Ol... EASY, PRETTY, DEEP
Tycoon City: New York - diary entry by Luigi Fusco, DesignerDecember 2005
Tycoon City New York (TCNY) went beta a few weeks ago. As the rollercoaster ride that is ‘games development’ is coming to an end for this particular project, we are days away from submitting the Gold Master build. I am currently 90% through a full play through that has taken me just over two weeks. The latest build is looking sturdier and healthier than ever with frame rates going up and bugs coming down in great numbers. The game plays well all the way through and all Opportunities (missions) and Prize Opportunities (side quests) are working 100%. It's very fulfilling to see everything that we have all worked extremely hard for finally coming together to form a cohesive 'whole' game.
TCNY started out as a concept about two years ago. Looking at the products that Deep Red had created leading up to that point indicates that this was pretty much a simple case of evolution. The company has some very clear goals in mind and becoming a recognised developer of world building/Social Simulation games is forefront in our plans. Looking back now, ‘Monopoly Tycoon’ possibly represents the beginning of the mentality and goals that the company are now pushing and what has lead to TCNY being developed. ‘Monopoly’ is a mass market licence. One that is recognised at an almost inconceivable level. It would be extremely difficult to find anyone who has not heard of the board game. Mixing the licence with the company’s creativity and technology in world building was a great fusion and the success of the title bears that out.
With ‘Vega$: Make it Big’, the company took it's next step in this evolutionary ladder. Using similar techniques and technology, ‘Vega$’ was our first world building game set in a real city. ‘Vega$’ was also a very successful title and has been placed in some PC gaming magazines in their top ten lists of must have titles in the genre.
With this in mind, you can see how the next step that Deep Red would take was almost inevitable.
Mass Market + World Building + Real City = Tycoon City: New York!
From the beginning, TCNY had a mantra of 'Easy/Pretty/Deep'. During the initial conception stages, it was paramount that the game would appeal to the mass market. It needed to transcend the current RTS/World Building/God games that were and continue to appeal to hard core gamers and niche markets. It was important that anyone would be able to play it regardless of whether this was the first game they'd ever played or whether they were seasoned gamers of twenty years. This of course, is the holy grail of current game development thinking. Every publisher wants to release a ‘SIMS’ type game that will appeal to so many people and sell millions of copies. We're no different.
During the initial development and concept stage TCNY consisted of a small team working on lots of formula's and the technology that would allow the game to be made. Everything from the behaviour of the world building AI right down to the individual character behaviours that allows us to have unique individual citizen types that come closer to truly living and breathing than any game of this nature has been able to achieve. The citizens of New York in our game all have names, all live somewhere in the world and are all part of the entire circle of ‘commercialism’ that involves consumerism, supply and demand. Our people will all go shopping for food, for clothes, for household items and they will all go out looking for a good meal and they will all go to work (unless they're unemployed of course). Each citizen type has a preference for the type of consumer product available. So a Goth in East Village will prefer to go to a punk club whereas a famous celebrity in Chelsea would rather go to an exclusive bar where he knows that he won't have to put up with fans and sightseers bothering him for autographs etc. By building the type of business preferred by each citizen type, you keep that person happy and they will love life in your city. If you build the wrong businesses, they will be unhappy and will end up moving out of the city altogether.
The struggles we have had in developing TNCY include making sure that the game version of New York mirrors the real city as closely as we could possibly achieve. New York (the real one) is a very unique place for so many different reasons. Manhattan Island (which is where our game takes place) is made up of a number of different 'districts'. This is a fundamental detail of New York and one that differs from any other city in the world. Each district is almost like a small city or country in its own right. They vary so much from each other that they could build walls as boundaries and have customs & immigration entrances between each district. We were very much concerned with keeping the 'spirit' and life blood of each district as real as we could. The differences between them consist mainly of the people themselves and the architectural styles of the buildings. ‘Greenwich Village’ for instance is well known for being quite a beatnik area with a bohemian history and therefore houses many artists, poets, musicians and people of a creative nature. It is also home to thousands of students who attend the local university. East of Greenwich is ‘Little Italy’. No prizes for guessing that this district is home to the large Italian community that has been built up over the last century. This is where all the classic mafia gangster movies based in New York in the 70’s were set. Slightly south of Little Italy you will find Chinatown. Again, unsurprisingly, this is where you will find thousands of immigrants, illegal or otherwise, packed into apartment blocks that house more people than they were originally intended for. The architecture in each of these three districts is unique and different from each other. They each have quite low buildings overall but with styles different to each other. As you travel further south, you will find the ‘Financial district’. One of, if not the major locations of commerce in the world thanks to being the home of the the stock exchange. The architecture here is vastly different to any of the districts we’ve talked bout. Tall, huge skyscrapers that go to making up the famous Manhattan skyline. The people found here live their lives at one hundred miles an hour and clash drastically with the tourists that come here to view the great structures.
This type of difference is found from one side of New York to the other and we have spent many long hours in discussing how to achieve this difference. The right people, the right businesses, the right buildings according to the real Big Apple! Two such discussions that come to mind are the debate we had over how we deal with New York’s gay community. Epitomised by the hit comedy series ‘Will & Grace’, we felt it would be wrong to simply ignore the fact that a large section of Chelsea is home to a large gay community. We decided to show these people types in a conservative manner and you will find a handsome, professional gay man living in our New York. You will also find the larger than life queens of camp if you have a good look at our Halloween parade. Again, in the real parade, you will see men dressed proudly in high heels and dresses to make you blush as they dance and enjoy their right to freely express themselves.
Another such conversation was taken much more seriously as we found ourselves in the middle of a political, social and extremely grave arena. What should we do about ‘ground zero’ and the WTC towers? To simply ignore it was not an option. Todays New York has become synonymous with the terrorist attack of September 11th and we felt we needed to tackle the issue but were unsure how. Some wanted to be able to build the twin towers again in total defiance of the terrorists. Another idea was to give players a choice of what they wanted to build in that location, where each building was a tribute of some sort to the victims of the attack. We were unsure how to handle the unlocking and therefore the building on the site. Should it be done with a full fanfare and celebration as it will surely be done in real life when the new tower is finally built? We were desperate to make sure we handled the issue with total and complete sensitivity and respect for the families and the victims. It took a considerable amount of time and discussion to reach the decision and we feel we have handled it in the right fashion and one which completely respects the events of that tragic day.
Tycoon City New York represents Deep Reds most ambitious title to date. We have recreated a living, breathing metropolis city. Not just any city, but one of the biggest & busiest cities in the world today. The player will be able to build houses and businesses across each district and rebuild the entire city in all its wondrous glory.
As I continued what could be my final full play through of the game, I realised that I have been stopping to look around more and more. I have become engrossed in the look of the city and I’m enjoying the view. It feels at times as though I am looking at a photo of the Manhattan skyline, or a freeze frame from an old gangster movie set in Little Italy with thousands and thousands of people swarming around the streets. ‘Tycoon City New York’ has taken the next step in evolving not only the games that we at Deep Red develop, but I believe it has taken the next evolutionary step for the genre.
With its ease of use, it complies with the first part of the mantra ‘Easy’.
Pretty? I would say at some points, especially when you begin to reach the north of the city in Harlem, it is stunning to look at. That’s the ‘pretty’ part done’.
Deep? We have created a city with all of its citizens, streets, buildings and the hustle and bustle of the real thing. I’d say that was easily pretty deep.There are more exclusive screenshots available in our Tycoon City: New York screenshots section here.