Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Software Inc - Pre-Alpha Review



Today we look at the pre-alpha for upcoming simulation game Software Inc.


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Software Inc. is an upcoming tycoon game that places you as the head of a fresh faced software company, you might remember it from our recent Screenshot Roundup post. Your task is to build the next software giant from the ground up, today we played the current pre-alpha to find out how the game is shaping up.

Having been a long-time fan of tycoon games I came into Software Inc. with two aims - find an easy way to earn cash then ruin it all by biting off more than I could chew. I felt these goals would get me to grips with the game quickly so let's see how I did.

Diving in the first screen I'm met with is an avatar creator, this is quite uncommon in tycoon games however here you can style your character and give them useful skills and personality traits before setting them off into wilderness. Your avatar will act like an employee as far as the game is concerned however they won't require any pay and they don't suffer mortal weaknesses like needing to eat or pee.

Another surprise from the get go is the inclusion of a tutorial system, typically this isn't something to get excited about but knowing how complex tycoon games can get I was happy to see a handy hint box. I followed the tutorials to get my first room built and furnished before feeling I'd grasped enough of the UI to find my own way.

Software Inc. avatar creation
Mr.Mouse ready to work!

In the demo you were given the items to create a few basic rooms and add some extras such as plants or pictures. Like many tycoon games rooms have a number values associated to them, in Software Inc. that means lighting, temperature, environment and noise - all of which must be catered for or your employees will become annoyed. One thing I really liked about the furnish system in this game is the ability to upgrade existing items, need a new chair? No money? Buy a cheap plastic one now and pay the difference to upgrade to a comfy massage chair later!

I decided to splash out on a sweet 'modern PC' along with a comfy chair, as you may have guessed to make money here you have to make software so I deemed these the essentials. In the short term you can work on contracts, these pay you a small fee upfront and pay an extra completion bonus depending on how well you work. After accepting a contract and assigning a team you wait, the progress bar fills and you must decide when to move to a new stage in the project - too early or too late and quality suffers.

After a few contracts it became clear I had found my cash cow, with just my avatar and a little effort I could churn out money on contracts in no time with little outgoings. Happy with my savings it was time to try and bankrupt myself (please don't try this business model at home). My plan of attack was to expand my office and hire a real team with varied skills and the need to pee.

I added new machines in my cramped work room, a small en-suite bathroom and a large staff area with all the coffee you can drink. What could go wrong? Luckily people were flocking to my doors, 'Free Coffee!? Can I work here please?!'. I hired one of each worker (artist, designer and marketing) as well as a cleaner and a janitor to maintain my snazzy new rooms. One nice feature of scouting for workers is the 'Interview' which reveals more detailed stats about a potential worker and gives a compatibility rating.

Software Inc. avatar creation
My small but humble studio ready to take on the world!

Now it was time to make my own software, a simple Phone OS which should eat into my measly 30k credits in no time. When creating your own software you're met with a daunting 'Design Document', that lets you customise the type of software and direction you want to take. You get a few options here which is nice, for example you can work on more traditional software such as an Anti-Virus or a tool for other companies to use as well as making games.

My workers came to life, hammering out designs as the months flew by. Two problems arose during this time, my money was falling rapidly (yay) and on of my workers was unable to use the toilet for no known reason. Ignoring 'Sonny' and his bladder issues eventually led to staff leaving, progress was halted and money was running out.

It didn't take long before I was broke and offered insurance money and bank loans to cover me through hard times. All my employees had left and I was penniless with the bank knocking on my door, hooray! Goal two was a success!

Overall I found Software Inc. has a lot of potential to become a strong contender in the tycoon genre, while it is early in development it already showcases a viable number of ways to play the game. It was easy to imagine a much larger company with many teams working on varied projects and reacting to the event driven market to take advantage of new niches. The graphics already have a nice charm to them with a clear, easy to read (though still in progress) UI and a simple yet powerful room builder that reminds me of The Sims.



I'm eager to see the direction the game takes, hopefully we will see more diversity in rooms and how you can cater them to certain teams, fancy art for your visual team? Test-Labs for your gaming team? A chill out zone for staff? There's a lot that could be explored and for me these combinations will make or break the game.

So what are you waiting for? Get yourself over to the demo and see how fast you can make or break it in the world of Software Inc.

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