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Finding the "Fun Factor" in a tycoon game

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For a long time I've been wanting to make a tycoon game, I have several ideas but those ideas lack the fun challenging factor to make the player think and plan carefully. For example in a game like "Mall Tycoon" you build shops in a mall, but the trick is to put matching shops together and set the prices right, like placing a restaurant next a coffee shop vs a restaurant next to women cloth shop. Or in a game like "Game Dev Tycoon" you have to choose the right genre for the right system and match it with suitable graphics, story etc.

 

The idea I have is something like you are the CEO of a computer company, for example, you design a lap-top and choose what kind of RAM, CPU - GPU etc to use based on the budget you have, and you have to set the right price for it so it's not too cheap that you lose money, or too expensive that it won't sell. The game will give the player the price of the cheapest available Lap-top in the market at the time.

 

But my problem is that the player has nothing to base his choices of components on anything other than the price, he will choose the best components based on the budget he currently has. I need ideas on how to make that decision a bit challenging or strategic, having a "Matching the right components together" type of strategy like the games I mentioned above.

 

Any ideas would be much appreciated.

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I always thought the fun-factor of a tycoon game was that you are supposed to be experimenting, plus there's a different kind of fun in the upgrades you buy with the money you make, and then some games have a third kind because the gameplay has a speed and dexterity element to it, and then customer reactions are also fun.

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^^^ ...and also, there's a creative output factor to it. In many tycoon games, you have some freedom in how you lay out and design your area. Pretty much the only computer game my mom has ever played was Roller Coaster Tycoon - and she did it more for laying out gardens, paths, decor, and so on. I personally enjoyed Rollercoaster Tycoon, Sim City 3000, and Minecraft (which isn't a tycoon game), for the creativity aspect. In RT and SC3000, there was also the "be financially successful" aspect, and in Minecraft it was instead paired with the "survive the dangers and explore" aspects.

 

So, adding SunAndShadow's observations in, we have the following gameplay aspects:

 

 - Freedom to experiment

 - Freedom of exploration.

 - Freedom to create (artistically shaping and decorating your environment).

 

 - The challenge of reaching financial stability / avoiding bankrupcy.

 - The challenge of survival.

 - The challenge of accomplishing explicit goals.

 - Reflex-based action challenges.

 

 - The pleasure of saving up for an upgrade you want and then buying it.

 - The pleasure of seeing progress (towards goals or your upgrade/equipment progress or your city growth).

 - The pleasure of humor (can be risky, because humor that's not enjoyable can turn you off a game, and appreciation of different types of humor can be somewhat subjective unless it's very high quality).

 

Freedom (within reason) is pleasurable and overcoming challenges is pleasurable. Being able to notice difference between before and after progress occurs also is satisfying.

 

In both Sim City (financial stability) and Minecraft (survival), once I reached the point where I was "established" and the challenge became a formality instead of a real challenge, the game became boring so I destroyed and reset the world to start again.

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Thank you guys, I agree with everything you have said, but can you imagine yourselves playing a game based on my concept? does it need something extra when it comes to the player's choice regarding selecting components based solely on the available budget?

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Thank you guys, I agree with everything you have said, but can you imagine yourselves playing a game based on my concept? does it need something extra when it comes to the player's choice regarding selecting components based solely on the available budget?

Well... computer parts are kind of boring.  Maybe if you went for a comedy angle and had the computers be built out of unusual things like, oh, potatoes and centipedes and crystals...?  Why do you want to have players build computers anyway, surely there's something more interesting you could pick?

 

Or, if you especially want to do realistic computer parts, perhaps a conveyer belt game instead, it would be easier to make that fun.

Edited by sunandshadow

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i can imagine the fun part would be to not only pick based on prices, but also by size, noise, brand, compatibility...

and to add a planning component, you could let the player fit the parts together into a case, which either the player chooses, based on target buyers or some client decides (e.g. wallmart).

the fitting doesn't need to be super accurate simulated. it can be like "tetrising" random shaped blocks into a box-case.

