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Posted on Feb 14, 2007 in Electronic Games, Front Page Features

Making History: The Calm and the Storm – Recon (PC)

By Jim Cobb

Computers’ potential as a learning tool has been recognized for years. Many companies have published educational software. However, few have incorporated the concept of real gaming experience with teaching and most have created a "classroom in a monitor" aimed a toddlers who delight in Barney telling them they can add correctly. Their older siblings have been delegated to drier media and history has been relegated to niche games not associated with learning. Muzzy Lane Software is attempting to change that with Making History: The Calm and the Storm.

The Calm and the Storm puts players in the role of the leader of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, the Soviet Union, Nationalist China, Japan or the U.S. on the eve of World War II. As such, players must deal with economic, diplomatic, scientific and military issues. Experienced gamers may ask so how this is different from the Hearts of Iron series? The answer lies in its simplicity of interface and mechanics. A teacher could very well cover the tutorial with a study group in an hour and let them play online over the weekend, knowing that the students learnt history instead of game mechanics

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Covering the Globe and Taking Care of Business

The Calm and the Storm has six maps of which five primarily show information on trade, ideology and diplomacy. Play is done on the operations map that shows not only every country of the world but each region within countries, e.g. states, provinces, colonies, etc. Zooming in on a region shows 3D cities, resources such as mines and factories as well as cities. Clicking on any of these icons brings up an info panel with information such as output, costs, population and details on military units. Orders unique to each icon can change production or give the military new instructions. This map is extremely accurate and is a fine way to teach geography and world resources, especially with the mouse tool tip naming countries and regions. Especially useful is the operations map’s display of the player’s country’s stockpile and surplus/deficit of resources. A mini-map allows quick looks at any country without scrolling.

However, players will be most concerned with running their countries while cruising other countries to find out what they have to offer or their military situation. Many orders can be given through the map but the easiest way is through the five information panels that appear on the right side of the map accessed through policy icons. The first panel simply shows the events of the preceding weekly turn affecting the player’s country. The second is more interesting. The country’s military assets are shown here including industrial production, armies, fleets and air force squadrons. Clicking on one of these categories will list each industrial region, army, fleet and squadron. In the case of a far-flung empire, these lists can be quite long, mandating scrolling down. Each individual military unit can be brought up to show its strength and composition. Units can also be split, disbanded or merged with other units in the same region on this panel.

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