SimTower

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SimTower: The Vertical Empire
A video game cover art. A skyscraper is in the foreground; fire is coming out of one of its floors, and a helicopter flies towards the building.
Box cover art
Developer(s) OpenBook Co., Ltd.
Publisher(s) Maxis
Director(s) Yoot Saito
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows, Macintosh System 7, Game Boy Advance, 3DO
Release date(s)
  • JP 1994
  • NA November 1994
Genre(s) Construction and management simulation
Mode(s) Single-player

SimTower: The Vertical Empire (known as The Tower (ザ・タワー Za Tawā?) in Japan) is a construction and management simulation video game developed by OpenBook Co., Ltd. and published by Maxis for the Microsoft Windows and Macintosh System 7 operating systems in November 1994. In Japan, it was published by OpenBook that same year and was later released for the Sega Saturn[1] and Sony PlayStation[2] in 1996. The game allows players to build and manage a tower and decide what facilities to place in it, in order to ultimately build a five-star tower. Random events take place during play, such as terrorist acts that the player must respond to immediately.

Critical reception towards the game was generally positive. Reviews praised the game's formula, including its open-ended nature and its ability to immerse the player into the game. Criticism targeted the game's lack of documentation, which some reviewers found made it harder to learn how to play the game. The in-game speed was also criticized for being too slow, which was a crucial issue in the game because time must pass for the player to earn income to purchase new facilities.

Gameplay[edit]

The player views a cross-section of the building from the side

SimTower allows the player to build and manage the operations of a modern, multi-use skyscraper. They must plan where to place facilities in the tower that include restaurants, condominiums, offices, and elevators. To prevent tenants from vacating their properties, the player must keep their stress low by fulfilling their demands for medical centers, parking lots, recycling facilities, clean hotel rooms with the help of housekeepers, and an efficient transportation system, which involves managing elevator traffic.[3] SimTower, which was built around an elevator simulation program, places a strong emphasis on good elevator management.[4]

The game begins with a one-star tower with limited building options. To increase the tower's star rating, it must attract more tenants by providing more living space. New facilities are made available while the tower progresses from a one-star rating to a five-star rating. The tower is limited to a maximum of 100 floors above ground and nine stories below ground. Standard elevators, which can span a maximum of 30 floors, and express elevators, which can span the entire height of the building, must be used efficiently to decrease tenant stress.[3]

Certain events can take place while managing the tower. For example, terrorists may phone the player to let them know that they have hidden a bomb in the building, and that they demand a ransom. If the ransom is not paid, then security services must find the bomb before it detonates, or else the tower will incur significant damages.[3] If the player builds facilities underground, the game may notify them that their workers have discovered gold treasure, which gives the player a significant amount of funds. At random intervals during the game, there are notifications that state that a VIP will be visiting the tower soon, so the player must prepare for their visit. If the VIP enjoys their visit because of variables such as a comfortable hotel suite and efficient navigation, the VIP will give the tower a favorable rating. A favorable rating would then allow the tower to advance to the next star level, assuming the other qualifications are met. Although it does not have any impact on the tower, at the end of the fourth quarter every year in the game, Santa Claus and his reindeer fly across the tower.[5]

Development[edit]

System requirements
Requirements
Windows
Operating system Windows 3.1
CPU Intel 80386 or compatible
Memory 4 Mb
Media CD-ROM
Graphics hardware VGA capable graphics card
Mac OS
Operating system Macintosh System 7
CPU 68030
Memory 4 Mb
Media CD-ROM
Graphics hardware 256 color display

Developed by Yoot Saito of OpenBook, SimTower was originally titled The Tower.[6] It works on computers that can run the Microsoft Windows or Macintosh System 7 operating systems; the game will operate on 68k-based Macs at the minimum. It requires 8-bit colors and four megabytes of random-access memory.[3] Graphics and sounds used in SimTower are similar to previous Sim games, and high resolution graphics are also used. The sound effects are kept to a minimum; noises that are played in the background include office "buzz" and elevator bells.[7]

While attending Waseda University, Saito played SimCity on the Macintosh, which prompted him to pursue video game creation after graduating. His first game was a simulation title that was part of a future media project for a publishing house. When Saito asked to develop a second, the business refused because it was not a video game company. He left the company to personally produce the second game, which built on ideas he conceived while working on his first: elevators and towers. Saito teamed up with freelance programmer Takumi Abe to complete the project.[8] To research the gameplay, Saito contacted an elevator company to learn about elevator scheduling and management. However, the company declined to provide the information.[9] Saito handled the graphic design, and started with a monochromatic scaled tower created in HyperCard. The designer added color to differentiate between office- and hotel-type buildings. As development neared completion, Saito noticed that the Mac's performance had improved and decided to increase the color palette size from 16 to 256 colors. Saito enlisted a second designer to produce animation for the graphics and improve the details for the color increase.[8]

Sequels[edit]

OpenBook developers of the original SimTower developed and released a sequel under a new name called Yoot Tower for Windows in 1998. The second sequel was released as The Tower SP which released for the Game Boy Advance in 2005. And the final sequel they developed was The Tower DS for Nintendo DS in 2008.

