Something that I don’t think I’ve ever really discussed is how the the Islands came to be which is actually quite an interesting story, albeit one where most proof has been lost through time. I’ve really enjoyed going down the rabbit-hole and looking back at old forums, message boards and e-mails to get exact dates and information but it seems a lot of it has been lost to time, although I do hope to discover the original map I made but that seems unlikely…
Unsurprisingly I suppose, I was obsessed with Sim City growing up. I had Sim City 2000, 3000 and then of course got Sim City 4 as a birthday present in 2003. My life as an early teen was basically: go to school, come home, play Sim City 4 until bed. Unlike previous versions, Sim City 4 allowed you to create entire regions with maps joined together to a make a pseudo-state and I loved it; my region of Black Lemon and Black Lemon City within it was my life.
Simtropolis.com was a very active community around all things Sim City and had an enormous collection of custom buildings, maps and mods to download from very talented modders and designers to help create a lot more variety in your cities. There were many stadiums available to download, especially as the game shipped with a Major League Baseball-style stadium and a small-ish soccer stadium. From memory you unlocked the soccer stadium at about 4,000 residents, where as the baseball stadium unlocked much, much later.
The default stadiums in Sim City 4 (the baseball one is the one on the left!)
My knowledge of baseball back then was quite poor as it wasn’t really shown on television here in Australia, but I grew up a die-hard West Ham fan so soccer (football!) was my other passion. I remember getting excited when I unlocked the soccer stadium in Black Lemon City and spent ages choosing where to place it and building plazas and parks around it along with giant carparks to replicate what really happens around many stadiums. No stadium is complete without a railway or El Rail station nearby either!
Over on Simtropolis was a sub-forum called “City Journals” where people could show-off screenshots and tell stories to help bring their imaginary cities to life. I was never really one for telling stories, but I loved looking at peoples work and I noticed lots of people had created backstories for there cities professional teams, giving them names, logos, jerseys etc. and some even went into detail about their star players; something I did with my Black Lemon United FC! I came up with an idea to create a soccer league using some free software called ESMS+ which was a free play-by-email software that simulates soccer results and even generated a minute-by-minute text-file commentary so you could see the ebb-and-flow of the game; it can still be downloaded today. I’ve still kept the main files of the game as it was a lot of fun and even 10+ years ago I knew these things may disappear from the internet one day. It is quite labour-intensive as you had to simulate each game individually and as it was designed with PBeM in mind, each team manager was supposed to submit a teamsheet with loads of IF formulas similar to Microsoft Excel to choose when to substitute players and when to change tactics from attacking to defensive or vice versa. Some examples might be:
TACTIC A IF MIN >= 70 SCORE <= -1 switch to attacking at anytime after the 70th minute if losing CHANGEPOS 6 FW IF MIN >= 70 SCORE <= -1 changes player 6 to a FW if losing anytime after 70 mins. SUB MF 13 DF IF INJURED MF if a MF is injured he'll be replaced by player 13 as a DF.
Of course, this was hugely confusing and far too much work, especially if a user made a mistake, the game wouldn’t sim citing an error. Bollocks to that, I thought, I’ll just make every team play a 4-4-2 “Neutral” formation, not attacking or defensive.
I created the post on Simtropolis and got 8-10 users signing up, I can’t remember how many exactly. Most of the names I’ve forgotten, except for two: Saffron Knights and S.V. Epe. I remember the latter because I used a generator to create the team squads, and S.V. Epe’s team was horrendous. The table has been lost to the ages but out of the 14 games I don’t think they won a single game and most of the losses were blow-outs. The poor user must’ve thought I hated him! The season was done and dusted within two weeks, I got home from school each day and simulated the four games and posted the results.
