Available: Q4 2002

Article by "Da Munkee" M.Burrell

It's a small world after all and it just keeps getting smaller. As the Earth's population continues to grow and living space becomes more difficult to find, mankind will have to look to unexplored frontiers to continue to grow. This is where "Deep Sea Tycoon" steps in. In this new tycoon-style simulation game currently under development by Anarchy Enterprises and Unique Entertainment you are in charge of building and maintaining an underwater colony on your own little piece of the ocean's floor. Featuring a true 3d environment and several unique ways to earn money for your colony, Deep Sea Tycoon is poised to push the envelop on tycoon-style sims. Recently, we got the chance to speak with Joseph Cho from Anarchy Enterprises about the game's development and the current beta release of the game.

Hello! First of all, we at Gamer's Hell.com would like to thank you for taking the time to speak with us today. Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us what your role is in the development of the game?

Hello to all the players out there! My name is Joseph Cho and I'm the Lead game Designer working on Deep Sea Tycoon. I cover most of the issues that deal with the structure of how the game plays, from macroscopic design concepts to all the little bits of data that drive the gears of the engine to make it balanced - buildings, numbers, statistics, mission goals, and tons of other things. I have to do lots of testing and analysis to make sure the game plays smooth in both the early stages of the game and after somebody's been sitting there playing for 8 hours! Since I deal with tons of technical information that drives the inner-workings of the game, I'll typically zone-in for hours where I turn into a robot - I'm basically like Data from Star Trek!

It all comes down to finding equilibrium in the game to make it fun for all types of players, which is tricky because a younger or less experienced player need it to be simple and fun, but more seasoned players want lots of challenging levels of game play. Deep Sea Tycoon has definitely been designed to do this.

The game is looking very promising from the demo version currently available, and most of the games final features seem to be in place. Are there any features that will be in the retail release that are not apparent in the beta? Also are there any features that will be unique to Deep Sea Tycoon?

Tons! There are so many fun features under construction that focus on your people and sea life, and money systems to manage your cash. These features are all being added to the game right now, and will be seen in the next Beta release. The game has really grown 10 fold since the release of Beta version 1.0!

Now you can pick your own character, each with special skills that will help different parts of your city. Some of the characters you can play are a Treasure Hunter, a talking Dolphin, and a Movie Star. So far we've included 25 characters to choose from.

The homesite mentions that the game draws from games such as Sim City, Roller Coaster Tycoon, and Railroad Tycoon for it's game play and design. What inspired the concept?

We've always liked the concept of God, Sim and Tycoon games where players can control all aspects of the game, with no forced rules and directions. Most Tycoon games however keep within the boundaries of real life situations. We're pushing the genre further by giving the player a more fantastic setting like we did in our earlier game Moon Tycoon.
In addition, one thing that other Sim and Tycoon games do is force you into a specific role, because the theme of that game is specific to a mall, zoo, golf resort, or whatever. We wanted to give players the opportunity to build a city underwater, but grow in the direction they want. You can be an environmental animal lover, a money focused oil tycoon, treasure hunter explorer...the game allows you to take your city in many different direction or combine themes for more complex game play.
Deep Sea Tycoon was inspired by lots of things. We wanted to give the players a fantastic place to build cities, and bring the concept closer to home where more players can really enjoy and identify with the concept. People love the animals and they love the ocean. The deep sea provides a limitless range of beautiful landscapes and interesting sea life. Plus, a bunch of the developers working on Deep Sea Tycoon are scuba divers, so we've been thinking about this game for a long time! Last weekend on a wreck dive one of the guys brought back a bunch of mussels and we gobbled those things down at the beginning of this week!

On the game's homesite, you mention that the life in your city including people, tourists, and fish change depending on how you treat them. Can you elaborate on how they will change and what effect this will have on the game play?

This part of the game is a really cool. Your city will include 3 groups of life to take care of: your city people, tourists and the sea life around your city. Everything you do in the game like adding new buildings, cleaning the water, stopping disasters, etc will affect how each of the 3 groups are feeling.

You'll be able to "listen in" on what everyone is saying in your city. Whether its gossip, praise or criticism, it will all be available for you to see. There are also people, tourists and sea life roaming around your city doing their day-to-day business. Who or what shows up in your city, and what they do will change depending on your leadership. If you make your citizens unhappy, you'll see people like gangsters, thugs and other undesirables picking up where you dropped the ball. Buildings will start to fall into disrepair and even your furniture will get dirty. If the health of environment suffers, your fish will get sick, sharks will attack divers or your dolphins might leave the city.

Keep your people happy and you'll see kids laughing, couples holding hands and nice clean buildings. The same goes for tourists and the sea life. If you keep the environment
clean you'll have sea turtles, whales and happy dolphins. If you build lots of oil refineries and make the water dirty, the sea life will disappear and you'll start to see garbage floating around.

But one of the really fun things is we don't force any morality or ethics on a player. If you want to be an evil tyrant, then the game will adjust itself depending on what you're doing. We'll never punish a player for being bad - sometimes that's half the fun and if that's what somebody wants to do then we want them to have fun doing it!

