Software Tycoon

Title           Software Tycoon
Game Type	Strategy
Players		1
Compatibility	68060 and PPC Amigas with 4+ Mb gfx cards, 32 Mb RAM, CD-ROM
Company		Epic Interactive
Submission      Seppo Typpö ( Profiled Reviewer

Have you ever dreamt about running your own game company and developing
innovative games? Ever wondered if you could produce masterpieces like
Civilization or end up pushing out cheap second rate budget games for your
living? Thanks to Paul Burkey and Epic Interactive, you can live this
dream - because this is what Software Tycoon, their latest Amiga release,
is all about. A game company sim extraordinaire.

The game is distributed in a DVD-case, housing one CD-ROM and a simple two
page manual. Not an encouraging sight for a serious strategy game, it does
deliver the necessary information how to start and play the game. The
installation procedure is straightforward and eats about 100 Mb of hard
disk space. Both 68k and PPC (WarpOS and MorphOS) are catered for - this
review concentrates on the WarpOS version.

After starting the game the player is presented with nice looking options
screen from where he (or she) can start a new game or continue an old one.
Starting a new game allows the player to name his (or her) company and
select a logo for it from a small selection. It would have been nice to be
able to create your own logo with a paint program and import it to the
game, but the preset ones are okay. Next selection is the game mode -
the player can either select a free game with no special goals or start
taking on the preset 'missions' one by one. Free mode is good for learning
the game mechanics, but the real challenge comes from the missions.

Regardless of which game mode is selected, the player is thrown into the
main game screen. The game world consists of one long street, which has
several facilities that the player needs. There are the game studios where
games are made, the bank for borrowing money, the game shop for selling
games and checking out the magazine reviews, the advertising shop and
laboratory; the latter for developing new game genres and technologies.
Then there is movie theatre where movie licenses can be bought, a pizzeria
where the local mafia is offering some dubious services, a games room where
you can hire workers for your company and finally the factory, where your
games are packaged and manufactured.

The first thing you notice, however, is the general slowness of the game.
There are lots of non-player-characters wondering slowly around the street
doing their own thing, a bit like the customers in Electronic Art's
classic business sim, Theme Park. When you move your mouse to either side
of the screen its starts to scroll very slowly and jerkily - certainly
something which Amiga gamers are not used to. So graphically, the first
impressions are not so good - luckily it only gets better from here
onwards. Each location the player can visit is beautifully detailed, and
the smart menu system (the game is totally mouse controlled) is a joy to
see and use. Soundwise, there are some basic sound effects and a tecno
music soundtrack - whether you like it is a matter of taste but I thought
it actually suited the game very well.

Gameplay is quite complex, but it can be quickly learned if one reads the
manual. The player is given a certain amount of money at the beginning and
the aim is to make much more by selling your own products to the
game-playing public. Following is a brief description of the game flow.

The first thing to do is to design a game. Usually only one type of game
genre and some basic techniques for programming, graphics and sound are
available at the beginning - new ones can be developed in the player's
laboratory. It is quite important to start developing new game genres and
technologies as soon as possible - there are competing computer controlled
game companies which rival the player's products and if the player is not
up to date with the latest technology it can be much harder to top the
game charts and generate enough revenue to counter the game development

Once the game is designed, the player has to recruit some staff
(a programmer, a graphics artists and sound people) from the pool of
designers. The recruits have varying abilities which needs to be carefully
inspected before shaking hand  - after all, it is the staff that make or
break any company. Once you get the people you want, you hand over
the design to them, give them a timetable and off they go, making your
game the best way they can.

Here the game displays one of its many nice features. Depending on your
company's philosophy, you can select the timetable which suits you best.
You might want to release the game quickly to cash in the popularity (very
important if it is a movie license game) or aim for quality and give your
team a free hand. There are many details that can be changed and have an
effect on the final game quality - how much is invested in testing,
language translations, employee incentives and so on. All this costs time
and money so the player has to decide how he wants things to be handled,
and act accordingly.

Whatever strategy the player chooses in development, eventually the game
is finished and can be sent off for packaging and duplication. The player
has the power to decide what goodies go into the sales package and how the
manufacturing should be handled. The correct packaging can boost the sales
of an otherwise mediocre title, and well planned manufacturing produces
enough copies to satisfy the demand but leaves as little as possible (if
any) surplus copies gathering dust in the player's warehouse.

Once the factory is running, it is time to market the game with a well
designed advertising campaign. This is quite a simple affair - the player
selects the channel to use and pays for a suitable period of advertising
time. There is also a nice feature involving game reviews - every game
that is for sale in the game shop is automatically reviewed in the
simulation's built-in game magazine. The player can read the reviews of
their own games as well as those of their competitor's products. These
'reviews' are quite well written and funny. They also have an effect on
the sales - A game scoring 93% will sell better and longer than a game
getting a 6% score.

Enough of gameplay, the guestion is - how do all these features fit
together? Very well actually. After the initial learning period, the cogs
start turning, and seeing the very first game you make hit the shops is a
thrilling experience. From this point on most players will be definitely
hooked - there is always something to develop - whether it is  new
techniques, new game genres or just better sales and review scores. It is
quite exciting to relive the early developments of the game industry -
starting with monochrome games like Pong and advancing to more complex
software with the introduction of things like 16-colour graphics and 8-bit
sound to the punters. Plunge into the world of 3D vector graphics and give
players new exciting game controllers like digital joysticks. Sadly, the
Amiga as a computer does not make a separate appearance, the platforms
available are either personal computers in general or the consoles (and
later, hand held 'game boys').

Definitely one of the finest strategy games for the Amiga, Software Tycoon
offers an addictive experience in the world of computer game companies. As
a simulation, there is some room for improvement - for example, Software
Tycoon does not simulate some of the darker sides of the industry like
software piracy and its effects on game revenue. But as it is, it offers
enough complexity to satisfy most players and yet remain fun to play, in a
similar way Theme Park from Electronic Arts did. There are so many
different aspects in making the game and selling it for living that you
start to wonder how the real companies manage to keep it all together.
After playing this game you'll propably see companies like MicroProse,
Ocean, Psygnosis or even Anco in a totally different light.

If you have a slightest interest in strategy games I recommend you
try this game out (if you have a high enough machine spec of course).
There are lots of features hidden in Software Tycoon which reveal
themselves to the experimenting player, and managing the company
successfully does need quite a lot work. Game sessions easily strech into
hours - this is not a game which you can sit down and play for few minutes
just to kill time. Do not start this game if you have to go somewhere in
the next half hour or so - you will not get there in time...

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