Tycoon City: New York - diary entry by Luigi Fusco, Designer.September 2005
September has been a good month for ‘Tycoon City: New York’ (TCNY). We've managed to get a good, stable build and from a design team perspective, we've managed to make some serious headway to finalizing the 'story mode' of the game as well as some King Kong size leaps into balancing and tweaking of values.
Having non-stable builds is a pain the backside for everyone, but on this particular project, it hit the design team the worst. The coders have their own local versions that they can get on with and the artists, although finding it difficult to check their work in-game, can continue working without one. For us however, it became a serious case of ‘tools down’. The design team writes all of the scripts for the game. This includes both running the overall game as well as the individual opportunities (or 'stories') that the player gets to play through. We have gone out of our way to make sure that the scripts are easy to read and generic as possible and whilst we haven't achieved a 100% success rate, we're close enough that we can all understand each others scripts for editing and debugging purposes. They are quite complex (from a design point of view) and with builds either crashing or not able to be played, it means that we simply cannot get on with the job of writing them. This has been one of the major issues that we have had to deal with from our perspective, but of course, with a game this big and this involved, getting a stable build during development is a very difficult thing to achieve. In hindsight, this is one thing that had we known the knock on effect would have had the impact it did, we would have pushed for more stable builds a lot sooner and a lot harder than we did. It’s one of those things that we simply took in our stride & were possibly a little too patient with.
In a game like TCNY, the size of our data base is on a par with some national military networks. We have citizen types who have very individual characteristics; they like different music, eat at different restaurants, play different sports and have different favorite hangouts. Our accommodations and businesses have unique values, such as how much money people spend or the time someone takes before moving on. Our people will go to the cinema and watch a film for about an hour and half and then leave. They'll go to the book store, spend about fifteen minutes browsing the books and if they see what they like, they'll buy it, leave & continue on their way. We control all of these different elements via a database that if spread flat on the ground, would wrap around the world at least twice. Ok, that's actually not true, but you get the idea!
At the end of last month, one of our design team left. She's getting married and decided that her personal life is more important than creating video games. I really can't relate myself. We prepared for her leaving by having her concentrate solely on her ‘Opportunities’. It was important that the designers scripts were as close to ‘final’ as possible before she left so that all that was left for the rest of us to do was fix any bugs as we stared down the barrel of a beta build. Pleasingly, this all went to plan and in retrospect I'm happy that we took enough precautions to deal with her leaving.
A surprising, yet pleasing thing happened at the beginning of the month. When a new starter is announced, the whole company is sent a diary entry via email so that we all know ‘who’ and ‘when’. I did a double-take and heard a chorus of ‘eh?’s down the room as a new starter email was received. A very popular member of the coding team who left less than a month ago has come back! The fact that he is an all round nice guy and he’s a flipping brilliant coder is a morale booster and we’re all left looking at each other wondering ‘what’s happened there then?’ It looks like he simply didn’t like his new life at the other developer (who shall remain nameless). Upon hearing this, we simply asked him to come back to work for us again. We are more than happy to welcome any ex Deep Red flock back in to the fold. It just goes to prove that the grass really isn’t always greener on the other side.There are more exclusive screenshots available in our Tycoon City: New York screenshots section here.