Friday, May 17, 2013

I miss old school Tycoon and City-building games.

Once upon a time there was this studio called Microsoft Game Studios and the games they published were awesome. Amongst my favorites, the Age of Empires series, the not-very-well-known strategy game Impossible Creatures and the much more well known Zoo Tycoon series.

I can't remember if my first tycoon game was Zoo Tycoon or Roller Coaster Tycoon. It doesn't matter, both are amazing, in-depth, gameplay-centric tycoon games. How amazing are they? You could fire them up today and you'd probably get hooked, despite the ancient 2D graphics. 

Zoo Tycoon SS by Gamefreakz

These two games probably embody all that was great about Tycoon games. Building up your thing (zoo and a theme park), making money, accomplish goals, organize and manage. You could manage those things right up to employee level! 

Another game that had me hooked up, which wasn't a Tycoon (and which, to this day, I haven't completed because I don't have the skill to) was Pharaoh. Pharaoh was part of a city-building themed game line created by Impressions Games (now defunct) and published by Sierra Entertainment (defunct). 

Pharaoh and its cousins (Zeus and Caesar) were deceptively simple games that spawned entire boards and theory-crafters dedicated to the mechanics that govern the game and clever ways to use them.

These games didn't have amazing graphics. They didn't have amazing sound. No multiplayer, no achievements, no online gameplay, no fourth-wall-breaking. Pure gameplay.

The only two of these surviving to this day are Caesar and Roller Coaster.

I'm today asking, why? Why are these amazing genres dying out? Is there something wrong with them? 

It wasn't nostalgia that made me want to write this though. Most have already heard about Game Dev Tycoon. It's a (arguably) fun indie game about starting your own games development company. I was excited and I played the demo.

I was so disappointed it hurts.

This game has nothing to do with real Tycoon games. You don't build or manage anything. Mostly you go through menus, all of them the same, and move a few ambiguous sliders up and down hoping you somehow hit the perfect combination for the type of game you're trying to make. Meanwhile you research technological advancements and try to navigate the current market.

The game was made by a two man team and I feel like they've poured their sweat and tears into it. It's a game for the Farmville generation. One-click everything and no real thinking! 

I understand why this is. The game was developed with mobile users in mind first and foremost and so far mobile games haven't shown much complexity. Unfortunately I think most of them are a bit more complex than Game Dev Tycoon. 

On the city-building front, I think the one game that comes to mind is SimCity, and rightfully so. I personally haven't played it, but I've seen Lets Plays and people's reviews. I can't say it lacks the depth. I can say that it lacks the charm. The total immersion in your city and what it's becoming. All in favor of a more social, graphical experience.

I don't know anymore. I thought I was too young to sigh for the "good old days". Guess not. Here's hope that these genres will make a victorious, brilliant comeback.

P.S: Tilted Mill, previously Impressions Games, is trying to bring the city-builder back! Check it out!