Tuesday, May 29, 2007


When I talked
about inefficiency in city-simulators, I neglected to mention Tropico.

Tropico is an interesting game that never quite lived up to its central theme: you get to be the fearless leader of a tropical island, ruling your people with an iron fist while pleasing the Americans and trying your best to look like a democracy to the rest of the world.

The problem is that the game lacks teeth. It's clear that the vibe is meant to be satirical, but the gameplay is so straightforward it comes off as bland instead.

I would rather see a more realistic simulation: death squads, torture, duping UN inspectors, fending off CIA-led invasions, nationalizing corporations. Make it brutal. I might have noticed that, at least.

The game did have a bit of the chaotic effect I was getting at, though.

Here's an example from my most recent playthrough: I was in charge of getting a tourist industry up and running. Everything was great until I lost my college professor. I didn't have enough money to lure another one from abroad. I tried firing qualified personnel from other professions and raising the professor wages, but nobody would fill the position. This meant that my brand new power plant wouldn't operate at maximum efficiency (it required college-educated operators). Which meant that my brand new tourist attractions were useless. Out of money, my people growing unhappy, I was forced out of office - I couldn't even afford to steal the election.

The problem was indeed in the challenge. It took me awhile to figure out why things weren't working properly. And when I did finally suss it out, there was little that could be done. Having one worker change jobs sent repercussions through my whole city.

Maybe I shouldn't be talking about chaos but rather catastrophe.

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