Greetings and a humble bow to everybody!
First of all, I can't stress enough how thankful I am to everyone who took their time to read through the previous article and to those who gave their feedback and encouragement. It really helped to motivate and inspire me further and it also puts more pressure on me to try and produce a game that will not let your expectations down. I will give my best as I attempt that.
Now I have still not been able to get my life under control, but I try to put as much time as I can towards progressing the work on the game, even if it's just small pieces here and there. Also even when I'm not behind the computer typing in code or pushing pixels, I can still at least think about the game design problems and figure out best ways to implement features. I always keep a pen and paper handy just in case I get hit with a sudden flash of inspiration.
On that note, this time I'll try to describe some of the gameplay features of Office Management 101 as I envision them right now. Although covering everything may be a bit too much for one article, so I'll mostly concentrate on features I got planned for the alpha version of the game, which I want to release for free hopefully in Spring 2014. Also I want to point out, that everything I describe below is subject to change, if the change is justified and somehow makes the game better overall, and that I have not thought every feature through 100%.
Since most of you are probably not familiar with the concept yet, I'll give a quick summary first. Office Management 101 is a tile based isometric pixel art style business sim or so called tycoon game, where you - the player - will get to manage a branch of a consumer electronics company. You'll design and build the offices, hire employees, assign them projects and watch the cash come pouring in. And to give the game some flavor, it will be spiced with some wacky and even senseless humor. I guess that sums it up enough.
So let's dive right in then. The game is calendar based, but to simplify it and speed up the gameplay a bit, I'm using seasons instead of months, meaning that a year consists of 4 seasons (Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter) instead of 12 months. Each season has 4 weeks with 7 days per week, totaling 28 days per season. The current plan is to step over Saturday and Sunday, but I if it seems like keeping those days playable could give something to the gameplay, I might reconsider. I guess that will depend on testing it out. The clock will also not be full 24 hours, but start 6am every morning and skip to next day after 6pm. Even though it could be easier to build the offices outside the work hours, bluntly put, I'm afraid that most of the time there just wouldn't be enough to do at nighttime, so it would be boring for the player. Also that would make each season last much-much longer in real time. The current screenshots don't reflect it yet, but there will also be buttons to pause and speed up the game.
One of the most important parts of the game will be employee management. Workers have different statistics which determine the speed and quality of their work. Currently available statistics include health, energy, motivation, happiness, creativity, intelligence, technical, leadership, math, physical, charisma and artistic and different jobs will require a mix of different statistics. I do have some additional planned, but I'll probably remove a few from the alpha version, because the list of jobs will be limited in early versions. There will be 5 main jobs - researcher, engineer, designer, tester and marketer, but also a lot of supporting jobs that make others either more efficient or contribute to making the management tasks easier for the player. IT support, accountants, team managers, human resources managers and lawyers are some examples that I have planned so far, though not to overwhelm you, I'll describe those jobs in more detail in a future article. Good employees will be hard to come by and they'll be expensive, so often you'll have to settle for less than a perfect choice and that's why it'll be even more important to keep your staff motivated, healthy and happy, otherwise they'll skip work, take sick-days or even quit. Changing the names and occupations of employees will be possible, but there's gonna be a period of adjustment when your peer takes on a new job, making his output slow at first.
Probably one of the biggest features I miss in many tycoon games these days is the possibility of designing the room layout and placing furniture. I remember how I used to spend quite a bit of time of planning the placement of offices in Theme Hospital before I started doing anything else, just to make sure it was going to be efficient. That's why one of the first things I did for the game was the office creation and furniture placement system. On the other hand, it is designed in a way that you can also get by without building any offices at all, just place some tables, chairs and computers in the hallway and you can get started. It won't be efficient and your employees won't love it, but when resources are limited, it's enough to bring in some money and grow from there.
All the rooms are square or rectangle shaped and different room types have different minimum sizes and cost per tile. Each type of room will be able to house different types of furniture. For example you can only put the toilet bowl in the bathroom. Each room type will serve a different purpose, like offices are for working, kitchens for taking a break and so on. Furniture is quite varied too - most are tile-sized, but some are bigger, some can only be placed on a table, etc. You can move rooms and furniture around, though with a cost.
Since I'm on the subject, I received a question about the floors of offices, ie. will there you be able to build on multiple floors or just one? Well, I was planning different sized and shaped floor plans for each mission and some different options for freeplay mode as well, making timely planning of the room placement in a limited space an additional challenge. Of course in freeplay mode you could easily run out of space when you grow, so a way to buy additional office space would be essential. Whether that space is placed vertically or horizontally on the map is probably not even that important, but it could be that managing different floors would be a bit too confusing for the player if you can't get a good overview of everything. So I'm still thinking about it.
I realize now that the text is getting quite long already, so I'll wrap it up. Of course there's still way more things to cover, but fear not, more articles will be coming along periodically. Next time I'll describe how the product creation works in the game and how that translates into money eventually.
Any feedback will be appreciated. If anything I explained this time is confusing or doesn't make sense, let me know and I'll try to rephrase. Hope you understand - I got all these ideas in my head and on papers, but not very well organized yet :) So I probably missed some things here and there that seemed obvious to me, because I already see the bigger picture. Also feel free to let me know if you think the next articles should be smaller in length. You know how it is sometimes, once you start writing, it's hard to stop.
And I hope I didn't bore you too much :)
Your faithful game development novice,
one half of tulevik.EU