The league grew the following season to around 16 teams, split into 4 divisions of 4 where they played a schedule more similar to NFL with play-offs and a “Superbowl” at the end of it. Some familiar names came to be such as the Megopolis Titans, Black Island Mercenaries, Ruysdael, Saphire Coast Sharks to name but a few. I started to space out the round of games to every other day in the belief it created a bit of excitement an suspense for everyone, which was a load of old crap, I was getting burnt out simming games every day! The final game of the season, the Grand Final I put a post up and actually posted the minute-by-minute commentary over a full 90 minutes with a 15 minute break at half-time with the entertainment being provided by Britney Sim-ears and Justin Sim-berlake (groan)! Users had to refresh the page to get the latest updates of the match and was hugely successful. We had others users who weren’t even in the league joining in with the discussion as the game went on.
SimCity Soccer Federation & Proboards
This continued for a few seasons which took around a month in real time to play out before we as a collective decided we had out-grown Simtropolis and wanted to go it alone. The league had expanded to 20 teams (19 unique users as one user had two teams) and the owner of Saphire Coast Sharks (who from memory won a Championship) was a guy called Aussieken – he was Australian and his name was Ken. He was probably in his late 30s, early 40s by that point and was a website designer who graciously created a website for the league and hosted it so I could update the results all free of charge. We created a free messageboard before moving again a few months later to Proboards, the forum is still “alive” although is not active. You can view it here. It took me ages to figure out my username and password (because I stopped guests from accessing certain sub-forums for some reason).
The league stayed there for a year or two, and boy, what a trip down memory lane for me. Here’s some screenshots of hidden threads, the number of teams that “ring a bell” within the Koana Islands is too many to name!
For whatever reason, mid-way through 2005 we moved all things to simcityunited.tk and that’s where the trail runs cold for the SCSF, petering out of existence not long after. Somewhere along the way I had made a decision to re-name the league SimCity Super League, as other users started running their own leagues and posting about them. Thus the Super League was born…
The first map of Koana Islands & baseball
About four posts down in the “Off-Topic” forum, user Jeeper (owner of the Megopolis Titans and Black Island Mercenaries) mentioned how I had created a map where I thought all the SCSL teams were located. I remember using Greenfish Relief Map Generator and it generated the basic outline of Koana Islands as we know it today. I manually placed all the teams and cities of the SCSL on the map but it didn’t contain any towns or villages, or any other cities for that matter, and it certainly didn’t show any roads. This map has now been lost to the ages and will probably never be recovered. The idea was to make it easier to show which teams local rivalries were, and were just haphazardly placed anywhere with the exception of teams with ‘Coast’ in the name as well as Megopolis and Black Island being side-by-side.
As the SCSL started to wane, my interest in baseball took off. Jeeper was a huge baseball fan and briefly ran a baseball league on the forums where my Black Lemon team did terribly! I’ll never forgive him that! Obviously baseball is for stats nerds, and learning what all the numbers meant took some time but eventually I fell in love with the sport. When I discovered Out of the Park Baseball I took the plunge and bought it – I believe my first game was OOTP 7, but it could’ve been OOTP 8. Either way, I was plunged head-first into a game that was so deep I was way out of my depth, I didn’t even understand the farm systems so went about creating my own league in Australia. It was much easier for me to understand rivalries of Sydney vs Newcastle or Brisbane vs Sunshine Coast rather than Dodgers vs San Francisco.
Out of the Park Baseball helped me learn the sport thoroughly and yet I still wanted to run my own fictional world. When I discovered you could edit the world.dat my eyes were opened and I set about creating my fictional country – the Koana Islands. Why that name? No idea. I don’t even know how I decided on that name in the first place!
I found the old map I used for the SCSL and set about editing it. I wanted more cities for a start, but I also wanted the country to feel real. I created a flag (which I think I just found online and saved the image – whoops) and added the cities and the nation to the game of OOTP. The only change to a city name I made was changing Smurf City (home of the mighty Bombers) to Bayside.
