Zerathulu’s View – Computer Tycoon

Man, it’s been a while since I sat down to write a game review. I’ve had to channel some effort into my latest venture, the SORCERY! playthrough, but that’s no excuse. Luckily, I remembered a little while back when a game developer hit me up on twitter, and offered me a free game key for his current work-in-progress in exchange for a fair and honest review. Here’s Computer Tycoon.

 

Background

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Developed and published by one-man Hungarian indie studio ProgOrion, Computer Tycoon is a business strategy game where you race to corner the up-and-coming technology market in the 1970s. You are literally in control of everything; designing your first computer, researching new components, choosing which countries to break ground in and even how to market your product. However, whereas most strategy ’empire-builders’ tend to have open-ended time frames, in Computer Tycoon there’s an interesting wrinkle. As you’re effectively taking the role of a CEO of a leading tech firm, you have a life expectancy. You need to either create a monopoly by putting your competitors out of business, survive until the year 2034, or develop technology to the point of ‘The Singularity’, whereby you are able to upload your consciousness into a machine and become effectively immortal! Pretty deep stuff.

 

First Impressions

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Starting the game, the first thing you notice is the ‘Wall of Gratitude’. Anyone who’s ever provided a bug report or a piece of advice is mentioned in a massive pop-up screen upon opening the game. I love this; it’s so refreshing to see a developer who clearly listens to his community, and is willing to take advice on board. The music is a huge strength: upbeat with a lot of energy, brilliantly reminiscent of early simulator games without feeling too repetitive. I input my name, company name and avatar, general intro type-stuff, and hit Start Game.

And the game hits me back.

Opening onto a map of the world, an overlay appears with some useful information to serve as a quasi-tutorial of sorts. I was expecting this; it’s a strategy/city building simulator, so there’s all sorts of factors at play that need getting to grips with. What I wasn’t expecting was ten of these overlays, one after another, all detailing more and more pertinent information than the one before. By the fifth or sixth page I felt my brain start to switch off a little and make its way to the escape hatch at the back of my head…it was a lot to take in.

Now I might be being a little unfair here.  The game is still in early access, and on the very first overlay the developer states that he fully intends to create a full tutorial. The reason it hasn’t been implemented yet is that there are going to be numerous features and mechanics added to the game in the future, so developing a tutorial at this early stage would be slightly pointless as it wouldn’t cover everything as the game progresses. Completely understandable. It’s just that I feel like mountains of text can deter a lot of people from wanting to continue playing a game, and wouldn’t want this potentially marring a game that could be really fun and enjoyable in all other aspects.

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Onto some other features. I really like the design of the menus and HUD elements. Opening a menu or clicking on a statistic doesn’t feel daunting or hard to follow as a result of small text or poor colour choices. The font is broad and welcoming, the colours relaxing and uncomplicated, and the text is a good size and easy to follow. This might all seem a little irrelevant, but I assure you it can go a long way. One of the primary reasons I stopped playing many a strategy game was from poor use of text and colour, something I have to take into consideration due to my deuteranomalous vision. No such issues with Computer Tycoon. Again, the music is absolutely first-rate; full of energy and never dull.

 

Gameplay

Right, so from what I’ve gathered I need to buy my way into a country and set up a site. I have a decent starting amount of currency, but that’s not the only factor. Logistical Power, or LP, is also required to expand operations into other countries. From the quasi-tutorial, I need to build a factory (which will furnish me with Production Points, or PP; a measure of how many computers I can manufacture) in a fairly poor country, which will incur lower running costs. Mousing over all the countries provides a wealth of information: how much currency it takes to buy into, how much LP it takes, population, which aspect of a computer (e.g. ease of use, features etc.) is the key factor for that country’s market, and so on. There’s a few good candidates, but I settle on the Dominican Republic and Bangladesh, and set up shop by building a factory. Once that’s done, I can focus on building my first computer!

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I start really bog standard. You can up the quality of each component but I want to start off with a basic, cost-effective machine and see how that does. The fundamental components you need to include in your computer are the memory, CPU, power supply, motherboard, and OS. Everything else, like a display, removable media, storage etc are extras that you’ll need to research later (remember, we’re starting in the seventies). Once everything is selected, you designate a starting price for your machine, create a prototype to undergo testing and polish, and then it’s off to the market with it! My first machine, the Zapple Classic, starts off pretty well. I start racking up the sales, and pretty soon I’m pulling in a profit of about $15,000 a day and my sales account for 10% of the global market! But all too soon, my competitors start to catch up. Sales drop, and income slows dramatically.

I need to bring out a new model.

Luckily I’ve not just been sitting back and twiddling my thumbs. Like any good tech company, I’ve expanded. Thanks to building some logistics modules (which provide LP) at my sites, I now have the capacity to build more sites in new countries in order to research new technologies. Research is cheaper and more effective in richer countries, but I don’t have the currency to buy into the super rich ones, so I settled on Nepal. Even before my sales for the Zapple Classic started to stagnate, I order my new Nepalese expansion to start researching. Each new technology requires a certain amount of Research Points (RP) to complete the research. Your research sites provide x amount of RP per day which soon starts to fill up the progress meter of the tech currently being researched. Soon enough, I’ve managed to develop a crucial new component which will blow my competitors away and cement Zapple’s status as the global leader in the tech industry…

The KEYBOARD! *shing*

 

Final Thoughts

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I must say, I’m having a blast playing this game. Sure, there’s a lot of things to think about, but this gives you freedom to pursue any avenue of play you might think of. Build your computer the way you want. You want to focus on quality and cater to richer consumers? Go for it. Maximize the value of your components and watch that profit margin soar. Want to make your machines good value for money and cater to the poorer market? Best of luck. I love how much thought has been put into every aspect of this game; from the modular upgrades to your sites, the different preferences you can specialize in, your marketing strategy, all the way to hiring bodyguards and VIP healthcare to ensure you make it to retirement age.

Yes, it’ll require a little polish and definitely a proper tutorial before it leaves early access. But based on what I’ve seen so far I’m highly encouraged that this will become a successful venture for ProgOrion, and I’ll be looking forward to the additional features and content that are yet to be implemented. Are you able to channel your inner Steve Jobs/Bill Gates/Larry Page and become the ultimate Computer Tycoon?

Letter grade: B+

 

Thanks for reading! As always, feel free to check out my twitter to be kept abreast of new review alerts, and let me know your thoughts if you’ve played/plan to play this title. Until next time,

Z

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