Rags to Riches
Rags to Riches simulates the stock market in today's world. There are 4 stocks that can be bought and sold; Bonds, Chips, Gold, and Oil. You are a broker, trying to make yourself wealthy (of course).From the very beginning you can see accomplishing this task will not be a walk in the park. You begin your trading life in a crummy, dingy office with only a pittance to sustain you.
To aid in your quest for riches, however, you have the ability to hire various employees. Secretaries field phone calls, etc, accountants provide detailed breakdowns of your status, pit runners bring orders to the pit, where they are executed.
To track your portfolio status you use a realtime monitor of the market, as well as a ticker tape giving data on all stocks and outside events. That's right -- outside events. There is a reasonably complex economy that drives the motions of the various stocks. As a trader you can affect the market, but not greatly. Nor would you want to -- greatly affecting the market is known as program trading and will land you in jail. If you want to remain prison-free you need to make shrewd trades based on market conditions, not your own.
Your information from the outside events comes from the ticker, one of 4 TV stations (digitized speech, 1 station for each stock), and from reading the newspaper, a copy of which you recieve every day.
The interface is excellent -- completely mouse driven and intuitive. Keyboard shortcuts exist for all commands should you dresire. I preferred the mouse because it gives direct control over the entire gameworld. For example, to change channels on the TV, or change the active stock (price movement displayed on the graph), simply click on the TV or the graph to browse the selections. To make a telephone call, click on your Rolodex until the name you want appears and then the phone to make the call. I liked calling my mother, she gives a mix of old neighborhood gossip and ads for other Interplay games! In-game ads can be quite an amusing feature if they are done correctly.
Speaking of features, my favorite was the Rolodex link to the local church for charitable donations. This amused me to no end, especially in context of the cutthroat nature of the game, but turned out to be a necessary feature. If you feel guilty about a particularly dirty transaction a hefty gift to the charity might assuage your anxiety and (oh, by the way) provide you with much-needed good publicity! Keep in mind that even charity has its limits. In one game I utterly disrupted the gold market by stockpiling huge quantities to drive the price up beyond reason. Dumping the shares in a single selloff not only made me a quick profit but caused prices to slide to a new low. Using my newfound wealth I bought even greater quantities of gold at a bargain price and repeated the process for weeks. I also donated millions to charity throughtout the process in hopes that the law grant mercy on harmless fun. Nope -- I was slapped with a twenty year tour of Federal prison. Game over.
Your progress is measured not only by how much money you hoard but the class of creature comforts you amass. A host of big time toys, such as the luxury cars, yachts, planes and so on will aid your goal in being the righteous ruler of conspicuous consumption. The most obvious changes will be seen in your office, which bring me to my next observation.
Rags to Riches lets you play in two eras -- the grueling Great Market Crash of 1929 or the arbitrage fueled frenzy of the 19080s. The periods are historically accurate with scenarios to match. I suggest you try both eras at least once. The visuals are completely different, as you would expect, which contributes greatly to the atmosphere of the sim. Rags to Riches was released in 1993 -- a time when only a few games supported true SVGA -- so the graphics are exceptional for the era.
In conclusion Rags to Riches is an entertaining sim that lets you get a feel for killer world of Wall Street. The choice of work styles (competition subversion, insider trades, refreshing honesty, etc) combined with the realtime pressure of trading, and three skill levels make for a game that should give you many happy gaming sessions.