The Lost Reviews – Big Pharma

19 10 2016

big-pharma (twice circled - 2015)

You know when you played Theme Hospital (assuming you did, because, you know; why wouldn’t you?), did you ever think to yourself: “I could be doing so much more here, why don’t I leave the life of being a Hospital CEO and go into Pharmaceutical Production?” Well chances are that you thought no such thing as for one; Theme Hospital was a game, not real life or an RPG, and for two; you were really quite content with the game you were playing at the time. If it were the case though that one day while playing Theme Hospital and you actually thought the above statement, well now you can – not in Theme Hospital, but in a game that focuses on the production of Medicine based products.

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Big Pharma (produced by Twice Circled) is a game where you the player are managing director of a pharmaceutical company. You start your company off with a small brightly coloured interior warehouse and a few inventions and ingredients at your disposal to which you can use to create cures for illnesses. All you need to do is put these assets into production and sell sell sell.

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Game play is very simple; in your empty warehouse you need to use one of the holes in the wall to import an ingredient, and then use machines at your disposal to meet certain requirements before either finishing off the ingredient mixture or upgrading it to be a cure for something else. Once that is done, you need to turn the current ingredient into a manufactured cure by putting it through a pill maker, and then transport it to another hole in the wall to name it and sell it. Later options at your disposal include creaming the drugs instead of selling them as pills, and even packing them. The game though is not as easy as it sounds as machines, conveyor belts and equipment take up space (turning it into a mini puzzle game in the process) and you have a limited area, plus in some cases are required to create a catalyst in order for some cures to be upgraded. The game though is not all about Medication Manufacturing, as it’s also a part business and research sim. You will be required to hire explorers and researchers to discover new ingredients and new machinery, while at the same time use their down time to provide you with upgrade points. At the same time however, you need to be concerning yourself with making money too, as production costs can be quite astronomical, and your company is in competition with others.

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Big Pharma is a nicely animated little game. The game graphics are nicely detailed, but not too detailed so can work on most machines without a fuss. The Animation though is superb. It can be quite mesmerizing watching the ingredients progress along the conveyor belts, changing form and colour as machines work on them, and watching the machines work is a nice little added extra, and comes with a form of animation very similar I find to that of Theme Hospital. Watching the water boil in the Dissolver, or seeing ingredients pulped in the Agglomerator, working their way down the production line and being made into either pills or as a cream. It’s really fun to watch and nice little bits like that really help this game to provide a detailed experience.

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The game; all be it relatively fun and still pretty unique, does have its short comings. For one, I like the idea of creating a production line, but the production line does seem to be rather slow, I did not know that Conveyor belts started and stopped every second, I thought they just kept going? It can take a while for the process to complete and when you need money fast, but the conveyors only move at one speed (which is sort of move and stop, move and stop), or the other cases where you are trying to reach a deadline in the game’s objectives mode, it can be very annoying. You can of course speed things up with the mystical speed change options in the bottom left of the screen, but you may as well just keep it up at full speed in that case just to speed up the game and make the conveyors more realistic. The objectives are not bad and it is pretty fun going through each one, just to give you something to do in the game, but with your mind on reaching a certain objective, you may as well ignore everything else in the game, and concentrate on what you need to do rather than what else you could be doing. Then once you have done enough and or have reached your goal, you do have the option of getting a better score than the basic score which is a nice added add-on, but by this point you may as well just speed up the game in places or end the level just to be done with it and do something else.

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Most of the cures you make can be upgraded relatively quickly on, but they require the use of machines you have not unlocked yet, in which case I found myself spending time and money in researching the things I needed each time before sending anything in production, just to be able to give the game the best I could. The other thing though is the Catalysts. The game comes with a very comprehensive tutorial mode which is very descriptive and also very fun, but each time I tried to do a catalyst in the real game, I would not achieve it. Making catalysts is supposed to be hard, but when you are doing everything right, the catalyst still does not make itself, and it can be very annoying, especially as sometimes you need that upgraded cure to move on.

