C64GEMS : Little Computer People

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Little Computer People was, at the time revolutionary as it tried to sell the concept that inside every computer there are hordes of little people working away to produce what you see on the screen (In the case of the Amstrad the little people were clearly still observing the three-day week of 1974).

By inserting the game into your C64 you gave these people a way of communicating with you, as well as a well-deserved house to reside as the game’s case explains: –

“Admit it. Haven’t you ever wondered – even just for a second – what really goes on inside your computer? If so, then an important recently announced research discovery will be of special interest to you! The answer is fascinating. The discovery itself took dozens of researchers, hundreds of thousands of dollars, the most technically advanced equipment and years of scientific speculation and hard work. The precise process is based on an incredible, state-of-the-art piece of software. It’s a unique fully equipped two and half storey “House-on-a-Disk”. When loaded into a computer, it will not only draw out one of the Little Computer People but will actually become the Person’s permanent residence.”

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From here on in the experiment began, with the ‘gamer’ and I use that term loosely watching the little computer person go about his daily life. He might read, he might buy a dog, or if you were lucky he might even write you a letter or play games with you. Each copy of the game generated a random person, so players had their own, unique person to go all Rear Window on. A treat was in store for you if your little computer person decided to tickle the ivories as the music was composed by industry legend Russell Lieblich, who also worked on the music based Master of the Lamps flying carpet game. In fact the sound on the game was sterling in general, and essential to further creating this little virtual world.

Essentially this game was a triumph as it created a world and a character that you wanted to watch, you cared if he wrote you a letter, and you enjoyed every moment of his anagram games, even if he did have some kind of preference for all things tumour related.

When Will Wright of Sim City and The Sims fame was asked by a CNN reader if he had ever played Little Computer People he gave a clear answer: –

“Yes, a long time ago. I’ve since gotten to know several people who were involved with that project, and many of them gave valuable feedback on The Sims.” And I think that it shows.”

Little Computer People was ground-breaking and yet disappeared into obscurity for one very obvious reason. It went no further, no expansions were released, despite plans to do so, and as such the voyeurs among us would soon tire of the same responses.

With The Sims this was never an issue, with almost too many add-ons and expansions offering a wealth of excitement from holiday destinations to dogs that pee on your rug you can have it. Instead the title lost its sheen and now remains one of the rotting acorns in the retro forest hidden in the shadow of the dark, monolithic and slightly evil–looking Electronic Arts building, but for now consider it dug up and put on the Retro Now! website windowsill for all to see until some hungry starling swoops upon it.

 

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