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Off the top of my head, here's some real-life choices of business significance that I recall, involving hardware and (a little) software:

 

  • Apple uses high quality pieces in some situations, and low quality pieces in other situations, depending on its targeted market.
  • Microsoft and IBM went with making hardware a commodity - Microsoft won, and IBM lost, and Intel road that wave to incredible heights.
  • Netscape was trying to make web browsers a commodity (to sell server hardware) until they got confused, lacked cohesive plans, and got kicked in the butt by Microsoft's bundling.
  • AOL wanted to make services cheap to sell monthly internet subscriptions, faced revolt from indie game developers, wisely ignored the revolt, merged with Time Warner, didn't know what the heck they were doing, and were then trying to make make services cheap and sell services, and make internet subscriptions cheap and sell internet subscriptions, lacking clear goals.
  • Cray Supercomputers crashed and burned when they flipped and flopped in whether to use commodity pieces and embrace microprocessing, or whether to double-down on custom super-computer designs, taking one of computing's best minds with it when it went down.
  • A decade later, Apple made the same mistake, investing huge sums of money into the Lisa computer which was over-featured for the hardware of that day, and thus overpriced, and was also competing against its cheaper and better products (Like the Mac) that rival teams within its own company made.
  • Microsoft and Sony pushed different competing disc mediums using their console install base. Sony was more gutsy, and pulled off a major victory - Microsoft now pays about $3 bucks per Xbone sold to the Bluray committee. But due to uncontrollable consumer trends, Sony hasn't benefited from it as much as they had hoped. It was a brilliant tactic, but almost a pyrrhic victory due to the winds of chance or the wims of consumers.
  • And Microsoft's not too annoyed about Bluray licensing fees, because Microsoft makes more money off of 3rd party Android phones then it does off of its own Windows Phones - billions of dollars from patents. This is despite Microsoft being the best placed company to take advantage of mobile and IoTs, but because of internal fiefdom fighting among Microsoft's royalty executives, Microsoft kills its ideas with greatest potential purely because the manager lost a politics war with another manager.
  • At the same time, Microsoft's greatest successes have come because of tiny groups that fought internal Microsoft-wars and forced their visions into reality, such as the Beastie Boys of Microsoft, who forced DirectX into existence by lying to Bill Gates, caused major public-relations problems for Disney, and laid the foundation for the Xbox, but also accidentally contributed to Microsoft's anti-trust lawsuit by trying to strong-arm Apple executives?
  • Oh, and did I mention those Beastie Boys directly contributed to id Software's Doom, and indirectly helped kickstart Valve Software? Or that one of the Beastie Boys tried to manipulate the stock market using insider Microsoft knowledge (and lost buttloads of money but was never caught), and that same guy created Google Maps and sold it to Google, using secret undocumented Internet Explorer features that he implemented in Internet Explorer before leaving Microsoft?
  • And the Xbox itself was spearheaded by an unpopular game designer who's previous game product for another company was a well-publicized disaster?
  • Apple switched from PowerPC to x86 because PowerPC failed to grow in processing power as fast as Apple (and IBM and Samsung, iirc) had hoped.
  • Intel failed to take into account smartphone and tablet success, and now is playing second-fiddle to ARM in that market, failed to bring 64 bit computing in time, and was forced to adopt their rival's, AMD's, designs after it gained more market share?
  • And who created their major rival AMD anyway? Wasn't it Intel themselves that chose that tiny AMD company to win a contract with IBM, and then watched in horror as AMD grew faster and larger than Intel had planned, cutting deals to manufacture Intel's processors for companies that Intel would've got the contracts for?
  • Dell pioneered the made-to-order PC customization market, and rode that to success... but then failed to adapt quickly enough to economy of sales, so was undercut in prices on the consumer end, and failed in the customer-service department towards big businesses and so was one-up'd by HP in that market. Now Dell has taken itself back to being privately owned, in the hope of being able to more reflexively respond to future trends (having also missed the mobile game, due to their).
  • IBM successfully transitioned from hardware to consulting and researching, and reaped big. Hewlett-Pacqard (HP) recently tried to do the same, but lacked the guts to go all-in when their stockholders questioned them on it.