You also mention there will be 30 missions in the final game. What types of missions can we expect to see?

Like we said earlier, we want to allow the players to do exactly what they want with full freedom, which you can do in the "Open Sandbox" mode. At the same time you might want to test your skills against goals and deadlines, so Deep Sea Tycoon will have over 30 campaign missions that take you on a real deep sea adventure filled with mystery, suspense and excitement! There will also be single missions available that create fun and unique scenarios to challenge you if you just want to sit down and play for a quick 20 minute session.

In one mission titled "Coral Cage" you have to build your city in a tangled maze of coral and out-think challenges that continually pop up.

In another mission you have to save a downed submarine by connecting rescue teams before time runs out. It's like the Kursk submarine tragedy that occurred, but you have a chance to provide a happy ending.

In another mission you'll have to go treasure hunting and dig through the sand dunes around your city to find a lost pirate treasure.

One of my favorite missions takes place in the Bermuda Triangle and you have to stop cruise ships from sinking and toppling right on top of your city!

You are obviously paying close attention to what the beta testers are saying about the game. Have there been any changes inspired by the feedback you've received? If so - Can you give us an example or two?

We always get great player feedback, and always try to learn from what the players want. So far we've collected and analysed a ton of player comments. Lots of players give us very sophisticated and creative ideas, which is so great to see! We've developed this game to incorporate as many player comments as possible by building the guts of the engine in a flexible structure.

Is there any chance for an online community of player's cities or any other multiplayer features?

We are currently thinking of creative ways to connect players online. While there is no player competition aspect in the game (you compete against yourself), we definitely want to create a system where players can share their cities and ideas with each other.

About what percentage of the game would you say is currently completed? Is there a release date in mind yet?

Beta Version 1.0 is about 40% complete. It the next Beta Version it will be about 80% complete - as most of the internal systems and functionality of the game will be stable. Then we're free to really start "squeezing the juice out of the engine" and really push creativity to the limits!

In your opinion, what will make this title stand out against the many other tycoon style games currently available?

Like I mentioned earlier, we want to push the Tycoon genre to new directions, allowing the player to control a setting that really stretches the imagination.

We've carefully designed this game to be friendly for all audiences - a young player can pick it up and know how to play after a few minutes, and a hardcore player can really sink into the many challenging levels of deeper game play.

The visuals and immersion in Deep Sea Tycoon far surpass any other Tycoon game on the market. You have full freedom with the camera, letting you see the city from any perspective. We've also included the latest lighting effects and many other dramatic eye poppers like Giant Squid attacks, and Toxic Waste Barrels raining down on your city. In addition, your city will be dynamically alive in ways that no other Tycoon game has ever accomplished. Eye-candy and gameplay are both setting new ground...

What's the most stressful part of developing a game like this?

Stress goes with the territory - if you can't take the heat, put down the joystick! Developing games is pretty bad for our health since we're all so gung-ho and completely submerged in the game, we never want to leave the office and go home. Lack of sleep and fatigue are major issues! Then you have to figure out how to explain to your wife or girlfriend that you really do love her more than your computer!

As far as sleep deprivation, some of the people on the team have found an interesting treatment to combat exhaustion; something we call "Brain Killer." Here's the secret recipe... 2/3 strong black coffee and 1/3 Schnapps. When you have something that smells like kerosene, that's real Brain Killer!

What's the most enjoyable part?

There are three things that come to mind. It's really great to get so much player feedback! Most of the feedback is very positive which really keeps us encouraged, and the detail that some players include is incredible. There are some really devoted players out there and it's really inspiring when they get so involved!

Then, there are the creative breakthoughs - we design the game to do a specific number of different things, which are usually driven by game-editor programs and "behavior scripts" that tell the different parts of the game how to work under different circumstances. Then one day somebody just breaks all the rules, and we discover some great new thing we can do with the engine that we had no idea we would be able to pull off! Sometimes there are happy accidents, and sometimes we just beat on the engine and out pops a golden-egg! Being challenged to find new ways to test our creative limits is always a rewarding experience.

Last, it's really great to see the game coming together as it had in just these last few weeks. Deep Sea Tycoon is now getting a life of its own - it's great to see the long months of hard work start to really bloom. There's a very special moment when you're testing the latest version of the game and suddenly realize you're no longer testing the game, but playing it and having a ton of fun! We can't wait to release the next Beta version - it's going to be a real treat for all the players!

Well, I think we'll let you get back to working on the game and again we'd like to thank you for taking time out to talk with us. Before you go, is there anything else you'd like our readers to know?

A really big thank-you to all the players who have given their comments! There's a new contest we're offering to further motivate Beta testers to share their thoughts. We're giving away a few free copies of the game, so the next 5,000 beta testers to test the game and then fill out our comments form at www.deepseatycoon.com will be eligible to win a free copy of the full game once it's complete! Keep a look out for the next Beta Version coming soon!