Business Time: Ultrabusiness Tycoon III

By Cara Ellison on July 25th, 2013 at 1:00 pm.

businesslike
I wonder how many of you have played our Live Free Play Hard correspondent Porpentine‘s games. I’ve just finished playing her latest: Ultrabusiness Tycoon III, and as usual, I grinned at the jokes, smiled at the references, and was very moved by the end. Come with me now, on a journey through time and space…

…To the world of ULTRABUSINESS TYCOON III.

This is a text-built world, of course – Porpentine works mainly in RPS’s craft: game words. She says, “I’ve finally finished porting and cracking an old edutainment game from the 90s.” You do get a distinctly 90s feel from the start:

WORLD GEN PARAMETERS

[CITY]
ROMAN (Deluxe Edition Only)
ARCOLOGY OF TERROR (Deluxe Edition Only)
JURASSIC (Jurassic Edition Only)
ATLANTIS (Wet n’ Wild Edition Only)

You generate a character who will be a high-powered businessperson, and you go seeking your one million dollar fortune. It’s a world of weapons-grade potassium, bees of various demeanour, and quite a lot of puke (which it turns out you can’t monetize). In order to proceed through the world, you must earn your one million to go through the Mammon Gates.

businesslike

What becomes apparent is that this is not only an exploration of a 90s shareware game, but it is an exploration of the sentimental (and sometimes not so sentimental) trappings of our childhoods, the time when our computer games came with boxes with characters on the front that we never saw in the final game, graphics that didn’t quite function or teased us with their obscurity, hiding their real meaning. Of particular note is my favourite part of the whole game – which is, in typical fashion, a small non-interactive sentence hidden in the web of words that Porpentine pressed into my heart, as if it were cookie dough into a cutter.

“You jump around in the elevator on top of the other passengers. They don’t react.”

How I feel about my entire life playing games is in that sentence. The attempt of the player to interact, and being unable to, or the feeling that the NPCs should be reacting but aren’t, and the ability of the player to do something absurd to amuse themselves… The catharsis of having no one respond. They don’t need to. Just all my feelings are caught in this one pure linguistic net. I love games, don’t you? I love them.

businesslike

But this game is even more metatextual than that: and in order not to spoil it, I would ask you to spend some time with this one. It’s a frame within a frame within your computer monitor, and Porpentine is speaking directly to the little usses. The smaller ones inside us. The Russian dolls inside who never grew up.

You should play the game now. You can find it here. It is as all her games, free.

damn right. Wait, what are my jumping stats?

If you would like to read something else I wrote about Porpentine’s work, I poured my heart into this little piece over at PC Gamer.

But this is my favourite game of hers, of all time. Enjoy.

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35 Comments »

Top comments

  1. FionaSarah says:

    Porp is cool as fuck.

  1. Chris D says:

    It’s possible to finish this? I thought my inability to finish was a commentary on the ultimately unsatisfiable nature of materialism but sadly it appears that I am just a bit rubbish.

    Regardless of my general rubbishness I do recommend that people take a look at this, the writing is just fantastic.

    • malkav11 says:

      It is. I would guess that your inability to finish probably has something to do with the difficulty setting – I know mine did – or not taking advantage of the .nfo (this also tripped me up). The difficulty has two important impacts that I know of, and, well, this is a cracked shareware game, right?

      • Chris D says:

        Thanks, I got the shareware connection. Thought about turning the difficulty down but couldn’t bring myself to do it. Curse my foolish pride!

    • Triplanetary says:

      I thought my inability to finish was a commentary on the ultimately unsatisfiable nature of materialism but sadly it appears that I am just a bit rubbish.

      A concise summary of the nature of modern first-world existence, I’d say.

  2. Bassy says:

    So I played your favorite game of hers. Um ok then. Cool but wierd

    • TychoCelchuuu says:

      The idea that something is “cool but weird” rather than “cool and weird” is one of my least favorite opinions.

  3. slerbal says:

    Porpentine is the Mighty Boosh???

    • RagingLion says:

      I also just wanted to comment – yeh reference about thing that I like! (This isn’t sarcasm – love me a crimp).

