Tycoon games have been based on all sorts of weird and wonderful things, including everything from theme parks and shopping centres to fast food restaurants, railroads and zoos to name just a few. New York City is the latest to get the same treatment and we asked Paul Howarth - Development Director at Deep Red - some questions about the forthcoming game.
For readers who maybe don't know much about Tycoon City: New York yet, can you explain the idea behind the game and its main features?Paul Howarth:
Tycoon City: New York is a 3D world building or Tycoon game where you get the chance to play out a rags-to-riches story in probably the most famous city in the world - New York. Starting from humble beginnings, you gradually build up your business and economic empire until you are, hopefully, the most powerful and respected entrepreneur in the entire city - the new Donald Trump.
The idea basically came from the fact that as a developer we specialise in world building games (we have previously developed Monopoly Tycoon, Beach Life and Vegas: Make It Big to name but three), so when we were at the brainstorming stage of this project we knew that we wanted it to be an evolution of everything that we had learned from our previous titles, that it had to be the biggest, most sophisticated in terms of AI, graphics and scale Tycoon game that had ever been made.
We also wanted it to be in a real-world location, to be immediately accessible and easy to play to attract a mass-market audience that perhaps hadn't necessarily played games in the past but would easily be able to play and enjoy this. So when it came time to throw around locations of where the game should be set, there was one city in the world that immediately stood out - New York. Everybody is familiar with it even if they have never been there, it is massive, and it is incredibly diverse in terms of its architecture, its inhabitants and its culture. In short it's the perfect location for this style of game.GamesPaper:
How does Tycoon City compare with some other games in this genre - has it got the overall mayors city control with zoning of areas like in Sim City, or the money making and building aspect of Rollercoaster Tycoon?Paul Howarth:
To be honest, and I'm not just saying this because we developed the game and are biased, Tycoon City: New York will take the world building or Tycoon genre to the next level and will become the benchmark game for others that follow. The scale of it is unprecedented; we have recreated 12 districts in Manhattan Island to produce a playing area that is simply vast and larger than any other game of its type. The AI is incredibly sophisticated with thousands of inhabitants living in your city each with their own identities, needs, wants and desires that you have to try and cater to. You have thousands of vehicles on the streets at any one time each making their own journeys, taking their own routes across the city. This really does make the game world not only look like New York but also FEEL like New York.
On top of that it is wrapped up in a graphics engine that is more sophisticated and more beautiful than any other game out there. It's fully 3D and it's fully scaleable. What this means is that you can pull the camera right back so that you are high above the skyscrapers and monuments of New York with the entire city laid out before you all the way out to the horizon, listening to the wind blowing in your ears. And then with a simple scroll of the mouse wheel you can zoom right down to street level so that you are eye to eye with the populace as they go about their business, the sound of the New York streets filling your ears. It just looks and sounds amazing. No other game has got this level of detail or graphical sophistication.
If you're looking for comparisons then it's probably closer to Rollercoaster Tycoon in terms of the examples that you highlight. There are no external restrictions in terms of AI controlled character intervention such as a Mayor or a local government handicapping the player, it is all about constructing, creating and customising, making money and building up your business empire. GamesPaper:
So are you presented with the complete New York from the outset and required to make changes to the city to suit your Tycoon ambitions, or do you have to work your way through specific challenges by starting out small and working your way up?Paul Howarth:
The player starts off in Greenwich Village with only a few buildings already constructed by the game AI and the rest of the city locked. You are then led though a brief tutorial which explains how to navigate within the game world and the basic objectives of the game starting with building a coffee house and upgrading it. From there you are given your first few simple objectives; get the student population up to 300 by constructing appropriate dwellings and raise their overall happiness to 55% by building the relevant businesses that will appeal to them, followed by upgrading Washington Park and getting the recreation rating up to 75%. Once you have completed the necessary objectives for Greenwich Village the next districts are then unlocked for the player to progress to (SoHo and Tribeca followed by Little Italy) with its challenges and objectives for the player to tackle and so on throughout the game. GamesPaper:
Can you give us an idea as to how a couple of the businesses or events work in the game, such as the various options that are available?Paul Howarth:
Ok, in terms of businesses for example, the player will go in to a particular district and try to establish the requirements of the local population before they embark on their building program to try and ensure that what they introduce to the area will be well received. This can be done in one of two ways. Firstly, you can simply click on any person walking down the street which will bring up a text box containing their personal information; name, occupation, where they live and crucially what their wants and needs are in terms of local amenities. Repeat this process on a number of random individuals and you begin to draw up a profile on the area and get a good idea of what businesses and services are likely to be profitable. The second way of determining what the requirements of the area are is by clicking on a house or apartment block in the district. This will bring up a text box containing the personal information of everyone living in that building so by this method you are able to put together a profile on a larger number of people a lot faster.
Once you have this information you are then safe to start building. Different businesses take up a varying amount of physical space depending on what they are so you need to ensure you have enough room to build on a street. Once you have located a suitable location it's simply a case of hitting the 'build' button. Once your business has been constructed it is probably wise to check if it is in the prime location.
Every building has what is known as a 'sphere of influence'. This is a radar-like mechanism that you can toggle on or off at any time during the game which indicates a radius extending around the business. Anyone within that radius will be influenced to come and visit your business and hopefully spend money, so commercially it is wise to ensure the catchment area contains a lot of houses and apartments. If you need to move your business to a better location you can do so as long as it is on the same block and there is a vacant space.
