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Interview: Tropico (Phil Steinmeyer)
May 16, 2001 | Tom Bridge
Pages:123


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Recently released for PC's, Tropico has garnered glowing reviews and has quickly become a best-seller. Now Pop Top Software is working on finishing the Mac version of this popular Caribbean dictor simulation. We recently caught up with Pop Top's head guy, Phil Steinmeyer, to chat about the Mac version, OS X, Apple, and a few other things.


IMG: Where did you get the idea to turn the Railroad Tycoon II engine from a railroad sim into a tropical dictatorship?

Steinmeyer: It wasn't the engine that drove the idea - it was an idea I'd had for a long time and been wanting to do - it was just a nice coincedence that the Railroad Tycoon 2 engine happened to be a fairly close fit for what Tropico needed.

The idea for a game where you're the ruler of your own island, for better or worse, is one I've been thinking about for a long time. Waaaaay back, there was a game for the old Intellivision console called Utopia, where you ruled an island, built farms, hospitals and housing and fought rebels. It was arguably the first graphical strategy game ever and a favorite of mine, and obviously, we're touching on a lot of those same elements in Tropico.

IMG: How long did it take you to create the basis for Tropico? (The Tropicans, their behavior, the elements of the city?)

Steinmeyer: We started Tropico in May, 1999, and it wasn't really until about September of 2000 that we had most of the basics in place - the engine was working, the people moved about and behaved fairly realistically, the building interactions worked.... Then we had about 7 months to mold these basics into a finished game, layering in politics, balancing things, etc.

IMG: What is your favorite part of Tropico?

Steinmeyer: The people. Most strategy games ignore the personalities of the people in the game - you have knights and orcs and peons, and the only differentation between them is how many hit points they have. For Tropico's political and social elements to work we needed deep, realistic people. Each person in Tropico has over 50 unique characteristics - from innate qualities, like their intelligence and courage, to their immediate needs like their hunger and rest level, to things like their political views and level of religious belief, to family relationships - if you assasinate Pedro's brother, Pedro will probably not be too happy with you in the future.

I think part of the reason the Sims has been such a hit is that gamers like to see people acting realistically - not robots with flesh, the way most games treat people - Tropico has that Sims-feel to its people, but we have a lot more people in our world 200-500 by the end of the game.

IMG: What's the release timeline for Tropico on the Mac, now that you're distributing through MacSoft?

Steinmeyer: We expect to Gold Master the game in early June, so Tropico should probably be on the streets in early July - definitely ahead of MacWorld.



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