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Golden Jew’s Nuggets of Wisdom #4

posted on January 28th, 2009 by golden jew

What happened to resource management/economic games?

Being a Jew, and a dork (as we have established by my contributing to this site), I love resource management games. Railroad Tycoon and Tropico bring back fond memories: games where you gather A, process A into B, and then sell B for C(ash). Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one, because no one has made a good resource management game in ages. It seems that Firaxis is the only company capable of “making” (and I use the term loosely, since Firaxis has yet to make a game in years in my book) these games.

Their most recent two efforts were half-baked bug-ridden crap: Sid Meier’s Railroads (which I loved for the concept before getting infuriated with the execution after writing a glowing review) and Sid Meier’s Civilization 4 Ultimate Colonization North American Challenge 2008, also known as Colonization II: We’re Using the Civ 4 Engine and Name for Sales. For the record, Colonization II also was a half-baked piece of shit, except this time they are sponsoring a contest so someone else will finish the game instead of pretending they finished it themselves.

Back on topic, why did this genre die? Did people stop enjoying constructing elaborate trade empires? The great thing about resource games is the settings are endless: it can be space, railroads, shipping, whatever. Further, you can get away with clean 3D graphics, because in a game like this, the emphasis is on the engine and gameplay, as opposed to expensive voice actors and fancy rendered cut scenes; you could probably develop a quality game on a reasonable budget.

But wait, I just answered my own question: because the basis would be a solid engine and quality game design, and not name brand actors and graphics, that’d be too much of a stretch for today’s game designers who value sizzle over steak.


  1. SpyderMayhem said on January 29, 2009:

    You forgot perhaps the strangest trade game released as of late: Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir.

    Oh, it is in name a D&D game, and it does allow you to create and run a four-person group, and it involves orcs and elves and finding thine magical ring in the ruinous Cave of Wenderlak, but at its heart it is an awful resource trading game.

    Move and transport three different resources to six identical towns! Make your Paladin frustrated with your endless need to protect your wagon trains all over a map that seems small until you have to defend wagon trains on it! Join one of three trade guilds, and deliver messages for them!

    Given what modern trading games have become, maybe it is best that they are dead or dying. There is one company, though, that is the exception to the rule in my opinion. If you haven’t tried Victoria: An Empire Under the Sun by Paradox Interactive, I suggest it. It is not graphically pretty, but it is deep enough to make you curl up in the corner and cry.

    And if you do get into it, you can then try and run the strategy game gauntlet of doom and play the five Paradox games that cover 200 BC to 1964 AD. Experience 2,000 years of history one day at a time, and, when you get to the near past, one hour at a time!

  2. christian said on January 29, 2009:

    I’m going to throw out a couple possible factors.

    – PC Games market faltered, no matter what the pundits say. This lead to a greater drive for visually stunning, AAA games. The niche titles still exist, but this used to not be a niche genre. Now it has become so, and no one has picked up the slack.

    – The trend towards multiplayer. I don’t play this genre at all, but I get the feeling it fares a little worse than 4x when it comes to multiplayer, but that is what the gaming community has pined for this last decade.

    – The genre needs its equivalent of Valve. Someone, just anyone, that releases a game with a stable, tweakable engine. Nothing standout graphically, just something that looks nice enough. Give the PC mod community good tools, instead of making them fumble with what they have, and they can work magic.

    I get the feeling that the whole trading/4x/strategy game block is like the PC equivalent of fighting games. They are at most home on their original platform, fare horribly away from it, and has grown to be an increasing niche that is tough to get into. Hopefully something can be done about it.

  3. GJ said on January 30, 2009:

    I’ll check those out Spider. Hopefully they run on my work laptop, that’d be a big bonus.

  4. pat said on January 30, 2009:

    now whenever i click into an article on which spider has commented i expect lyrics to songs from 80’s movie soundtracks. then danger zone starts playing in my head.

  5. SpyderMayhem said on January 30, 2009:

    It’ll run just as pretty on a crummy laptop as it will on a glimmering desktop. Victoria is difficult to get into because it is so deep, so if you don’t like steep (read: a gigantic cliff with no end in sight) learning curves, you won’t like Victoria.

    Victoria, like it’s fantastic wargaming sim big brother “Hearts of Iron” will begin to run slower as you reach the end of the timeline as the AI struggles to trade thousands of resources and move hundreds of units around the gigantic map. But that even happens on good machines as it just takes time for the AI to think and act for a hundred little countries all over the world.

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