TT2: Decisions

I’ve been thinking a lot around what makes a good simulation/tycoon game compared to mediocre or bad games. One of the elements that’s important is being able to make meaningful decisions throughout the game. Give the player a goal, and then give them multiple ways to reach that goal. In most tycoon games, the goal is to make a lot of money. But sometimes it can be to successfully run an island nation, or to reach a certain technology level and be able to leave the planet, or to keep prisoners from rioting (while also making money).

For Isotower, one of the everyday decisions is elevator scheduling. Making sure that elevators at on the right floor at the right time to catch the lunch rush will be important. Otherwise, people get mad, and the overall tower rating drops. Building more elevators is an option, but it’s important to consider where the elevator is located.

Room placement is another important factor. Rooms generate noise, dirt, beauty, and shops and other retail rooms generate traffic. While retail rooms want to be near traffic, offices and apartments don’t want loads of shoppers walking by every day, causing disruption. Rooms will effect each other in how they’re placed. I do need to ensure that there’s no single, optimal room placement solution, though. My hope is that having different class levels for the rooms will alleviate that problem.

I’m still working out other elements of Isotower’s design when it comes to decisions. One idea is the ability to place solar panels on the roof of the tower. This would help with the energy bill, but would be affected by things like the weather. On the other hand, you could accept regular payments to build a cell phone tower broadcaster/receiver, but it would detract from the overall beauty of the tower, which affects the rating. Or you could build gardens on the roof. Your residents would like it, but it would provide you no outright benefit.

As I work on the game, these are ideas and thoughts I have in the back of my head. There can’t be a decision without some sort of consequence. Otherwise, the game becomes a lot less interesting.

TT1: Isotower’s History

Welcome to the first Tower Tuesday Blog post. I plan on posting on this blog every Tuesday that I can, mostly to talk about various thoughts on ideas that may or may not make it into the game, or randomly write about tycoon game design. For now, a short history of Isotower.

It’s been a year since I started re-writing the engine for Isotower. In that time, the code has evolved from this, a plain tile renderer:


To this, a proper game in development:


And it continues to grow.

It’s actually been over 6 years since Isotower’s initial development. The code first start life as SimMine, a game with the premise of building a mining town, digging into the earth, and trading those minerals for finished goods. Some day, I’d like to revisit that idea, though there’s been multiple similar games that have comes out since then with many of the same elements. You can see the first few screenshots of Sim Mine below.

Sim Mine Town Ground Floor

Sim Mine Town Below Ground

Eventually, I started work on Isotower instead. The first screenshot I have is shown here, with some definite placeholder artwork. Not much was in place then, outside of building on tiles. There wasn’t much simulation behind it.

Isotower's first screenshot

Most of the original code is gone now, though some of the screen -> world coordinates, and back, code lives on. During those years, I’ve learned a lot about game development, and programming practices, and I’m still learning new things and techniques. Fortunately, the code this time around is fairly easy to work with, so finishing Isotower shouldn’t take as long as it has taken to get to this point.