them all! :)

2008 November 19

Keep up the good work! 8bits got us a long way and it’s great to have you show off the things you’re finding! Thanks for the great screenshots too!

2008 November 20

Thanks, Wholly! I’ve added the Pre-Mac Goodness section of RetroMacCast to my Links roll.

2009 February 27
Lancaster permalink

I’m interested in playing this game on my ][+ since it meets the system requirements – but I don’t have the actual software, so I was going to create a disk from a disk image. The one on the Virtual Apple website works fine up until where it asks you for an “Archive Disk.” Is this a disk that one can self-create? If not, I assume you have such a disk (since you got the game working)… would you be interested in ripping an image of it and uploading it to Asimov or some other online archive? :)

2009 March 2

Hi Lancaster, it looks like the problem with the game as it’s presented on the Virtual Apple site is that it *is* a multiple disk game, and they only have one of the disks on the site.

You might try these disk images from Asimov first, to see if they work:
ftp://ftp.apple.asimov.net/pub/apple_II/images/games/strategy/earth_orbit_stations/

If they don’t, let me know, and I could ADTPro some disk images from my copy of the game.

2009 March 3
Lancaster permalink

Looks like those worked! Thanks much! It seems like there are three disks: the boot/game disk, the archive disk, and the mission disk. Does that match up with your bonafide copy of the game?

On a related note, the Asimov images are NIB files, so this will be my first test of getting a NIB onto a physical disk. The odds don’t look good though:

http://newsgroups.derkeiler.com/Archive/Comp/comp.sys.apple2/2005-10/msg00185.html

2009 March 3

Well it’s two double-sided disks – one is boot/game, the other is archive/mission, but yes, those images are what you need. Actually, I realized you should have *four* disk images total, since boot and game are totally different sides of the real disk A. Anyway, hope they transfer!

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