Tycoon City: New York Designer Diary #1 - Putting the Big Apple on the Small Screen

Designer Luigi Fusco explains how Deep Red Games went about making a game starring the city that never sleeps.

Management strategy games often let you take control of a bustling public attraction, a bustling corporate empire, or even a bustling metropolis. And what city bustles more than the Big Apple? Developer Deep Red and publisher Atari are out to prove that no place is more happening than New York City with the upcoming PC game, Tycoon City: New York. In this first diary, Deep Red designer Luigi Fusco discusses how Greenwich Village, Little Italy, and Chinatown will all somehow end up fitting on your computer in early 2006, when the game ships.

Making New York Come Alive

By Luigi Fusco
Designer, Deep Red Games

When you're alone, and life is making you lonely, you can always go...downtown.

Tycoon City: New York went into a beta-testing phase a few weeks ago. The latest version we've been working on is looking sturdier and healthier than ever with frame rates going up and bugs coming down in great numbers. As the roller coaster ride known as "game development" is coming to an end for this project, I find it incredibly fulfilling to see everything that we have worked extremely hard for finally coming together to form a cohesive "whole" game.

The game started out as a concept about two years ago, the next step in Deep Red's evolution. Beginning with our earlier projects, Monopoly Tycoon and Vega$: Make It Big, we at Deep Red have always sought to marry creativity and technology in world-building with games that can appeal to broad audiences. Whereas Monopoly Tycoon borrowed a fictional mass-market license, Vega$: Make It Big, stretched our team's abilities as we made our first world-building game set in a real city. The next step for Deep Red was inevitable: combine these approaches into something brand new. Mass Market + World-Building + Real City = Tycoon City: New York!

From the beginning, we knew that the game had to appeal to both seasoned gamers and to casual players. 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 RTS/world-building/god-game veterans.

Part of our approach was to let players of all skill levels live the dream of making it big in New York City by building houses and businesses in each district. To do that, we had to re-create the look, the population, and the culture of one of the biggest and busiest cities in the world today--our most ambitious challenge to date.

During the initial development and concept stage, our group consisted of a small team working on formulas and technology that would let us make the game. Our goal was to nail everything from the behavior of the world-building AI down to the individual character behavior that would let us make unique individuals who could live and breathe in our city, more so than any game of this nature has been able to achieve.

Don't hang around and let your problems surround you, there are movie shows...downtown.

Speaking of which, the citizens of New York in our game all have names. They all live in specific neighborhoods and contribute to the circle of "commercialism" that involves consumerism, supply, and demand. Our people all shop for food, clothes, and household items. They all seek different types of food and all go to work (unless they're unemployed, of course). Each citizen type has a preference for specific consumer products and experiences.

For example, enthusiasts of goth culture in the East Village will prefer to go to a punk club, whereas a famous celebrity in Chelsea might rather frequent an exclusive bar where he knows he won't have to put up with fans and sightseers bothering him for autographs. By building the types of businesses preferred by each citizen type in each neighborhood, players can keep those people happy with their lives in the city. If you build the wrong businesses, citizens will be unhappy and eventually leave the city altogether.

It was a challenge ensuring that the game version of New York mirrored its real counterpart. The actual city of New York is a very unique place for many different reasons. Manhattan, which is where our game takes place, is made up of a number of different "districts"--each a cultural enclave unto itself. The sheer number, proximity, and cultures of these districts are fundamental details of New York that make it different from any other city in the world.

We were very much concerned with keeping the spirit of each district as real as we could. Greenwich Village, for instance, is well known for being an 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 1970s were set.

Just south of Little Italy you will find Chinatown, one of the city's most dense districts. As in real life, here you will find thousands of businesses and residents crowded into a small neighborhood.

As you travel farther south, you will find the Financial District, one of the most important commercial centers in the world and the home of the New York Stock Exchange. The architecture here is vastly different from any of the districts we've talked about--tall skyscrapers that make up the famous Manhattan skyline. The people found here live their lives at 100 miles an hour and clash drastically with the tourists that come here to view the great structures.

Things'll be great when you're downtown, no finer place for sure downtown, everything's waiting for you.

As I play through the game, I'm proud of what we've accomplished. In between operating my businesses, I often find myself stopping to admire the view. It feels at times as if I'm looking at a photo of the Manhattan skyline or a freeze frame from an old gangster movie set in Little Italy with thousands of people swarming the streets. Watching the way our citizens interact with businesses and each other is a sight to behold.

Tycoon City: New York is definitely evolving the games that we at Deep Red develop. I can't wait to share it with all of you when the game is released in February of 2006.

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