There is a childlike wonder at Two Point Campus. With its collection of fantastic lessons, it fulfills those daydreams of ‘what would you like to be when you grow up?’ and let’s play it out in a crazy way.
“Kids have great ideas about what they’re going to be and you never become, you never really become someone who drives a rocket to the moon,” said Gary Carr, game director at Two Point Studios.
“And in this game we said why not? Why can’t you fight dragons? And why can’t you pilot rocket ships or build robots?”
It’s that blend of fantasy in a recognizable yet everyday environment that really gives Two Point Campus (and by extension Two Point Hospital) its distinct flavor. And after healthcare, education was an obvious next step for the simulation series.
“We’ve all had some experience in education,” Carr says. “We can’t think of a way to make space more interesting or be a superhero, so it’s easy to take the mundane and turn it into something interesting, but it helps if you have a certain take on it.”
A big part of that twist is the studio’s signature humor that really shows through in the student radio and announcements that accompany the game. For anyone who’s been to college, hearing “students are reminded to find themselves” about the tannoy — or other student clichés — will be dazzlingly truthful.
That particularly British sense of humor is something that has been instilled in Carr and the studio since his work at Bullfrog, the studio behind the original Theme Hospital.
“Bullfrog was definitely a company trying to use humor to lure you into a pretty complex game. And that was a good old Peter Molyneux trick to disarm you as a player,” he says.
“You don’t feel intimidated when people joke in a game. You don’t think it’s very serious, but actually systems down the line can be quite complex.
“I think humor is just our safety blanket; if we try to make people laugh, they won’t be intimidated.”
The humor in this game is enhanced by references to pop culture, especially from high school and coming of age movies: think Grease, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and Fame. The 80s inspired music also adds to that nostalgic vibe.
Still, it was generally important to remain timeless. That’s why something may seem futuristic, but it comes on a cathode ray TV – that mix of old and new keeps the game looking undated for years to come.
“Two Point as a place is timeless,” Carr says. “We make it look rather clunky. Big buttons. It looks very analogous.”
One of the biggest additions to Two Point Campus, compared to Hospital, is the inclusion of relationships. Where the hospital was like a meat market with patients coming and going with high frequency, students on Campus stay for three in-game years of gameplay. During that time, they will spend just as much time socializing as they do learning and studying.
“We looked at Hospital and thought, ‘What would people like us to change and repeat for Campus?’” said Jo Koehler, senior producer. “I think the life of the students, both their social life and academic life, was very important.
“You can really follow them on their journey. You want them to succeed. You want them to keep paying money, but you care about them, you want them to do it right.”
Carr added, “We had to do more than just treat them as merchandise, where you try to get some revenue out of it. If they want something in the hospital, I didn’t care if someone was moaning because there was someone else on the production line. If they die, they die.
†[Students] are still part of the game’s economy, they will pay you, but they must stay on track. And they’re going to want things: relationships, entertainment, that part of college life.”
The team expanded the hospital’s property system, linking each student to a (clichéd) archetype, then adding a behavioral system that allows for different kinds of relationships with different people. Because students are on Campus longer, you see these relationships building up slowly. And the more you attract different archetypes to the courses on offer, the more varied relationships become and the more personalized your own experience with the game. “It’s kind of nice to check it out and nurture it,” Carr says.
Those relationships include friendships, fights, crazy fights, and even love. Blowing bubbles from a love trumpet and bouncing on a bed is as romantic as it gets, despite a lot of flirting. “We don’t want to be free,” Carr says.
They are inclusive. “Anyone can be in a relationship with anyone,” Carr says. “People in Two Point are kind of androgynous anyway. Relationships [play out] however they feel, it really depends on the characters in the game whether they like each other, no matter what gender we made them look like.”
That inclusivity extends to accessibility options in the game as the team explores UI scalability, colorblind modes and other options for once the game is released.
A big part of that is onboarding too, especially with so many complex systems to manage. It’s something that has only recently come together with the team that can work together in an office.
“Onboarding is something we have worked extremely hard on, we have repeated a lot on the onboarding over the past year,” says Koehler. “We don’t want to overwhelm people, we want people to be able to go slow, come in and enjoy the experience.”
The team is very open to feedback from the community once the game is released, especially given feature improvements and possible new content.
“You don’t really know until you release something, exactly what works and what doesn’t quite work,” Carr says. “And we use our community to help us keep making a better game. So we’re just ready, ready to get a response from the community to say what they like and what could be improved.”
Community feedback worked for Two Point Hospital and will continue with Campus, with community requests from the previous game indicating improvements here. That also means parity of features across all platforms as of launch – the main reason for the recent slowdown.
So you can rest assured that the team plans to support Two Point Campus in the near future, that childhood fever dream that goes well beyond a handful of academic years.
Two Point Campus will be released on all platforms on August 8. Check out our preview of the game for more details.