Are you a fan of the old Tycoon games and wish they’d make a comeback? Hold on to your keyboards, because I had the opportunity to play the alpha of ProgOrion’s Computer Tycoon and wanted to bring you some of my initial thoughts on it. Please note, again, that this game is still in alpha testing and so is continuing to evolve, and these thoughts are based on the 0.9.1.22 version that I played.
Building an Empire
Remember when I mentioned that I was really good at Lemonade Stand? Well, you can imagine my enthusiasm for the different Tycoon games when they became available. I always enjoyed them, building my little empires of dino parks, roller coasters, and amusement parks.
There was always something satisfying about taking an idea and watching it come to fruition. One of the great things about any Tycoon game is that they enable you to experience an entire business career a few days (or a few hours, I suppose, if you’re really dedicated).
Computer Tycoon hearkens back to these great experiences, except this time, you take on the role of a computer company in 1974, trying to survive and stay relevant into the 2030s. Oh, and while you’re doing that, you’re also trying to attain immortality.
I spent about five hours with the game before writing this impressions post (and more since then). It’s been a fun ride so far, so let’s take a look at what the game has to offer.
Graphics and Gameplay
The music struck me first. It sounds like something that should have computers associated with it, and it starts with a bang. When coupled with the clean graphics and a user interface that is clean, simple, and easy to understand, Computer Tycoon immediately creates an impression of being a game about technology, and invites a player in, even if, like me, you haven’t played a Tycoon game in years.
After sifting through the setting screen and picking my avatar (I forgive the game for only having one woman option, as this game takes place in the 70s), I was sent off into the world to build my empire. And thus, the AGC company was born.
And what a world it was. With 7 million dollars of in-game currency and all seven continents to play with (including Antarctica!), the strategy of picking the right home base for your company is key. Countries cost money and logistic points to sell/build in (and your resources are finite), and different countries have different populations and economies (poverty, poor, average, or rich) that each come with their own benefits and challenges. Interestingly, these are not static, and the stats for each country will change from game to game, so it pays off to pay attention to the map!
Now, like I said, I haven’t played a Tycoon game in ages, so all of this was a little overwhelming at first. But the game does provide on-screen descriptions of each of the buttons on the interface, which were helpful, and I spent a bit of time clicking around the menus before jumping in.
While a few of the menus had some grammatical errors and buttons sometimes were too small for the text below them, this game is still in the alpha stage and, as far as details go, they are easy fixes. Nothing I came across was confusing to the point where I couldn’t easily understand what the menu/page/button was for.
So, with my home base in the (almost) free Peru (yes, I am aware of the irony), I set off to make my millions.
Building a Computer
This was both fascinating and frightening. I loved the idea of picking (or creating) components to put into home computers and, eventually, personal computers (and more, but I hadn’t gotten that far at time of writing). The control over sending a prototype to be tested in order to boost stats, and playing with the price to meet the economic needs of customers, while also balancing the financial needs of the factory, office, laboratory, logistics, marketing, and recreation offices, was a delightful challenge.
One slight organizational issue I had was when designing new components. After selecting, for instance, that I wanted to choose a CPU, I had the option to “create” one. But clicking on that brought me to a menu that had all of the components (MOBO, display, operating system, etc.) available. It’s a small detail, but I would have liked if the program sent me right to the “CPU” menu, if that was what I was trying to create.
Another small detail that I’m hoping will be updated a bit are the descriptions of the components that can be developed; while I have a basic understanding of computer parts and jargon, some of the descriptions left me baffled and hoping that the new component would show up on a different menu after it was “developed” and help me figure out what it was for/how to best use it.
That aside, designing computers was very interesting, and the process was easily understandable and accessible. I was very happy when my first computer came out of the testing phase and started rolling out to stores in Antarctica and my newly acquired areas of Peru and Argentina. It was a hit!
From there, the game progressed, offering me marketing opportunities to work with, as well as an array of budget, sales, competition, and market data to use to better carve out a piece of that market-share pie.
I hummed along happily for about 15 in-game years, building computers, slowly watching my little computer empire grow, and buying up land to build on and sell computers in.
Around this point I realized I had made a fatal error. I didn’t realize you didn’t have to build on land in order to sell in the country so, long story short, my resources wound up spread too thin. I managed to do some damage control by slowing the speed of the game to normal (I usually play on the second “speed” option) and making some massive budget cuts, but then I decided that AGC was going to take one for the team and show me what happened when a company starts to go bankrupt in Computer Tycoon.
It was actually really well done. I mean, it was horrible, watching millions of dollars slowly slip away, but I figured this was something that could potentially happen if, you know, you’re not the amazing lemonade-selling businesswoman that I am.
Anyway… After I hit zero in-game dollars, the numbers kept ticking down into the red. I kept up my business, trying new marketing strategies, keeping up my research projects, and playing with computer prices, although as I write this I realize I didn’t try to build any computers once the company was operating on a deficit.
A little notice did come up saying that I could operate under deficit for a full year before the plug would be pulled on poor AGC. I thought that was a very generous buffer, although I did realize that, prior to me noticing the money going down, the game never alerted me about budget reports being ready. That’s obviously not a necessity, and iit is obviously on the player to remember all of the details of the game, but even when I started my second playthrough, it would have been nice to just have a little reminder that the budget report is ready; it would also serve the purpose of more obviously marking time in the game.
Second playthrough. I suppose I spoiled it, didn’t I? I successfully drove AGC into the ground and, after a year of operating in the red, the company closed its doors. But there’s always a silver lining, right?
I won’t lie; I was pretty excited to play a Tycoon game after so many years. While this game is still in its alpha stages, and so continues to be improved upon as time goes on, in its current form Computer Tycoon presents a solid, fun experience and I’m greatly enjoying my time with it. It hearkens back to the old Tycoon games with its simple concept while also presenting a fascinating and somewhat difficult business challenge to survive for over half a century in a technology field. If you’re a fan of Tycoon games and looking for a new challenge, or if you’re looking for a game to get you into the genre, I would recommend Computer Tycoon be added to your “to play” list.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, the newly-opened AGC Enterprises is about to open a new factory in Canada, and I need to be there for the groundbreaking ceremony…
Full disclosure: These first impressions were done using a Steam key provided by ProgOrion’s founder, Andris Illes. However, I am dedicated to giving unbiased reviews to my readers, as well as constructive feedback to the hardworking people who develop and publish games, regardless of whether I pay for a game or not.
What do you think? Are you as interested as I was? Did you ever get into the Tycoon games? Have you ever build a computer? Let me know in the comments!
Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you soon!
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