Solman Solitaire is the fifth major version of the suite of solitaire games that designer Tim Mangan began writing way back in 1984. It includes a large number of solitaire games, many of which are unique to this collection.
In general, you should find these games to be more difficult for the average player than you typically find in most computer solitatre games. The games in SolMan have been runed and polished over the years for play on the computer, and they reward players with a wonderful balance of skill and luck.
This fifth version is quite a step from the original SolMan...
The Original SolMan
Back then, a personal computer often didn't even have a graphics card, so all of the displays had to be created in text, using ASCII characters. Our computer wasn't color (well, is was black and amber) and there was no mouse. Here is an example of what the 10 of hearts looked like:
To play the game, you needed to use keyboard commands, like "HT" to move cards from the Hand to the Talon. We did have sound, or sorts. The PC had a very simple speaker you could program and the "you loooooooose" sound when you lost was just classic!
SolMan started out as a simple excercise to learn about programming in C on DOS. Prior to that most of my software development was done in Fortran on proprietary turnkey operating systems. We were just beginning to use C on Unix, so it was an interesting home experiment.
It turned out that Mary Jane really liked the game, and she began asking for different ones also. So SolMan became a suite of games, although at that point each was a seperate program that was a copy of the code.
SolMan 2 was a rewrite to consolidate the seperate games into a single app. It also marked the purchase of a color monitor and I was astonished to see what the game looked like on one. On a black and white monitor, you would use the text color settings to cause 8 intensity levels for the characters, but those mapped to actual colors when you had a color monitor. Talk about ugly!
The rewrite allowed for the first creation of a "rules engine", so that code could be generic and each game had a unique set of rules fed in to control the action. The idea of scoring was also added to increase interest. This version was publicly available as freeware through bullitin boards of the day.
SolMan 2 also expanded the number of games with additional classics.
Solman 3 marked the purchase of a mouse and the first re-write of the rules engine.
We still used text for the "graphics" so draging cards with the mouse was not an option yet. But you could click the source and destination locations which would input the keyboard command for you.
The original rules didn't anticipate the kind of rule conflict that I had run into in adding games, so a rewrite of the rule definitions and game engine was in orderThis enabled a tremendous increase in the number of games that could be supported, and directly led to the invention of new games that mixed rulesets. Arachnoid, a combination of Napoleons and Spiders, was a great hit. The six deck versio of French Reserve is also awesome; something you would never try with physical cards.
Multiple users were also added, as we were sharing computers more in those days. Game statistics also were added, allowing you to monitor your win/loss ratios.
2002 saw Solman 4 released and marked the first use of real graphics in the game, allowing you to drag and drop cards in addition to clicking on them. The keyboard commands were finally dumped! The use of graphic images for the cards, and gameboard backgrounds, was added in this version. Also some simple audio sounds were added, leading to requiring user configuration options. This all made the game much better to look at and play.
The version also served as an opportunity to learn C++, and the software was again re-written and rules engine cleaned up, and options expanded. For example, this is where the "TwoHeads" versions of games first appeared - adding a second Talon to give the player just a little more choice of what gets burried.
Another example are the Interchange games, with their unusual deal patterns. Mary Jane thinks she is going to win Interchange 4 every time, but somehow seems to allways fall just short.
SolMan 4 saw a number of point releases adding new games. There were some aborted attempts to port the C++ Win32 code to WPF, but these efforts ended quickly as the prototypes didn't play any better.
And now SolMan 5!
In 2016, SolMan 5 began as another complete re-write. This time in C#, it was intended as an experiment in writing a Windows Store App. Improvements to the game engine, and graphics were a must. But it is the integration of touch that makes this version special.
The app also brings in many of the good attributes of modern game store apps, but without the anoyances of advertising and in-game purchase options.
It adds a few new games, but the game definitions are now cloud based. This allows for adding new games without software upgrades as long as the rules engine itself doesn't need to be changed.