Fresh(ish) from our optimistic impressions from GamesCom, we’re back to give you some more information on Tropico 5. We sat down with project frontman Bisser Dyankov, to try and get some more information from him before El Presidente’s troops burst in and kill us all. Enjoy!
Strategy Informer: You’ve mentioned the Dynasty System – how deep does that go? Can you choose El Presidente’s wife? Can you give your extended family positions of power? Will there ever be a civil war scenario where your brother wants your position, or something like that?
Bisser Dyankov: Currently the "development" of the Dynasty is controlled via player's choices in the context of randomized events. While you cannot chose El Presidente's wife (or wives), you are able to control the heirs, develop the skills of each and every member of the family, send the really unpopular heirs abroad and/or keep the most valuable ones at home, as managers of key buildings or even presidential candidates in the course of elections.
We believe that the family of El Presidente is his closest ally and no civil war scenario is possible. At the moment, that is, though we certainly played with the idea in the past. Who knows what the future will bring?
Strategy Informer: Can you explain a bit more about how the game evolves economically as time and eras progress?
Bisser Dyankov: The specific resource exploitation that the player has set up in the past will continue to bring profits in the future. However, as the time passes, the player may experience falling efficiency and increased demand on his economy. This, combined with the rise of new, and more efficient economy options, resources, manufacturing, etc., will present the player with the opportunities to reinvent his economy. Add to that time and quantity-limited trade offers for specific resources at temporally higher prices, and you have a quite vibrant, if somewhat volatile economy situation.
Strategy Informer: Did you ever consider a ‘legacy’ mode, or a mode that’s more akin to how Tropico played out in 3 & 4? Or does choosing to start in particular eras serve a similar function?
Bisser Dyankov: We do not consider specific "legacy" mode, though playing Tropico 5 in the Cold War era has distinct resemblance to the feel and flow of Tropico 3&4. The dominating economy options are similar, the political landscape is similar, however, this is Tropico 5 which means that all the new gameplay mechanics that we are implementing will be available in the Cold War as well - from the specific era advancement mechanics, through research and trade offers, through randomized events and the implications of the constitution, and so on.
Strategy Informer: We noticed everything seemed very... square, on all of your sample cities. I seem to remember you saying that you’ve gotten rid of the free-form placement tool? Is that just to make things easier?
Bisser Dyankov: We are introducing a grid to the way the buildings are placed by the player. Building placement before was not truly free-form, there were (sometimes aggravating) restrictions; while now building placement is more predictable and has huge positive impact on city planning and development. We have implemented the new approach to make building more predictable and cities themselves better planned and organized.
Strategy Informer: In most parts of the game, there is the danger of AI controlled ‘SuperPowers’ landing on your shores and trying to take over. This was similar in the past game as well but how is this different in the new game with the new combat mechanics you’ve added?
Bisser Dyankov: The greatest difference is that El Presidente finally has the chance to repel invasions by military force. Some invasions will not really be aimed at removing him from power, but merely to cripple the economy of Tropico, or as a punitive measure. The key here is that the military is no longer only a tool for internal politics. As Tropico grows in importance, its defence grows in importance as well. This triggers a sub-set of mechanics and buildings aimed at improving Tropican military. In the previous instalments of Tropico, the military had purely internal implications, as the ultimate tool of repression and fighting off the rebel threat.
Strategy Informer: Following on from that, how does this extend into multiplayer? If you get really friendly with the Russians, can you set them on someone else on the island? Can you unite with another player and resist German invasion? How do the outside threat dynamics change in Multiplayer?
Bisser Dyankov: Currently the diplomatic alliances that El Presidente can enter into with a specific superpower will only help against external threats (that is, other superpowers). Internal quarrels between several Tropican nations (multiplayer) are largely ignored by the outside world as nobody is really that interested in Tropico to intervene. On the other side, you can always count on your fellow El Presidente from the other side of the island to come to your (military) aid in a time of need, when facing foreign power. Or you can't count on him. It all depends on your past interactions and current mood swings, really. That is Tropico, after all.
Strategy Informer: Tropico 3 & 4 were both complimented with some interesting DLC – can you give us any hints as to what you’re thinking for Tropico 5, if all goes to plan? Can you easily insert new eras into the mix or will it have to be more content-focused instead of new mechanics?
Bisser Dyankov: While we would be happy to develop anything for the future fame of El Presidente and the glorious nation of Tropico, his office has explicitly asked us to refuse comments on this matter. Not that there is no free speech on Tropico or anything. We did that choice by our own accord, following our own developers' conscience. We are free to ignore El Presidente and his wishes. We will simply choose not to. Or else...
Strategy Informer: The thing about Tropico 3 & 4 is that it really only revolved around a single, central city. You were given these large islands to play with, and you rarely used all of it unless you expanded out to specific areas, but even then there was always that tie to the main settlement. Did you ever think about changing the dynamic so that you could create other proper ‘towns’ around the island?
Bisser Dyankov: A small note, it’s worth mentioning that we’ve made the buildings bigger in Tropico 5, and as such the islands are bigger as well, but we’ve also made the islands bigger to allow for Multiplayer too. It’s still only revolving around the one city though, and we believe this is at the heart of Tropico – everything revolving around the palace. But definitely, there are certain elements on a lower level, like micro-management, that will work more efficiently if you plan your outlying suburban areas in a better way. You have this ultimate seat of power that everything revolves around, and if you lose the Palace its game over, so everything revolves around the palace.
Strategy Informer: How does that extend into multiplayer then? Do you just have to take his Palace or are there other levels of competition?
Bisser Dyankov: Sending your troops against him is the ultimate “open-war” approach, but you can also compete against single objectives – who will be the first to secure a certain technology, who’ll be the first to export a specific resource etc... we have an Agenda system that provides tiers of competition for players. You can also go fully cooperative as well – you can join your cities together, share transportation networks and resources, electricity, etc... The combat is there, but we have to be careful because we’ve had past experiences with city-builders with military elements, and they’ve basically turned into RTS games. We don’t believe Tropico fits into that. So we’re keeping it light.
Strategy Informer: In terms of the era, there seems to be a bit of a leap between the Colonial era and then the World War era. You seem to be missing out a sizeable chunk of history.
Bisser Dyankov: It really depends on how you look at it – if you look at it in terms of US history, sure, but in terms of Cuban history? Not really. We’ve tried to keep it to the Caribbean theme as well. If you want to draw from a historical parallel, then you can look at some of the late 19th Century colonies, of which there were a couple.
Strategy Informer: How big is Tourism in Tropico 5? In previous games, from the get-go, you could set up your island as a tourist hot-spot, but with the different Eras and everything now, that probably won’t be the case?
Bisser Dyankov: Tourism becomes available from the Cold War era onwards, because mass tourism before that era wasn’t really viable. If you play a full game, you’ll definitely have to find another way to make money to begin with. You could always play the trading game, where you don’t produce resources you just import and export. There are different ways to make money, but industry will be prevalent prior to the Cold War era.
And there you have it – you can go read my initial impressions from GamesCom for a more general overview on how the game is set-up. We were given another hands-off demonstration prior to the interview, but there wasn’t enough ‘new’ things to talk about so we’ll wait until we get our western imperialistic hands on some code before giving you more updates. I don’t mind saying though – so far, so good!