Gear City – An Automobile Manufacturing Business Simulator

Back in January we brought you news of a clone of the classic motor business simulation Detroit, a quirky looking management game called Gear City. As the game moves closer and closer to completion press demos have been released and we get the chance to bring you some more in-depth analysis of what Gear City can bring to the table!

As an avid motor fan I was pleased to have the opportunity to have a pre-beta look at Gear City, which promises levels of detail and difficulty that surpass many other simulations. Indeed the complexity of the game was not initially apparent from the set-up screens. Perhaps unrealistically expecting levels of set-up customisation as found in games such as Football Manager I was greeted by a simple menu asking me to choose what era to start in, the game difficulty and the location of my initial factory/headquarters. As this was a pre-beta release many features are currently limited so the game started in 1900. So far so simple and I was able to begin my campaign.

A basic tutorial and much missing explanatory text on screen made beginning the game to be a bit of a trial and error scenario. In fact at this stage I will end my reminders that the review copy of the game is a pre-beta release until a later paragraph. My first task then was to explore all of the menus in game and get started. The menus are well presented in the most part. In your 'office' menus, news, memos and the like are all accessed by clickable objects that glow when moused-over. These aren't labelled but are easy to learn. An interesting feature of the end-turn clock object is that the light and time in your office change with each new turn. The main menus and your office are also accessible from the toolbar at the top of the game window. 

So to making cars to really start the business! The R&D department is reached by 'leaving' the office through the door. Before building cars you can either contract or design the parts and then the vehicle. Trying to access the contract menu caused the game to crash so I elected to design my own parts. There are three parts to design, chassis, engine and gearbox. Unfinished display screens give a certain amount of technical information to help you choose, and these will affect the sales of your car; a great degree of customisation over quality, manufacturing and research into the parts is available and obviously affects overall cost. Human resources are then phoned to allocate researchers and engineers to these jobs. It takes a few months of game time (a turn is a month) to finish researching new components so once this is done it's time for the car designer!

Gear City developers VENT have made a big thing showing off screenshots of the car designer. In terms of graphical content it is the best within the game, and when it worked it worked fairly well. Two initial models allow for some customisation with additions of lights, mirrors and tyres (tires for our American audience). I was surprised how well the placement and slider manipulation of these additions was, my first car took shape quickly and I couldn't help but think that it was going to be a great success. I have to re-iterate that the designer only worked well when it worked, about half of the time it didn't and I had to go back to the office, then restart the design period a few times which was annoying. The car I eventually settled on had no headlights because placing them didn't work. However I began the build process and waited a few turns for my beautiful car to be able to be put into production.

Once you have cars comes the sales aspects of the game, and the economics are introduced. These are one of Gear City’s selling points. Sales and marketing are controlled from the world map, giving branches at your city (you can expand to other locations) priorities and instruction. With plenty of charts to view showing your progress compared to other companies and analysis data turn-by-turn there is a lot to view. Unfortunately if like me your company was utterly rubbish then you’ll mainly see large red patches on your profits! 

It is however at this point I will point out that the game got difficult. Not because 20 other companies had built an endless stream of affordable motors but because the build was so broken. At no stage was I able to access the expenditure menu, the next turn button crashed the game so often that I saved every turn even when just skipping months. I couldn't contract any parts so got left behind whilst waiting to expand my sales line. I could go on with minor faults and I appreciate that this is a pre-beta but to send out a game to the press at this quality is always a dangerous prospect for a developer, and a disappointing one for me. I did begin to sell some cars, built more factories and mainly get frustrated. There will be an open beta of the game starting on March 28th so hopefully a large number of the faults will have been ironed out by then. 

Overall Gear City has got a reasonably smooth interface, tidy design and great ideas behind it. You can really tell that the level of detail that is there within the game just needs to be put into the final build. VENT have clearly done their research within the automobile manufacturing business, including historical global news articles at relevant times within the game. The detail of the game's economic elements uses clever algorithms to enable the user to control spending with marketing, wages and the like. Really Gear City should be a fantastic tycoon game where many hours could be spent growing a global empire because on paper it has everything it needs. I have not been totally put off by the problems with this build and will play the open beta in the hopes that it provides a better playing experience.



No comments:

Post a Comment

All comments are moderated! Constructive criticism allowed, but abusive comments will be removed and you will be IP banned! Banned users will not show up in my comment feed, you will be gone for good as will all of your posts! - Play nice and enjoy IndieRetroNews!