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Big Pharma is one of these Production line games that have begun to make a real appearance in the industry along with other games like Factorio. Making a production line is a good fun idea and when combined with making product to sell turns the game not just into a factory based game but also a resources and economic game, where you need to concentrate on not just making a good product but also turning a profit. I like that idea, and when combined with the games look, idea and animation, it makes a good fit that is at least to begin with a fun game to play. But as the game progresses and its short comings come to light, it becomes a game that I was once excited to play but now don’t really see a future for. Maybe I like my games with a little more realism in its depictions of production, but for its slow speed, but also relatively pointless extras during its objective based gameplay, I feel that this game was once fun, but then just ended.

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GENEPOOL

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Books I’m Currently Reading

18 02 2015

The Knife Of Never Letting Go (Patrick Ness - 2008)

Since reading The Hunger Games back in 2012, I have been a constant reader. After joining Goodreads in 2013 I have been posting up what is the most recent book I have read and they appear in a little tab on the side of this blog and my stories blog. in 2014 I took part in a reading challenge on Goodreads. Initially I thought I would try and read 10 books. I thought that was a good number. In total I read 25, (with me constantly editing the challenge every time I reached a milestone). This year I thought I would go up from the original 10 but not go overblown like I did with the challenge in 2014, and try to read at least 15 books this year. So far I have read 5 this year, but the first four were quite quick reads and in essence the first three were comic books. The books are:

The thing that I am struggling with this year though is getting late nights and therefore feeling really tired to actually read. On several occasions in recent months I have found myself trying to induce a power nap before hand so I can then have plenty of awake-ness to be able to read. The usual time I would read regularly is on the train to and from Preston, but due to the tiredness, I don’t feel up to reading, so most of the times I have read recently are when I feel like reading and when I force myself to do some reading. But given the last two books I have read, I haven’t minded, because they were truly gripping.

A Monster Calls (Patrick Ness and Siobhan Dowd - 2011)

Another issue I have had (but this one is more constant over the last 2 years) is there is too much I want to read. Every now and then I find myself in Waterstones looking at new books I want to buy and read. The problem this incurs is that I start reading too many things when in hindsight I can read roughly less than 5 books at any one time. So at the moment I am pushing myself into that reading state and have no more than 4 books to read at any one time. While it is the case I have started some and not finished them as well as have quite a few books on my shelf that I need to get round to reading, I am forcing myself to stay on track with 4 books, and each one of these has a particular category. They are:

  • Main Reading
  • Bed Time Reading
  • Course/Research Reading
  • Christian Reading

My main reading refers to my main book reading at the moment and that is usually and has been for a long while, Fiction, particularly, Young Adult/Teen Fiction. I rarely find myself exploring adult genres, however, I have become a fan of Michael Crichton and have read both Jurassic Park and Micro (finished by Richard Preston). Bed Time Reading, is a spot I allow myself to read something completely different but only allow myself to read it as bed time approaches. Due to my current bed situation though, I am currently not reading anything at bed time. For the most part I read comics at this time as they are an easy read, mainly X-Men but have become interested in reading Fables at some point. Course/Research reading refers to reading something for my course at University, this has allowed fiction in the past with books including The Casual Vacancy (didn’t read all of it, 25 pages at most), War Horse and Jurassic Park. Christian Reading refers to the current Christian I am reading at the moment. My Christian book library is quite small at the moment, but each book I have read during this time has personally helped me every now and then. So with my current reading situation coming down to just 3 books. I thought I would let you know what I am reading at the moment.

