Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design


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January 8th, 2006

Game Idea #2: It’s All Business

Welcome to the second game idea of the year! Picking ideas that adhere to the rules is proving to be quite the challenge.

High Concept:

It’s All Business is a business simulation you can carry in your pocket. You play as a manager in an extremely large corporation, and your goal is to increase productivity while keeping costs low. Sounds simple, right?

Platform:

Mobile Phone

Why it needs to be made:

Ever since I moved to Chicago I’ve wanted to create a game that I could play at the city’s many bus stops and el-train stations. The ideal “train game” would be something I could play for five minutes a couple times a day, but play it every day with some level of persistence. It’s All Business was conceived to be that game, fun for me and everyone else who commutes to work and has some time to kill.

Description:

It’s all Business is a turn-based, text-based multiplayer game for cell phones designed to be played via WAP, SMS or simple HTML. The player assumes the role of an up-and-coming business person fresh out of school and starting a new job. The player is assigned a small staff and has to start work right away. Each day the player is allotted so many “turns” (think classic BBS door games) in which he can hire and fire staffers, suck up to his boss, mingle at the water-cooled, or actually “do some work.” Each action has an affect on the staff’s overall productivity and costs.

The more work the player’s staff does the sooner he’ll get a promotion, get a budget increase, and be able to hire more staff. At the end of each month the Employees of the Month are announced, highlighting the players with the highest scores. While it’s a multiplayer game, the players never interact directly in gameplay… they only compete against each other for promotions and total profitability.

Why it will be fun:

Playing as “the boss” is something that not everyone gets to (or has to) experience, and the rewarding parts can be focused-on in the game, while the gut-wrenching parts can be left out. This isn’t supposed to be a training game in any way shape or form. Instead it will combine the emotional rewards of being in a position of power with some dry humor about the corporate world.

Final thoughts:

There has been a rash of popular business-focused movies and TV shows lately (The Office, The Apprentice, Office Space, etc), so I know people are ready to laugh at the absurdities of corporate culture. And a simple phone-based game without a ton of representational graphics will let the player superimpose his own job and work place onto his play experience.


7 Responses to “Game Idea #2: It’s All Business”

  1. James Craig commented:
    posted January 8th, 2006 at 1:19 pm

    Wasn’t there a drug dealer game like this for Palm a few years ago? You started small and then increased profits and took over the whole organization or something…

  2. Patrick commented:
    posted January 8th, 2006 at 4:01 pm

    That does sound familiar. While you might get some flash-in-the-pan buzz by using a drug-theme, I think the vanilla corporate theme lets you appeal to more players (especially women, who are the majority of casual gamers). I don’t think youngsters who haven’t ever had a real job would quite get-it, but they’re the ones who aren’t ashamed to whip out a GameBoy at the bus stop. If done right, It’s All Business would be relevant to everyone who’s flipped burgers, worked in a law office, or anything in-between.

  3. Guy Incognito commented:
    posted January 12th, 2006 at 9:04 am

    So is the game a satire, like shows mentioned? Does kissing-ass, taking credit, avoiding blame get more rewards than working hard? Is ‘risk’ the most dangerous pitfall to avoid? Is the corporation a super-tentacled behemoth? I like it. Can you sneak in kathy the comic character and torture her to death? And kill dilbert too.

  4. mason commented:
    posted January 14th, 2006 at 11:02 am

    there could be some interesting mechanics when players games are connected together. not that they interact exactly, but the whole “company” could be constructed as a loop of boss-worker relationships. hmmm, not sure how to explain that exactly, but every player is a boss, and has workers, co-workers, and a boss as well. In a sense, players could interact through their game moves. Playing the game is an anonymous form of interaction.

    Why this is important? Most games try to be smart by complicated (or sometimes obvious) game mechanics. The game rules dictate what form of game play results in winning. While game mechanics arent eliminated, it seems like game play could be made a lot more diverse and intelligent if it is really based on player moves.

    one problem i can see is that players would have to get “fired”, but they would likely get hired again by another player. but then “trying to get a job” is another phase of the game.

    my point is that rather than making productivity, or money, or smoozing the most beneficial thing a player can do. Make that up to the boss, another player, whose performance is judged by a boss. And if you work for a boss who values things that you dont, you can quit. A boss wont do well for very long if their good workers keep quiting.

    I dont think I am suggesting this just because it seems symetrical. I really do think this might result in interesting game play.

  5. Patrick commented:
    posted January 14th, 2006 at 12:29 pm

    To answer Guy’s question, yes, I see this game as a satire. All of your examples are spot-on. I think a lot of the humor would just come through the interface and how things were phrased. It would be great to see “Three Martini Lunch” as a button in the UI.

    And that leads me to Mason’s idea. I had thought of this game initially as being some kind of pyramid scheme, where each player recruits other players to be his work-force, and so on. That could be funny, as an endless sea of recursive middle-management. But I didn’t see a way to keep that fun long term, so it didn’t make it into the intial write-up. BUT… that doesn’t mean that if I were to actually create this game I wouldn’t further explore the idea.

    I do like the idea that everyone works for the same large mega-corp, as it would accentuate the idea that often the left-hand doesn’t know what the right-hand is doing. And I do think the game would need some forms of player-interaction. Some of it could come from players customizing the name of their department or project. Or it could come in the form of an inter-office memo. But maybe the players could cause crises for other middle managers that have to be immediately addressed. (IE I use one or two of my turns to make you have to do the same.)

  6. Antheus commented:
    posted January 15th, 2006 at 6:51 pm

    I just thought i’d mention a very similar idea that was implemented (hopefully i’m not violating any copyright laws):

    http://www.nationstates.net/

    The player is put into the role of a leader of a country.
    Each day (real day), they need look at 3 proposals to improve the country. The effect of these bills however, takes time to go into action (a week or so). While the mechanics are surprisingly “realistic” - there is no best decision, changes take time, there’s always something you overlook, etc., everything has a nice humorous touch to it.

    Just an example: A proposal is made, to protect the nation’s most recognizable animal (a lion, if you will). But since you cannot fund conservation fund without cutting down on education, you decide not to. Once things settle down, you realize the animal became nation’s favourite dish, and people started raising them for just that purpose.

    I believe that concept is a very entertaining realization of such “big boss” concept. Every choice you make, has just too many side-implications to foresee, yet still provides progress as a whole.

    The greatest fun factor there personally was making decisions just to see, how they go wrong, or what side effects they will produce.

    The interface and time scope is almost identical to the idea presented here, even the satiric aspect is captured nicely.

  7. Erin Walter Curry commented:
    posted February 26th, 2006 at 12:21 pm

    “I think the vanilla corporate theme lets you appeal to more players (especially women, who are the majority of casual gamers).”

    Mmmmmm, vanilla . . . Actually, I just had to say that the above comment by Patrick made me laugh, since, ya know, us chicks all want to be The Boss, right? ;)

    Also, I love the name of the game!


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