|Can you be The Corporate Machine?|
When you think of taking over the world, you naturally think of corporations striving for world domination? Well, maybe not but in Stardock’s upcoming The Corporate Machine (published by Take-Two), that’s exactly what you must do. Called by many games as "SimBillGates", The Corporate Machine is the game that puts you in the shoes of a CEO bent on creating a corporation that will dominate the markets of the world.
In The Corporate Machine, you start a company and must conquer the world. How do you do this? Simple, just spread your corporate empire throughout the world into every facet of everyday life and eliminate your competitors. Soon after, you’ll be able to have a great deal of control over the political, economic, and cultural directions the world takes.
The fun part is getting there. Taking over the world isn’t going to be easy. As you begin the game and choose an industry to begin your quest for domination in, there’s still these pesky things called competitors who have the nerve to think that they will one day have the honor of telling the government that "it depends on what ‘is’ is."
The Corporate Machine comes with 3 industries – Automobiles, Computers, and Aircraft. Players start at the very dawn of this industry – the very best time for a clever company to gain a monopoly position in the market.
Each player must then decide how best spend their money to compete in their emerging market. And in The Corporate Machine, there is no shortage of places to spend their money.
|Manufacturing for glory and profit|
One of the most obvious places to spend your limited resources is on your manufacturing capacity. The best product in the world means little if you can’t crank out enough of them to make a dent in the market. Players can build factories, create employee training centers, make sure they build their factory in a region in which the labor quality is good to help give themselves an edge over others.
|Research new technologies and boldly go where no monopoly has gone before!|
Where The Corporate Machine shines and really shows its improvement over Entrepreneur in terms of game play is in its engineering screens. In fact, no PC strategy game has ever come with such an open ended and expandable research mechanism as The Corporate Machine comes with out of the box.
On the research screen, players choose and queue up new technologies to integrate into their product. Since different parts of the world have different demands in their products (some places may want ease of use, others may want performance and still others may only care about looks), you have to be careful in what you invest your precious engineering resources into.
Unlike The Corporate Machine’s ancestor, Entrepreneur, players choose from a technology tree instead of a bunch of sliders to improve the technology. The net effect is that researching technologies feels and plays a lot like Civilization or Alpha Centauri rather than the cold generic feel Entrepreneur had in this area. As your technology improves, so does your product both visually on screen and relative to others.
Best of all, because it’s a technology tree, each industry plays very differently from the other. This arguably gives The Corporate Machine a level of replayability rarely seen in games before. One of the criticisms of the expansion pack for Entrepreneur is that the different markets didn’t really feel that different from one another. The Corporate Machine eliminates this problem because technology trees, complete with detailed descriptions of each technology not only give each market their own flavor, they’re downright informative.
Stardock has also made the decision for the technology trees to be read in as ASCII text. This means that players can easily make their own technology trees (not just add on, but actually create their own industries).
"A lot of work has been put to make The Corporate Machine easily expandable by players," said Brad Wardell, Project Manager of The Corporation Machine. "I know when I’ve played Civilization 2 I’ve loved being able to go onto the Internet and download changes to the technology tree created by others. With The Corporate Machine, we’ve gone one step further, now players can actually create their very own totally original technology trees as well as modify the existing ones."
|Marketing and other things we absolutely hate to do…|
No product can really succeed today without some marketing. Marketing is a crucial part of the product cycle.
From a game play point of view, marketing works very straight forward. Players create marketing campaigns that highlight a trait in their product that they want consumers to really appreciate. The campaign created becomes a unit on the map that can be placed in any region you are selling your products in. By having an appropriate campaign in the region, you can greatly improve your sales over your competitors.
Players can also engage in negative marketing. With negative marketing campaigns, users choose a victim company and can damage their sales in the regions they want to keep that player down. Negative campaigns include everything from FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) to full blown TV attack ads.
|Military Strategy in an Corporate World|
The Corporate Machine is not a business simulator, it is a strategy game of corporate warfare. This becomes pretty clear almost immediately as players focus on the main map in the game. Unlike in Entrepreneur where players were at the whims of the regions and had to adjust their strategies accordingly, The Corporation Machine focuses more on giving the players tools to change their environment.
If the regions you dominate in are poor, you can try to improve your regions by building economic centers. Want to take a defensive strategy? You can build distribution centers to help increase your lock on the regions you control. Entrepreneur allowed for many strategies but it was clear that the best way to win was to go on the offensive as soon as possibly in every case. The Corporate Machine opens things up by making the winner be the one who has created the best corporate empire as opposed to the most aggressive one.
One of the most praised features in Entrepreneur was the introduction of Direct Action Cards. To make a long story short, Direct Action Cards work similarly to the way cards in Magic the Gathering do. By controlling regions of land, you gain the special resources of that land. If you collect enough resources, you are able to use the Direct Action Cards you have collected over time. These cards (and there are a lot of them in The Corporate Machine) allow you to do everything from incite a labor strike, to stealing technology, to recruiting enemy sales executives to getting government funding.
The cards are not meant to make or break the game but rather act as tools for creating a strategy for eventual world domination. Stardock got the idea late into the development of Entrepreneur when users had numerous ideas for features but each feature would have added a great deal of complexity to the game.
"A user suggests, ‘hey, why not have corporate espionage? I want to be able to steal technology from my competitors!’ another says ‘What about underworld dealings? Like being able to blow up a factory or something if I’m playing as a criminal?’ and yet another says ‘What about those companies who use child labor or do toxic dumping? There should be realism to play as an evil company.’. These are all good ideas that should be in a game like this but can you imagine creating the user interface for this sort of thing? Then I had the idea, why not just have a card that allows you to do this if you have the resources. If I control a bunch of political resources, let me get the government to ban a competitor out of my strong regions. Boom, one interface, hundreds of actions." said Wardell.
The cards were an immediate hit and the Entrepreneur expansion pack last year added even more. The Corporate Machine’s new game mechanics will allow for much more detailed interactions in the game making direct action cards even more interesting.
|Multiplayer, are you up to it?|
Like Entrepreneur, The Corporate Machine’s multiplayer features are impressive. The Corporate Machine can handle latency time into the seconds without missing a beat.
The Corporate Machine is into Stardock.Net, Stardock’s own interactive multiplayer network.
Unlike most games that have multiplayer features, the computer AI in The Corporate Machine can play along side multiple human players (up to 8 players total) on the Internet. The computer AI in The Corporate Machine is cutting edge and players who choose to play with their friends and include computer players in with their game may be surprised to see the computer players winning the game if they don’t keep the difficulty level down.