Once your business has been built, say a grocery shop, and has opened you then need to positively influence your patrons so that they are more inclined to spend their money with you rather than one of your competitor's grocery shops. This is done by enhancing the physical appearance of your grocery shop to make it more appealing. You can't change the overall architectural design of the actual building as each district has its own distinct style and all the buildings need to fit within that style, but pretty much everything else can be customised and changed.
The combinations are almost limitless, but items include signs, canopies, flowerbeds, trees, shrubs, lights, tables and chairs, waiters and waitresses (for cafes and restaurants), water features, display items, to name just some. Not only does this make your business more appealing, it also gives your buildings a level of individuality. Consequently your buildings and therefore your version of New York will be distinct to you and won't look like anyone else's. We think that is a wonderful feature and have found in testing that each person becomes very attached to their city.
How will the game give feedback as to how well you're doing? Do the virtual citizens react to changes by making their praise and concerns known, or is it based on some other form of measurement such as money generated from the businesses?Paul Howarth:
Feedback from the game in terms of the level of success achieved on objectives and overall progression through the game is very easily gauged as from the outset you know what you need to achieve. Each objective is easily monitored as you are undertaking them to determine whether you are on the right track or not. For example, with most objectives you need to achieve a percentage rating to successfully complete it which then in turn unlocks the next objective or next district. This can be monitored at any time by clicking on the Objectives box. At the same time by clicking on a random individual on the street or on an accommodation building you can see how happy or unhappy people are and the specific things that are making them happy or unhappy. This is a great way of seeing whether you need to make changes to the area or whether you need to tackle an objective in a different way.
New York is often referred to as "The city that never sleeps" - is this true in the game, and what sort of differences does night time bring to the gameworld?Paul Howarth:
Tycoon City: New York has full day and night cycles and this is reflected in what happens on the streets at any given time. For example, the streets are going to full of traffic and pedestrians at 6pm on a Friday night as people head home from work or are heading out for a night on the town. But at 5am on a Wednesday morning the streets are going to be pretty deserted aside from a few early risers.GamesPaper:
The "Big Apple" is also another moniker often given to New York - just how big is the game world, and how near to real-life is it?Paul Howarth:
I touched upon this in an earlier answer but the playing area is vast, approximately 16 square miles covering 12 real-life New York districts including Greenwich Village, Little Italy, China Town, Central Park and Midtown. When the city is built up there are approximately 64,000 inhabitants living in your game world, every one of them different. To my knowledge this is more people than in any other game.
We have gone to extreme lengths to ensure this is as accurate a representation of New York as is possible. We sent members of the development team over there to take thousands upon thousands of photographs as reference material to ensure that every building, monument, vehicle and object in the game is an exact replica of its real life counterpart. We have signed numerous deals with third party companies to have their brands in the game, something that really adds to the authenticity of a location such as Times Square with its video walls and billboards. Most of the time in-game branding is simply a marketing exercise and can be distracting, but in this case we believe it's the first time it actually adds to the game play experience.
We also sent a recording team out there to record all of the ambient noise and sounds; everything from taxi cabs sounding their horns to fire engines with their sirens wailing to just the noise of car engines idling at traffic lights. Not only did we want Tycoon City: New York to LOOK like New York we wanted it to SOUND like New York.
There is also a lot of dialogue, more so than is usual for this type of game, so to complete the authentic New York feel we were striving for we hired a native New York scriptwriter to write all of the dialogue. So basically, this is as close as you can get to being in New York without actually getting on a plane and flying there!GamesPaper:
And can you explore all of the city and simply take in the sights of the virtual New York as if you were actually there?Paul Howarth:
There is a fantastic feature in the game called 'Take a Tour' whereby you can sit on an open top bus in first person mode and be driven around the city that you have built!
What's been the most enjoyable aspect of developing a game based on New York City?Paul Howarth:
Wow, there's so much. The unexpected things are always amazing when you encounter them. For example, a great way to view the city at street level is just to click on a random individual whereby the camera will lock on to them just behind their shoulder and will automatically follow them down the street.
It's a great way of people watching and of just looking around the game world that you have built. But then this person will get to pedestrian crossing and the light will be red so they will stop along with everyone else waiting for the light to change to green so that they can cross the road and you wait there with them.
Then all of a sudden you hear a mobile phone ringing next to you, you point the camera in the direction the sound is coming from and you see this person answer their phone, put it up to their ear and start talking! The first time you see this it's incredible. It's only a small thing, but it so reinforces the illusion of a real, living, breathing city. GamesPaper:
Finally is there an exclusive snippet of information that you can tell GamesPaper readers about Tycoon City: New York?Paul Howarth:
Hmmm. I've never mentioned this in an interview before but one of the funniest things that one of our designers came up with in the early stages of development was the idea that if the player failed an objective or mission for whatever reason this huge 50 foot gorilla reminiscent of a certain fictional ape would just appear and destroy your district. The concept sketches were great but it never made it in to the game as it was just all a bit too surreal! I've included the original sketch though as I thought your readers might get a laugh from seeing it!!
Tycoon City: New York is due for release on the PC in February 2006, published by Atari, and you can order yours from Amazon.co.uk
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