No one said that this Gaming Pathology project was going to be easy, or that I would enjoy even a small percentage of the games involved. In fact, due to the obscure nature of many of these games that haven’t even earned a spot in the MobyGames database yet, I recognize that the “hit-and-miss” ratio would be heavily weighted towards the “miss” end of the spectrum. Call me sentimental but I just realized that, according to my records, I purchased Skateboard Park Tycoon 4 years ago this very evening. And I actually wish I had tried playing it back then as well.
I admit that it was a big step to try this game out. I’m really moving outside of my comfort zone since managerial simulation games often seem complex from a distance and that doesn’t mix well with my simple-minded nature. In fact, the last such simulation game I can remember playing was an early 1990’s DOS-based game called Moonbase and I wasn’t very good at it. Plus, this game is supposed to feature skateboarding elements a la the Tony Hawk franchise and I have yet to play such a game. And we’ll just disregard the fact that the game revolves around a certain clique at which most of the other cliques in my high school were inherently opposed to.
But I’ve made the commitment to clear out this queue of games needing residence in MobyGames. So press forth I must. Some tech/trivia notes: Skateboard Park Tycoon is published by Activision Value, Inc., a company that screams “cheap!” for some reason. No matter; the game is among the most fun I’ve experienced in this experiment. I was a bit surprised, though, when the game announced that I had 2 video cards installed on my system and asked me to select between them (when I thought I only had one). However, the game is able to run smoothly in 1024×768 mode making it the most visually sharp game so far in the experiment. That’s a lot of fine detail, so please accept this cropped and scaled screenshot to get some brief idea of the management screen:
There’s a lot to say about this game, and I took pages of notes. I’ll try to distill my stream of consciousness into list form:
- I thought that perhaps I should approach this game with some sort of concrete goal. How about: Cause as much misery among skater patrons as possible. Nothing like a good simulation game to awaken the dormant sadist in all of us, or so I’ve heard.
- I use the above goal as a jumping-off point to focus my reading as I learn about the features of the game through the in-game tutorial.
- There are tons of features as can be expected from a modern simulation video game. You start with an empty property and must build artificial structures conducive to skating; support facilities such as food and beverage dispensaries, restrooms, and first-aid stations; other commercial ventures such as a skateboard shop.
- A-ha! Immediately, I zero in on those support facilities: If I can eliminate first aid and restrooms, the skaters will have a wretched time!
- In the grand scheme of running a commercially viable skateboard park, however, such a scheme would seem to undermine the end goal.
- I am thrust into the “Instant Action”, selecting the small parking lot property on the easy setting.
- Now, granted, the only exposure I have ever had to the notion of a skateboard park was this rather minor, public park back where I came from. So I’m not sure what to expect or, more precisely, what my skater patrons will expect.
- I don’t really understand all of the stuff I can build from — and I have an incredible array of options — half-pipes, quarter-pipes, rails, street surface, curbs, pools, and on it goes, all interlockable like a set of skater Lego blocks. I felt it was a major breakthrough when I figured out how to rotate a piece that has been placed down.
- I’ve only put up one or two of these things called half-pipes when I see something scurrying around my pristine vacant parking lot. It looks like a rodent of some sort. I move one of the half-pipes to try to squash it. Oh! That’s not a mouse! In fact, that’s my first patron. And they can’t be offed that easily. Resilient, just like I remember the skater breed.
- So I have my first skater and that’s with just one or two things to skate on. Skaters have lower expectations than I remember. But a transformation occurs– I suddenly wonder what I can do to attract more patrons.
- I try building a few more skating attractions and then I decide to build some support facilities. I put up a snack machine, wholly expecting it to be vandalized. In fact, it is patronized immediately by the 4 faithful skaters, and is now generating profit.
- I placed a bench, which I thought had to do with — you know — sitting. It’s actually for skating, in the eyes of the skaters. Anyway, some business is actually willing to pony up $100 per day to buy ad space on that bench which will be seen by all 7 of my current patrons.
- Next, it occurs to me that I can right-click on a skater to display the menu seen above. You have creepy surveillance and psychic powers over each of your individual patrons. One pane shows the skater’s stats, the second has a log of all his attempted and succeeded tricks, and the final pane shows the skaters’ current thoughts (“I’m hungry”, “I’m thirsty”, “I’m going to rest a bit”, “The restroom lines are too long”).
- So you have at your disposal unprecedented mechanisms for evaluating customer feedback. It seems reasonable that you should proceed according to that feedback. The number one complaint observed was that the restroom lines are too long. This surprised me because when I first considered restrooms, I skipped right past the porta-potties and small restroom facilities and went straight to the large restroom facilities. Hey, this stuff would be important to me in real life. But there are only 8 skaters in the park at this point. How could the restroom lines possibly be too long? Face it– customers always suck, even simulated customers.
- In addition to right-clicking the patrons, you can also right-click on support facilities and micro-manage them. You can learn how much business they’re doing (this is when I find out that the restrooms cost $1 to use– and they’re doing good business). You can monkey with the retail price of the services or sell (get rid of) the facility altogether. Also, from this menu, you can select one of the game’s coolest features: The skate cam! From whatever facility you chose, you can view a 360 degree real-time panorama from that point:
- I keep coming back to the restroom issue. I watch the skaters go in and out. They only seem to go in one side, presumably because there are no skater chicks. This makes me wonder if I should make both sides of the large restroom facility male-only. Alternatively, perhaps it would help to just have a phalanx of porta-potties and forget about the independent restroom facilities that would be more accommodating to the fairer sex. I know my customer base.
- This is about the time that I decide that this game is rather infectious. Even the nonstop skater music starts to grow on me after the 127th repetition. The music is made by a group called “Formula 1”. The game reports that I can check them out at www.slimpickinsonbass.com, after the name of the full length album from which the 3 featured songs originate (“312”, “Lucky”, and “the Kids”). Sadly, the original website is no longer in service but is now the site of a squatter. I expect this blog post may very well take over as the top Google hit for the likely-defunct group.
- These skaters are an awfully thirsty bunch. One of the top complaints is that the beverage lines are long. No problem; more beverage machines are cheap, and highly profitable. Skater thirst seems almost unquenchable, though.
- Every time the game starts to feel a little repetitive, I notice some more icon options. For instance, there are icons to rotate, zoom, and tilt the simulation environment.
- There are also options to assess the macro-level view of the park’s operations. When I first find these icons, I learn that the default park admission is $40! I don’t remember members of my high school’s skater clique having that much disposable allowance. I lowered it slightly and garnered some more patrons.
- One of your status measurements is a park rating. The only goal here, as far as I am concerned, is to make sure the number is larger than it was a minute ago. When I hit 400, I got a new sponsorship, just for being popular with 15 skaters, I suppose.
- Getting back to the actual skating structures which are supposed to be the primary attractions, they remind me a lot of the old Habitrail modular pet rodent cages. There’s a metaphor there, I’m sure of it.
- Based on what I remember of the skater sub-culture, I can’t help but think that my skateboard park could profit mightily from a few cigarette vending machines strategically placed in unmonitored areas. I wonder if this game is mod-able?
I didn’t get to try out the exhibition mode, which is where you actually skateboard. Maybe another night. This is a game I can easily stretch out to multiple evenings.