Facing A Task Unfinished (Roger Carswell - 2011)

Title: Facing a Task Unfinished: A Personal Devotional for Evangelism

Author: Roger Carswell

Category: Christian Reading

I have owned this book since 2012 when I picked it up at Saved2Serve. It wasn’t until I left Saved2Serve 2014 and returned home that I began reading it. My reading of it is a bit on and off as it is a study course of one mini chapter per week. I find myself reading it when I can and read 2 or 3 chapters at a time. It is quite useful as it has a bible verse in each section, followed by a thought for meditation, then there is a little poem followed by a prayer you can read. the book also comes with space to allow you to write down your own personal prayers. It’s quite a nice little handy book to have as it doesn’t require much time to use and so even if you only have 5 or 10 minutes to spare, you have plenty of time just to read a little bit at a time.

Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need

Title: Save the Cat!: The Last Book on Screenwriting You’ll Ever Need

Author: Blake Snyder

Course: Course/Research Reading

I have been reading this book for almost 2 years now, not as long as it took me to read MogWorld, but still a long time. It’s the case that while I try to read it regularly, doing just that is quite hard. I find it weird though that I don’t regularly read it; because it’s so good. It’s very explanative and also very funny to read but also puts your mind in situations of understanding and then goes through with you certain important points of how to write a film script. These points include, pitching, structuring and plotting out everything before you even write the first ‘FADE’ on your script. A really terrific read that is both informative to those who want to learn how to write a script as well as interesting to those who are just interested in the subject.

The Ask And The Answer (Patrick Ness - 2009)

Title: The Ask And The Answer

Author: Patrick Ness

Category: Main Reading

What is now the third Patrick Ness book I have read in a row, The Ask And The Answer is the second book in the Chaos Walking Trilogy, the first being The Knife Of Never Letting Go. I have actually yet to start reading it due to the sleep problems but hope to start reading it this week. I am really looking forward to it and to see where the story goes as the last book finished on a huge cliff hanger and now have to wait and see what happens next.

Bookshelf

So that is what I am reading at the moment. While I currently am not reading anything at bed time, the floor is open to pretty much anything, as long as it’s a quick reading. as for the other collections, while I do not know what the next Christian Book will be or the next Course/Research book, I look forward to reading them, providing I enjoy them. While The Ask And The Answer will likely take me time to read it,  as long as I continue to enjoy the series I will probably proceed to read the final book in the series; Monsters Of Men, then I’ll have to start looking again as to what I should read next.

Monsters Of Men (Patrick Ness - 2010)

GENEPOOL





Game Dev Tycoon

14 01 2015

Game Dev Tycoon Logo

Several years ago I dreamed and tried to get into the Video Games Industry, unfortunately I was unsuccessful in achieving this due to me being terrible at programming (C++ in particular). While originally down hearted I moved on and decided to pursue a different career altogether. This past week however I stepped into the video games industry, by playing Game Dev Tycoon on Steam.

Steam (Valve Corporation, 2003 - Present)

Game Dev Tycoon (produced by Greenheart Games) allows the player the opportunity to start their own video game company and rise through the ranks in a 35 year period creating video games for a variety of consoles and research new techniques and topics in the hope of becoming the biggest video game company in the world. You start in your garage on a simple PC but as your company gets bigger and better, you obtain new premises. From your work space you can create your own video games. This involves choosing a topic, genre and platform. As you research new topics you can research new things to choose from including making your own custom game engine, target audiences and multiple platforms and genres. As the game progresses further you can unlock more options as to what kind of work you go into including work contracts and publishing deals and as your operation gets larger and larger you will need to hire more people.

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You don’t need to worry too much about detail though when it comes to making a game as this involves a little mini game where you chooses what you want it to be, give it a name and designation and then move little sliders up and down in certain topics and then attaching certain members of your team to work on certain elements when making a much bigger game. Then when it is complete you need to air out the bugs in the programme, then release it and wait for the reviews of it and see how it sells. Juggling all of these elements is hard work but if you’re capable of it and succeed you can make a lot of cash. But even then that is not an easy thing.