The map we see today
As with everything in my life, I’m a perfectionist. If something irks me because it’s not quite right, I either fix it or I abandon the project. In OOTP, players are given a birthplace, sometimes a major city, but it could be a town or village listed in the world.dat file. As my fictional country didn’t have any towns but only major cities, it meant every player was born in a major city – hardly the stuff of realism. So I set about bringing the country to life with the map we see today. I worked closely with Andrew after discovering his fabulous Norscand geofiction and set to work with what we have today.
The change from English names to Swedish names
Hindsight is an exact science. Looking at the map above there’s only two names I would change on there – Megopolis, the capital city and it’s neighbour Jonestown (the history of that name is… not so great). Megopolis sounds like it’s straight out of a Batman movie for starters, and yet at the time I liked it because it reminded me of a giant city like New York or London. In 2008 I visited Stockholm, Sweden on my first solo holiday and loved the country. I became a Swed-o-phile (if that’s a word) and endeavoured to learn the language and possibly move there. Whilst that never came to be, I really disliked how “un-exotic” the Koana Islands was, it was just another English-sounding place with boring names like Aigburth and Waterford. Peanut Valley and Cherry City were dumb names and I wanted people to view my maps with a sense of wonder. I figured the major cities shouldn’t be changed, so every town and village had a Swedish name. You’d have Borgvattnet next to the city of Pinebrook. Ridiculous.
When people started asking about the history of the country and why there were Swedish names, I had decided Vikings discovered the lands and settled there before British explorers such as Captain Cook found the lands hundreds of years later. It was silly. Why would British settlements become the major cities whilst Swedish/Viking settlements that were there hundreds of years earlier still be small towns or villages?
I eventually went through and renamed the major cities to Swedish ones, although they’re more or less direct translations. Megopolis for example got changed to Omfattandestad, which in Swedish translates to Extensive City.
Obviously the suggestion that the Vikings would travel that far to settle in the Indian Ocean is an absurd one. After all they would’ve had to sail around Africa, by which point they surely would’ve populated parts of that continent and they still would’ve discovered Günsovölk first. Whilst this is not something that permeates realism, there’s no real other plausible reason for Swedish names in the middle of the Indian Ocean.
Günsovölk, Ianoia, Le Grout and more
As my enjoyment of creating a fictional country grew, so did my desire to create more. Günsovölk became a country after I collaborated with my partner Toni, who has a fascination with German culture. She wanted to mix in Dutch culture also, which makes the founding of the country much more plausible with Dutch explorers circumnavigating the globe in the 17 and 1800s.
Ianoia was always going to be. After changing the Koana Islands into an all-Swedish affair, I needed a country that had British names, especially with the discovery and settlement of Australia being by British explorers it seemed only right to have a country close-by that is also English speaking.
Le Grout came from my fascination with Réunion and again, French explorers were prevalent in the Indian Ocean so it made sense they would claim a small part of the Southern Union for themselves.
I wanted to take this post as a way to thank all the users of the Sim City Soccer Federation and everyone who has helped me over the years. I won’t list all of them, but they all played a part in helping to create the Koana Islands as we know it.
However, the person I would like to place a special mention to though is Macsurfing. Whilst on the SCSF message boards, he put a post up telling everyone a bit about himself. He had his own website that was just a blog of his life and passions – macsurfing.co.uk – long since gone. He was confined to a wheelchair with a type of Muscular Dystrophy and I remember him saying it took him a long time to type replies and sim his Indigo Football League using ESMS+.
Whilst we were never close friends or even met in person, we bonded over our love of Sim City, the SCSF and football (he was a huge Ipswich Town fan).
I received an email from him one day (unfortunately I can’t remember when) that was actually written by a family member announcing of his passing, he was only his thirties. Whilst years had passed since I last spoke to him on a message board I was deeply saddened, because Saffron was now a part of the Koana Islands and his Saffron Knights were a professional baseball team in the country and I’m not sure he had any idea of that.
Following the email I made a decision that Saffron will never be renamed in the Koana Islands, and the professional baseball team will always be called the Saffron Knights in his honour. Rest in peace Alex Ling.