A Development Team’s Review of Oil Barons by EPYX (1983)
Wikipedia page reference: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_Barons
I’ve had my Commodore 64 at work for around two years now, and recently I decided to bring in an old (1983) and rare game to test out with my development team during our lunch breaks.
I’ll dispense with the details of the game other than it’s a business strategy multiplayer board/computer game that uses the Commodore 64 to perform calculations of profits, losses, costs, etc. of running your oil companies and keeps track of things related to the board pieces and activities.
This review will be different than other ones online in that we reviewed things from a development team standpoint.
As per other reviews, yes… the game is way too slow on the Commodore 64 side. It’s like the C64 software was being showcased more than it should have with animations, ticker tape reports and summaries that went on and on. They took a tangent away from the overall game play when they designed and built this game.
Originally I tried playing it using my Blackberry Playbook with a VICE emulator installed on it and the game disk images. It was slow, and running it in turbo mode made the game unplayable. I did this because I wanted to use the LCD TV we had in our work area and not have to bring my C64 to our work area.
That failed, so back to using original hardware. We quickly discovered that the game accessed the disk WAY too much and that slowed everything down. I invoked JiffyDOS and that did help some, but not enough.
Quick Summary: The game crashed badly at turn 6, and we gave up playing the game
– 30,000 turns? We didn’t make 6 turns, how would this actually work and how long would that take?
– Jungle terrain – We hit oil! It was blue like water
– Desert terrain – We struck a septic tank in the middle of the desert?
– Survey Detonation – Wipes out trees, swap vegetation, anything not in the background (graphics)… which returns during drilling
– I entered an incorrect coordinate in to survey, went back to change coordinates, crashed to an ‘Out of Data?’ error. Typed in RUN and continued the game, but I lost my turn
– End of turn ‘event’ where a well went dry. It was actually player 3’s well, but the game reported player 1
– Calculations during end of turn caused a crash to ‘Out of Data?’. RUN allowed the game to continue
– End of turn 6, massive crash requiring a computer reboot. To be fair, old C64, old disk images… there may have been some computer, drive and media age degradation involved with these crashes. Normally the C64 and drive work perfectly fine for all other games, but I also used JiffyDOS, which usually is fine, but sometimes there are incompatibilities.
If we were to try this game today, what would we change to make it more playable?
– No animations or minimal to cut down time of play
– Multiple survey / drilling capability per turn (add some more strategy to the game)
– Possibly remove the board part of the game all together and put it on the computer
– If using a board, smaller marker pieces that actually fit in the squares (and don’t make them look like Smarties for safety sake)
– Tracking ownership of plots
– No extra computer bidders. In other words, if there are 3 players in the game, that’s all who should be allowed to bid on things. We aren’t tracking computer player locations anyways.
– If using a board, markers for tracking areas surveyed
– Less drive access!!!
– Saving a game should not end a game
– Ability to overwrite saved games
– Option to buy plots of land in addition to auctions and private deals
Overall player ratings of the game (removing buggy software from the equation)
4/10, 1/10, 4/10
A revision of the game with changes proposed could be quite fun, and we did like the concept of the game. I’m curious to see what other Oil Baron type games are out there today.