Release and reception[edit]

Reception
Review scores
Publication Score
AllGame 4/5 stars[5]
Dragon (magazine) 3 & 312 of 5[9]
Entertainment Weekly B-[10]

SimTower was successful in Japan, earning the developers a profit. The Nihon Keizai Shimbun awarded Saito the "Best Young Manager/Venture of the Year" for his work on the game. After the initial Japanese release, Maxis president Jeff Braun contacted Saito regarding a worldwide release; SimCity creator Will Wright informed Braun of the game.[8] The company localized the game for sale in the United States, and changed the name to capitalize on the popularity of the Sim franchise and increase sales figures.[6] Maxis published SimTower for the Windows and Macintosh System 7 operating systems in November 1994 in the United States.[3][11] In 1996, it was ported to the Sega Saturn and 3DO Interactive Multiplayer in Japan.[8]

The South China Morning Post praised the game's formula, noting that it followed in the footsteps of previous open-ended Maxis games. Comparing to SimCity 2000, the review remarked that it was more interesting to watch people live out their lives in a tower rather than to observe cars moving around. They also appreciated the "homely" feeling of SimTower, in contrast with other Sim games such as SimEarth and SimLife, which they felt were too universal to take on a personal identity.[3] Benjamin Svetkey of Entertainment Weekly praised the game and commented that it is "more fun than [the concept] sounds". However, he stated that the gameplay may be too much for fans of the series.[10] Australia's The Age found SimTower a pleasing return to form for Maxis, after the release of the disappointing SimFarm.[7] Lisa Karen Savignano of Allgame stated that the game had decent graphics and sound. However, she also felt that SimTower had good replay value due to the non-linear gameplay, giving the game 4 stars out of 5.[5]

The game was criticized by the South China Morning Post for lacking documentation, making it more difficult to learn how to play the game. They also predicted that players would be unhappy with the game's speed, as time plays an important role in earning money from tenants. Before the player can purchase new facilities, a long period of time must pass before income is earned from tenants. The newspaper was also unhappy with complaints from tenants; specific reasons for their dissatisfaction are never given.[3] The Age was disappointed by the lack of pre-built towers and scenarios, suggesting that one along the lines of The Towering Inferno '​s plot could have been included.[7] Game Informer referred to SimTower as a "lesser-known" simulation game, and described it as "fun and addictive".[12] Writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune, Matt Miller felt that, when compared to SimCity 2000 (1993), gameplay in SimTower moved slowly. He also disliked the moments when he had to wait several minutes to pass by before he could make enough money to purchase new additions for his building.[13] Dragon magazine's reviewers Jay and Dee praised the visuals and gameplay. However, the two commented that the game can feel slow because it lacks gameplay elements and options present in other strategy games.[9] In 1995, the Software and Information Industry Association listed SimTower as the "Best Simulation Program" in the Consumer software category of their annual CODiE awards.[14]

The game was followed by Yoot Tower (called The Tower II in Japan), also designed by Yoot Saito, which was initially released on November 24, 1998 for the Macintosh.[15][16] It was later made available for the Windows operating systems in January 1999. Yoot Tower '​s gameplay is similar to that of SimTower—players build hotels, resorts, and office buildings, and work towards building a five-star tower.[17] Sega launched a version of SimTower for the Game Boy Advance, called The Tower SP, in Japan on April 28, 2005, and in the United States on March 15, 2006.[18] A version of SimTower called The Tower DS was published by DigiToys in Japan on June 26, 2008.[19][20]

Today, Yoot Tower is in the iTunes iOS App Store for iPad devices.[21]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Release Information". GameFAQs.com. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  2. ^ "Release Information". GameFAQs.com. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g Chan, Margaret (February 26, 1995). "The race to build is on!". South China Morning Post. 
  4. ^ Adams, Ernest. "Designer's Notebook". Gamasutra. Retrieved September 30, 2009. 
  5. ^ a b c Savignano, Lisa Karen (1997). "SimTower". Allgame. Retrieved 2010-04-24. 
  6. ^ a b Leo, Jonathan (September 2000). "Origin of Species". GameAxis Unwired (SPH Magazines) (60): 27. ISSN 0219-872X. 
  7. ^ a b c Bowtell, Jed (July 20, 1995). "Tower infernal". The Age. p. 34. 
  8. ^ a b c d GamesTM Staff (2010). "Sonic Yoot". GamesTM. The Ultimate Retro Companion (Imagine Publishing) 3: 252–255. ISBN 978-1-906078-56-0. 
  9. ^ a b c Jay & Dee (May 1995). "Eye of the Monitor". Dragon (217): 65–74. 
  10. ^ a b Svetkey, Benjamin (1995-01-13). "SimEarth Review". Entertainment Weekly (Time Inc.) (257). Retrieved 2010-11-01. 
  11. ^ "Release Information for SimTower: The Vertical Empire". MobyGames. Retrieved April 22, 2010. 
  12. ^ "Classic GI: The Forgotten Sims". Game Informer (GameStop Corporation) (170): 124. June 2007. 
  13. ^ Miller, Matt (1995-06-06). "High-rise anxiety builds with Maxis treat Addictive CD-ROM turns kids, adults into developers, tower landlords". San Diego Union-Tribune. p. 6. 
  14. ^ "Past Winners - 2009 SIIA CODiE Awards". Software and Information Industry Association. Retrieved 2009-01-24. 
  15. ^ "Release Summary". GaintBomb.com. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  16. ^ "Yoot Tower". Maximum PC (Future US) 4 (2): 44. February 1999. ISSN 1522-4279. 
  17. ^ Bloom, David (July 7, 1999). "New Interactive Games Make Their Play". Daily News of Los Angeles. 
  18. ^ DeVries, Jack (2006-07-06). "The Tower SP". IGN. Retrieved 2009-10-07. 
  19. ^ "The Tower DS – Related Games". GameSpot. Retrieved 2010-04-18. 
  20. ^ "The Tower DS announcement". IGN. Retrieved July 12, 2010. 
  21. ^ DigiToys Inc. "Yoot Tower in iTunes iOS App Store for iPad's". iTunesiOSAppStore. Retrieved 2012-02-27. 

External links[edit]