For this semester’s ETC project, our client require us to make a casual tycoon game. I’m not very fond of this genre, but after some research I can understand why people spend so much money on it.
Here is my summarization of elements that make a successful casual tycoon game.
Restaurant City is the first Facebook game I had played. One of the most interesting part is that there are tons of objects you can use for decoration. If you visit the game community you’ll see lots of crazy themed restaurants. The essence of a tycoon game is to develop and manage something, then finally own something great. Player would want to have some uniqueness in the object that they spend hours in. Therefore customization is important in tycoon games
Tiny Tower is a great example of utilizing randomness creatively. Everything you built in this game is random. You don’t know what you’re building until it’s finished. You can told them to build a restaurant, but it may turn out to be a Chinese cuisine or a fast food restaurant.
This is a crazy mechanic and I wonder if it will work again, but the reason behind it is totally understandable. Randomness is a good way to create tension-release process. Applying randomness into building mechanic suddenly turns the boredness of waiting time into a mind state full of curiosity and expectation.
Randomness also make the game lean more toward “casual”. In Clash of Clan, the village you can raid is random, which is totally different from the concept of traditional “raiding games” like Travian. Since you know the person attacking you is randomly selected by the computer, you won’t take it too serious even they loot lots of your resources.
4. Secondary Mechanic
Beside building and managing, most tycoon games have special theme and some mechanics related to the theme. Combining two core mechanic is a good way to make a tycoon game more interesting.
In Restaurant City, players have to find the most efficient route for waiters if they want to play efficiently, which is actually a deep math question.
Clash of Clans has another core mechanic beside building a village: attacking other’s village. The experience of “bullying” other is surprisingly satisfying. Being an attacker in a tower-defense game is quite a clever idea.
5. Balance between different players
Clash of Clans balances very well between hardcore and casual players. In typical raiding games like Travian, it’s almost impossible to play if you’re not commit your life into it. But in Clash of Clans, I never felt frustrated when being attacked. For more serious players, the game provide “leagues” ranking system that you can only see players with close rank. Finally, they have the global leaderboard for the most hardcore gamers.
It’s also important to balance paid and unpaid players. To keep unpaid players you have to make them believe that if they spend enough time they’ll be able to experience the whole game. Tiny Tower done this by giving players “Bux (a resource mainly obtained by real-world currency)” in random mission.
In Clash of Clan, the building time between army and building is very different. It takes hours to upgrade a building, but creating an army won’t take more than 5 minutes. Therefore it’s very temping to enter the game frequently to check the progress of training army.