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Publisher: Digital Equipment Corporation
Developer: Digital Equipment Corporation ( Doug Dyment )
Release date: 1968
Platform: Mainframe (DEC PDP-8)
Type: Managerial / Business Simulation
Country:
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The great grand-daddy of all god games, Hamurabi puts the player in the shoes (well, sandals) of Hammurabi the Wise, ruler of ancient Sumeria. Though this king is best known historically for his codification of laws and edicts, composed and engraved in cuneiform tablets ~1780 BC, the game veers away from lawmaking and the pursuit of justice in favour of guiding your population of subjects to stable, contented growth. The game puts it, somewhat blandly, in other words:

YOUR TASK IS TO DEVELOP A STABLE ECONOMY BY THE WISE MANAGEMENT OF YOUR RESOURCES. YOU WILL BE BESET FROM TIME TO TIME BY NATURAL EVENTS.

Results of your actions are narrated to you in plain text; player input primarily consists of punching in numbers and selecting the occasional YES and NO (the end of every turn typically asking you DO YOU WISH TO ABDICATE?) into your keyboard. Gameplay and interaction are restrictive, but the minimalist number-crunching is foundational for all the managerial leadership games that followed: You can buy and sell acres of land, purchasing extra bushels of grain to sow in your fields or feed your populace if so needed. Between turns, citizens starve and are laid low by plagues, peasants immigrate to replace them, and vermin deplete your stores of grain reserves. One year is much the same as the next, though the particular numerical values shift according to elegant algorithms the deeper understanding of which will lead you to a fruitful and harmonious reign, concluding with enthusiastic congratulations from the computer:

A FANTASTIC PERFORMANCE!!! CHARLEMAGNE, DISRAELI, AND JEFFERSON COMBINED COULD NOT HAVE DONE BETTER!

The game is written in FOCAL, an ALGOL derivative.
It was first developed under the name King of Sumeria or The Sumer Game by Doug Dyment in 1968 at Digital Equipment Corporation as a computer game for fellow employee Richard Merrill‘s newly invented FOCAL programming language.

The final game was, according to Dyment, “the largest piece of FOCAL-8 code that could fit in a 4K machine: there was literally not room for a single extra character”. As a result, the game uses shortened forms for much of the text, including spelling the player-controlled ruler, changed from Luduga to the Babylonian king Hammurabi, as “Hamurabi”


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