I think the management simulation genre is one of my favourites. Football Manager, Game Dev Tycoon and Theme Hospital all rank up there in my favourite games of all time. It’s rare that I’ll find myself looking at one of these types of games and not wanting to try it out, and that was the case with Startup Company. There are lots of people striving to create their own startups, so why not give it a try myself and see how hard it is?
Living The Dream
Startup Company puts you in charge of your very own development company. Only, to start with, you’ve got no idea, no staff and no furniture. Instead of having a massive idea that’ll change how the world works, you’re a digital agency. That means that you’ll have to try to secure development contracts in order to make a quick buck. Doing this will involve hiring the correct combination of developers, designers and support staff to build what you need to complete the contract. You’re able to build up a ‘stock’ of components as well, which will make completing contracts on time much easier. Building up a surplus like this can be the difference at the start of the game between success and failure. It sort of mirrors reality – in a development environment you’ll always have a standard code base to sell – but you’d never run out of it. It’d get a bit old, but it wouldn’t disappear, but I suppose if you could write one thing once and never touch it again, it wouldn’t make much of a game!
Lately, I’ve been trying to play games that I can pick up and play, and not really have to think too hard about. It’s why my FIFA skills have deteriorated from adequate to terrible, and my Football Manager season has stood still for a little while. Startup Company fits the bill perfectly. It’s not super casual, so that I can just forget about it and come back and it’s still ticking over, but it’s also not so serious that I need to watch it like a hawk. It gives me the freedom of being able to play on fast forward for the most part, while still throwing enough challenges my way to keep me interested. There’s always another contract coming your way, another person you could hire, or another person who needs better management. It’s a constant battle of getting your office to be as productive and profitable as possible, but it’s one that definitely manages to handle like an easy task. It strikes a perfectly fine balance between the two, and holds that line wonderfully.
One area where Startup Company needs to improve is the opening tutorial. It’s understandable that the game is so hands off as it’s in Early Access, and the developer has even admitted he needs to enhance it, but it’s still very thin. You start off being told you need a Sales Executive to get you contracts, and a Developer to get you assets to fill the contract. And that’s all. As you level up, you’ll open up new roles to recruit and it’ll give you some basic information about them, but it leaves a lot out. For example, other than telling my employees to sod off on holiday, I’ve no idea how to keep them happy. I bought a coffee machine and a water cooler, because it increases my office by a few percentage points – but I have no idea if that means people will remain happier or if it makes it more pleasant to work in.
The Final Word
Despite the paper thin tutorial, Startup Company is a lot of fun. I was continually finding myself looking at the clock and wondering where the time had gone. When you make it as a company, and your people have enough inventory to continually fill contract after contract with the minimum of effort, you’ll know that you’ve made it as a company.