  4. Thermal Ions says:

    “how many of you have played our Live Free Play Hard correspondent ”

    /scrolls back a few pages to check what I’ve missed this week
    /overloads firefox memory opening all the Cara articles

    Did something happen while I’ve been away and Cara has glided in, locked the Hivemind up in the dungeon and taken over? Not that I’m complaining mind you.

    /Settles in for a read. Payday 2 beta can wait.

  5. FionaSarah says:

    Porp is cool as fuck.

    • The Random One says:

      When a fuck wants to tell another fuck they are cool they say they’re cool as porp.

  6. Lucid says:

    God damn art school majors and their pretentious shit.

    • AlmostPalpable says:

      I dunno, man. I find this to be less pretentious than Mass Effect or some other games but that’s life. This is just a bit different and different = literally Hitler to a lot of gamers. Cough cough. Oh and words. Words are hard.

      • Lucid says:

        It’s utter nonsense and random gibberish but then perhaps my brain is too lower functioning to comprehend this mess of words.

        • realmenhuntinpacks says:

          When I was a kid I used to get all het up in art galleries. Wondering why I wasn’t getting it and that. And then I was moved – as in, really, really profoundly moved – by this weird little installation. It consisted of battered items of old school furniture – desks and the like – but if you got close enough, there were these tiny dioramas of (working) lamposts, with say a matchbox car parked up with the doors open and things spilling out, or an empty bench with tiny newspapers scattered about. To this day I have no idea why that provoked such a deep emotional reaction in me, but I instantly stopped worrying about ‘getting’ art. When it gets you, it gets you. If it doesn’t… well, how many critically respected books and albums and whatnot have left you cold? Presumably you don’t feel the need to go on the attack, you just know it ain’t for you. I think a lot of people who shout ‘Pretension!’ are simply misjudging their feelings. It’s not shite, it’s not ‘my 8 year old could do this’, it’s simply that it’s not on your vector.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Hey, someone who uses the word “pretentious”, but then has the self-awareness to say “actually maybe it’s just me being an idiot”. That’s a nice change.

    • Bhazor says:

      Pretentious? It’s Dr Seuss for sexual deviants.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Heh, if you think this is pretentious I can’t imagine what actual art pretension would do to you.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      There’s always one comment like this whenever anything even slightly surreal, avant guarde, abstract or out of the usual is presented. I fail to see how this is pretentious at all, unless the ‘kids’ have got a new definition that I’m not au fait with. To the best of my knowledge pretentious means:

      “Attempting to impress by affecting greater importance, talent, culture, etc., than is actually possessed.”
      or
      “To try to act like you are more important or knowledgeable than you really are.”

      I fail to see how these definitions can be attributed to this game in any feasible way, but that probably makes me a ‘hipster’ (another popularly misappropriated word).

  7. TaylanK says:

    That first screenshot about the morning light reminds me of a New Order song.

  8. The Random One says:

    This is great. Porpentine is pretty awesome, and I end up only playing her games when they are suddenly thrown at my lap like this.

    Edit: Also you mention J Chastain in the linked article. While now she’s more known for Rat Chaos (which I didn’t like much – I’m a horrible person I suppose) and Goblet Grotto, I think her masterpiece remains her comic monster killers. In a perfect world, mk would replace Penny Arcade as The Video Games Comic, because while PA et al are about video games, mk has video game logic deeply and earnestly entwined with its very core.

  9. Bluerps says:

    I played this yesterday and then got stuck in the “you get arrested and starve”-loop. :/
    But I will try again!

    [Edit]I tried again and got past that stupid cop. I didn’t realize that you could change the difficulty…

    Amazing game![/Edit]

  10. Cryptoshrimp says:

    This is great. I like how it hints at out-of-game events but lets you never play those. Tantalisingly out of reach… however, I suppose if it had been more than vague glimpses, it would’ve killed the mystery.

  11. TychoCelchuuu says:

    I cried at the end of this game – it was super moving. I also like bees.

  12. nitehawk says:

    Adam Smith should have done this review.

  13. frightlever says:

    I can’t remember if I’ve played any of her games but Porpentine’s Twine tutorial is killer.

  14. spartan117au says:

    Was that a mighty boosh reference at the start there? You. I like you.

  15. Lorka says:

    Whatever the last game Cara linked is called, it was freaking great.

  16. mr.black says:

    Gesundheit!
    That was great!
    I’m glad RPS, and Cara, and Porpentine exist!