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Like other Tycoon games, Game Dev Tycoon isn’t exactly easy. The biggest problem is making enough money to stay afloat. The first few games you produce it is sort of easy, but you lose £8,000 (money denominations don’t really exist in the game and instead money is represented as standard figures with K representing thousand and M million) each week in operation. This increases the bigger your company gets and soon a few thousand won’t cut it. It is easy enough though to make a few hundred thousand but you will need to start making more. Bigger games offer this opportunity, but are expensive to produce, and while you could get a publishing deal (which helps garner more fans to your company and bigger titles less risky), the only problem is, is that if you don’t meet a certain level of requirements in the reviews stage they will fine you and you only get so much money in royalties from the publisher. Then next to that there is the money you may or not spend on marketing and then the cubicle at G3. Money is required to do everything and it is not easy to come by it, particularly if you are behind the competition.

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Research is very important in this game and research is harder to come by than money, but it needs to be done. In the early stages of your company you will use it to get basic things, like a custom game engine and other topics, but as you get bigger and bigger, it’s important to study more techniques and improve your games in the long haul as 2D and text-based games are not going to cut it on a PlaySystem 2. Oh yeah, that’s another thing, Game Dev Tycoon adds a little humour to the game industry, taking things that exist and then spinning on them. E3 becomes G3, Companies like Sega and Sony become Vega and Vonny and game consoles look like their real version but with a spin on design, colour and name, like Game Sphere (GameCube).

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Game Dev Tycoon is a lot of fun to play and relatively addictive as it is quite simple. There are several short comings to it though. In the early parts of the game, the only way to know what works in a game is to make it, wait for the reviews then write a game report. In those early stages it is easy to make a rubbish game and easily fluke a good one. Good reviews help with money, but if your game is rubbish, you have little chance of making profit. It was not until my third attempt (first to companies went bankrupt, third was the only time so far that I was able to get to the end of the 35 years and still not be in debt; the company name was Mighty Pigeon) that the research and studies into certain points helped that I got a knack in what I was doing and made good games continuously. But the reviews can still be pretty random and it is hard to get it exactly right. Game Reports do help with this though. The game also throws huge numbers of advice screens at you saying it would be easier to do publishing deals and get fan numbers before working on your own games; however the money isn’t really worth it. Other times the game does this is when it asks if you want to move to another studio and bigger operation. If you decide to wait some time, instead of giving you the option of a button to press when ready, you need to wait until the box comes up again, and if still not ready, it’s back to waiting (and some times the game buttons can stick when you click them).

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Making games can also get pretty tiresome and samey after a while and it’s only when you research new options that things get a little more interesting. However; in order to make these games with new options and possibilities, you need to put them into a new game engine and only then can they be used. So, you end up spending most of your research points you acquire on new things to make bigger and better game engines. And this can get really annoying, particularly as research is scarcer than money and you need it to train your staff as well. Hiring more people helps with this issue, but hiring is expensive and operating cash gets drier the more people you hire. In the end, you need to make compromises and try to figure out what is more important, and for me and the company it was the engine. Hiring staff though does mean you can put certain people on certain tasks that they are better at than others, but you will need to send them on vacation at some point.

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Game Dev Tycoon isn’t exactly what you would call easy, it’s easier than some Tycoon games but it is relatively a hard game. But in many a way it’s more a puzzle based game similar to some flash titles online than a tycoon based game. But altogether Game Dev Tycoon is rather fun to play and also can be quite addictive. Even if the game gets samey in spots, you still care about trying to get money (or like I did in my fourth game, tried to make rubbish games to go bankrupt). It can be interesting in places when you produce a game that the reviews say is mediocre but then goes on to become something of a hit, but most of these instances involve a publishing deal. While the game can also be horrible to you as well, sometimes it can give you surprises. While the game does have shortcomings including fewer options when it comes to research and the constant advice boxes and it’s reply value is rather small and only for the pursuit of doing better, and the story of the game is the same every time, I do rather like this game. It may not be to every body’s tastes or as big as games like Borderlands or Call of Duty; Game Dev Tycoon is a nice small game to play when you have some time to play something short, and also gives an insight into the world of Video Games Development also.

GENEPOOL








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