The controls in Pharaoh are simple, yet the interface is quite complex, as the game itself is complex. The game can be fully controlled using a mouse with the two standard buttons common to all mice. Key shortcuts exist in the game, but very few are actually required for gameplay.
- - pauses/unpauses game (useful if you need to think about an in-game problem and look around your city without being disturbed)
- - freezes monument outline in position while they are being placed; allows you to move your screen around and see if the monument is well placed (useful for large monuments that fill the entire screen or more)
- - rotates the outlines used of some structures (mainly Temple Complexes) 90 degrees; gives you more freedom placing these large structures to your convenience
- - brings up the Quit Game dialog (Yes/No still required to quit), although this may be done by mouse also
The mouse navigation in the game is quite simple. brings up menus and serves for selection of items and confirmation of various orders. Generally, when you left-click an item, it will cause whatever is written on it to happen. Doing this with stuctures first selects the one to be build, the next left-click builds it on the spot of the mouse pointer.
serves mostly to bring up additional information on something (right-clicking citizens gives you their opinion on your governing skills, right-clicking a building gives you its details and/or additional building-specific commands). For military units, right-clicking gives you their basic stats and list of commands available for the unit.
Overall, user interaction in a typical game is about 50% left-clicks, 50% right-clicks, and a negligible amount of keyboard hits. Obviously, the exact ratios depend on your playing style (reckless issue of commands vs. lengthy poring over infoboxes).
Game interface overview
The game interface can be divided into several categories:
- Main menus - simple menus that show after the game loads, they offer choices like Play, High Scores, Load Game, etc. on several panels
- Mission briefings - appear before a mission. If there is a choice, you choose the mission type (fight/build, mostly) here. Then, a voice reads the briefing and you are presented with the mission goals. At this moment you can set the difficulty (for each mission you can set a different one, there are 5 difficulty levels) and also go back to fight/build selection in case you get second thoughts after seeing the goals.
- Game screen - you spend most of your play time here. All the below parts of the interface are accessed from here. In-game time only runs in this screen. Most of the game screen is taken up by a classic-for-strategy 2D isometric view of the game area (or map) where, provided you are not a really lousy governor, an Egyptian city may be seen, rendered in quite pleasant, though by modern standards simple, graphics. Maximum screen resolution is 1024x768, the use of which is highly recommended. Clicking on things on the map allows you to interact with your city, most importantly by building it.
- Infoboxes - these appear whenever you right-click something in the Game Screen. Most contain useful information about whatever it was you clicked on, and some contain further menus of commands specific for the selected building (typical are warehouse and bazaar orders). Messages are a special type of infoboxes. They pop up on their own whenever an important event occurs, pausing game-time.
- Menu tray - a narrow band on the upper edge of the Game Screen, allows you to access all of the game's options (load, save, exit, audio and video options, help, program version information, etc.). Also allows you to set game speed - this is very useful when used properly, especially on newer (meaning newer than ca. 2003) computers. To the right of the tray (next to the menus, which are on the left) in-game date, city population and the overall state of your finances (very important) is shown.
- Command panel - is to the right of the Game screen. May be rolled back to allow a wide-angle view of the map. It contains most of the game commands in several groups:
- Building categories - several large buttons representing categories of buildings that can be constructed, e.g. Administration, Religion, Industry and Commerce, etc. These contain menus, sometimes layered, of the available building types, along with their price.
- Messages - lists already received messages and allows you to delete the opened ones (very few come unopened though)
- Assignment - a button that allows you to review the mission briefing. The same briefing with voiceover is shown as at the start of the mission.
- Overseers button - see below
- World map button - see below
- Overlays menu and City map - The overlays menu is a very useful tool for quickly determining and localizing your city's problems, as well as a planning help. Selecting an overlay shows grid with data (sometimes visualised with value bars) instead of the normal look of your city. Also shows only citizens relevant for the selected overlay in the streets. Below is a small map showing your city on "radar view", color-coded by the purpose of structures seen on the map. The color-coding changes for each overlay to represent it graphically on the minimap.
- Overseers - entered by the button described above, they are a bunch of panels containing detailed information about your city, sorted by area of services, e.g. religion, food production and distribution, workforce, treasury, etc. Also, several key commands affecting the entire city may be issued from here. Do NOT underestimate the Overseers - unlike many other games featuring overview tables, Pharaoh cannot be successfully played without the full use of them.
- World map - accessed by the other button from above, this is the place to set up trade. A large map of Egypt and surrounding areas is shown, featuring your city and several others, with some of which trade may be initiated here. For these cities, types and yearly quantities of goods available for trade are listed. Also shows enemy armies shortly before they invade you, letting you see whether they are waterborne or on foot and guess the general direction from which the attack will come.