History of a legendary game
  A decade and a half ago...

When Pirates! was released for the Commodore 64 in 1987, I doubt anyone would have guessed it would prove to be not only a groundbreaking game, but also one of the most loved games of all times. It was a tremendous success and over the next few years, the game would be released on Apple, Atari ST, PC and Amstrad. The original game probably reached its highpoint when it was released for the Commodore Amiga in 1990 which was considerably better than the Nintendo version that was released a year later. Although it's pure speculation, it wouldn't surprise me if this is the most ported game of all time.

The reason for its success are obvious now, but weren't so obvious then. Sid didn't know he had created a cross-genre game. In an interview he said:
"I don't go about writing games to fit into a genre, make the topic fit the genre. It's more find the topic and figure out what style of gaming, what genre, is going to make it fun. That was certainly true of Pirates!, that I knew I wanted all the key scenes of a pirate movie: the ship battle, the sword fighting, all the characters. But I realized that it doesn't all fit into one genre. We needed some adventure, we needed to travel, we needed action scenes, we needed all these different things. So I did it as a hybrid basically because that was the only way to get all the cool things that I thought needed to be in the game into the game."
And in a more recent interview he commented:
"Today we like to talk about games in terms of genres, a game has to fit into a genre and be a shooter or a real-time strategy. We didn't understand that back in the days when we designed Pirates!, but Pirates! is really a game that crosses a lot of genres, and what we were really trying to do when we put Pirates! together was bring that world to life in the most interesting way that we could imagine it."
So while in those days, people were creating an arcade game OR a strategy game OR a Roleplaying game, Sid created an Action/Adventure/Strategy hybrid that rocked the world.

Out with the old, in with the new

After having conquered just about every platform out there (I can't find proof of a MSX version of Pirates!), Sid must have thought it was time to do it again: Sid Meier's Pirates! Gold was born. Any successful game warrants a sequel, and back in those days, Pirates was arguably the most successful game ever and practically demanded a sequel to be made. With updated graphics and gameplay, Pirates! Gold repeated the triumphous march across platforms in 1993.

The landscape of computer gaming by then had taken a different, more mature shape. The average age of 'the gamer' was slowly on the rise and they had a little more money to spend on their frivolous hobby. Computers with better machines and better sound were just begging for a new version of Pirates! and Sid was happy to oblige. Versions for PC, Sega Genesis, Amiga and Macintosh were released in quick succession with Amiga CD32 and Windows versions following suit in late 1994.

The same pedigree, different games

What really struck me during the research of this article, were the differences in the game throughout the plaforms. Even more so than with the original, Pirates! Gold plays very differently depending on the platform you play it on. Though the premise of the game remains the same, the differences are numorous and often refreshing. The ability of the same game to show such flexibility in its design proves the quality of the foundation that was laid for it in 1987.

And now, 15 years after its birth, Sid is going to take the game into the new millenium! If the landscape had changed when Sid designed Pirates! Gold, it's undergone a total transformation since. I think it's fair to say that Pirates! Gold was more of a remake than a sequel. This time around, we can expect a full sequel.

Written by Falconer

Commodore 64

Apple II



Atari ST



PC Gold

Amiga CD32

Sega Genesis