 

And this is to say nothing of Siemens, Oracle, AT&T, Texas Instruments, DEC, Pixar (did you know they made and sold computers? And were ran by Steve Jobs who incrementally took the entire company over, piece by piece) and dozens of other companies, with rich histories, and amazing choices that sent them from the gutter to the peaks to the gutters again.

 

A hundred business choices (or failing to realize a choice was even required) toss dozens of multi-billion dollar businesses up and down in this nearly trillion-dollar industry (software + hardware combined). To quote a famous Intel founder and CEO, "Only the paranoid survive". History is stranger, and sometimes more entertaining, than fiction, and there is so much interesting history here, but if you don't know the history, you are hobbling your own creativity and constraining your vision. If you want to pursue a tycoon game with this theme, I'd recommend doing serious reading on the more exciting and enjoyable stories of the computer industry.

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Thank you guys, I agree with everything you have said, but can you imagine yourselves playing a game based on my concept? does it need something extra when it comes to the player's choice regarding selecting components based solely on the available budget?

Well... computer parts are kind of boring.  Maybe if you went for a comedy angle and had the computers be built out of unusual things like, oh, potatoes and centipedes and crystals...?  Why do you want to have players build computers anyway, surely there's something more interesting you could pick?

 

Or, if you especially want to do realistic computer parts, perhaps a conveyer belt game instead, it would be easier to make that fun.

 

It's not computer parts actually I was using that as an example, and it's not very realistic, it's a casual game for mobile phones but the idea i have in mind is similar to computer parts. 

 

i can imagine the fun part would be to not only pick based on prices, but also by size, noise, brand, compatibility...

and to add a planning component, you could let the player fit the parts together into a case, which either the player chooses, based on target buyers or some client decides (e.g. wallmart).

the fitting doesn't need to be super accurate simulated. it can be like "tetrising" random shaped blocks into a box-case.

The fitting parts is an excellent idea, it gives more depth to the game and let's the player think and strategise, thanks very much for that. :)

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For laptops (and other small things like handheld consoles, smartphones, etc.) there's the price/size tradeoff.  You can make a more powerful laptop for the same price if you're willing to make it 6 pounds as opposed to 3.  So if part of the game is actually having to squish stuff in there, then there's the question "Do I pay more for the smaller component that will fit in that little bit of extra space I have, get the bigger one but leave something else out, get a bigger case but now it's more unwieldy and the executives won't like it, or leave it out entirely?"

 

There's also the idea that "next-gen" stuff is usually theoretically available, but it's expensive if you're the first to use it at a large scale.  If none of your competitors is using something, that might be a selling point for you, but that stuff's more expensive, whereas if others are using it already it'll be more of a commodity.  (That leads into questions of sourcing -- like if everyone's using a part, lots of factories will already be making it and you can just buy it, but if it's a new thing you've gotta find a factory in Guangdong or somewhere to make it for you.)

 

On a different note, the other thing about tycoon games is that they're fundamentally aspirational -- they let the player do something they might have been dreaming about.  (Like think of all those games where you're running some small pink-collar business like a cake shop or something.  That's not everyone's fantasy but it's *someone's* fantasy, and there are a lot of those someones.)  So you have to find the fantasy.  What makes designing computers cool to you?  

 

If it's the feeling of building an awesome rig for games, say, then play that up; have your company sponsoring an esports team where if your top of the line model is the best and the team's also lucky, you get a giant marketing boost.  Or games help sell computers, so there's a roster of a few hundred or so games throughout the gameworld's "history", and some of them will and won't run on particular builds (e.g., require some base specs, require a mouse or joystick, require internet, require a color monitor, require VR, etc.).  You want to have computers to run the hit games, and games you think are going to be hits, but you also want to save money where you can.  When you design a computer, you can view the games it can run -- some of which you might be the first to be able to run -- and you can use that to help decide what to put in, decide if you want to bundle in a game, and decide which you might want to use in marketing your system.

Edited by valrus

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Have a look what other tycoon-ish games do. Check out what players do with the game.
Rollercoaster tycoon and Transport tycoon games are very much alive today.

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