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Windows cover art for Theme Hospital
|Developer(s)||Bullfrog Productions (PC)
Krisalis Software (PS)
EU February 1998
NA March 31, 1998
JP June 18, 1998
PAL January 31, 2008 (PSN)
JP October 28, 2009 (PSN)
NA August 31, 2010 (PSN)
|Distribution||1 CD-ROM, download|
Theme Hospital is a business simulation game developed by Bullfrog Productions and published by Electronic Arts in 1997, in which the player designs and operates a hospital. Like most of Bullfrog's games, Theme Hospital is permeated by an eccentric sense of humour. The game is the thematic successor to Theme Park, a game also produced by Bullfrog. The game was a massive commercial success, selling over 4 million copies worldwide.
The game is set in a hospital, and requires the player to build an environment which will attract patients with comical complaints, illnesses, emergencies, and diseases. The game has a somewhat dark sense of humour, which is similar to that of Theme Park in many ways. The player has no direct control over the patients that wander the hospital, although gameplay largely centres on influencing their actions in one way or another. The player does, however, have the ability to pick up any staff member in the building and move them to a different area (to speed up their movement from place to place) and to expel any patients from the hospital (if they are being a nuisance, causing rowdiness or about to die and affect the hospital's statistics). The player may also force the patient into taking a chance of possible cure at the risk of killing the patient (this is useful, for example, if a patient is about to die but has already completed enough diagnostics requirements to identify the kind of disease the patient is suffering from) and rearrange the queue of each of the rooms in the hospital (useful for moving dying patients to the front of the queue so they can receive treatment first).
Each level consists of an empty hospital to plan and design, with set goals in the fields of financial attainment, patients cured, percent of patients cured, and hospital value. Holding negative funds or allowing sufficient patients to die will bring about losing requirements. When the goals have been met the player has the option to move on to a new, more elaborate hospital with tougher winning conditions and more diseases present. The final level in the game, 'Battenburg' consists of an enormous, yet somewhat awkward, hospital with all the diseases and rooms in the game present, all disasters frequent and very high winning requirements.
The game revolves around buying and placing rooms (or facilities) in a hospital, and hiring doctors, nurses, handymen and receptionists to operate it. Some rooms are fundamentally required for the running of the hospital, such as GP's offices, Staff Rooms, and Toilets, while others provide optional services (such as General Diagnosis rooms, Scanner Rooms and X-Rays). Some rooms are dedicated to the treatment of a specific illness, and a number of rooms contain machinery that has to be repaired occasionally. Rooms are divided into 4 categories: Diagnosis, Treatment, Clinics and Facilities. Some rooms, notably the Ward and Psychiatric, may overlap and appear on two categories.
Patients are attracted to the hospital, in part, by the reputation of the hospital and the cost of treatment there. They arrive with a number of amusing fictional illnesses which must be diagnosed and cured to earn money and achieve targets set by the game. Rooms and equipment to treat fictional and comical diseases such as Bloaty Head, Slack Tongue, Fractured Bones, Serious Radiation, Hairyitis and Baldness must be researched before they can be placed in the hospital, while other conditions like Heaped Piles, Uncommon Cold and The Squits require research before a cure can be provided using the pharmacy. Advanced levels in the game feature epidemics (not available on the EU PlayStation version) where the player must either pay a fine and take a reputation hit or try to stop a disease infecting other patients by curing infected patients and vaccinating others within a certain time limit and without discovery by the Ministry of Health (catching the attention of the ministry by the means of an infected patient leaving the hospital or the time limit running out brings upon a usually more severe fine and harder reputation hit [although this is glitched in some versions of the game and sometimes fine the players less if they try to cover up the epidemic], while successfully suppressing the outbreak and before news reaches the ministry will bring upon bonuses). Medical emergencies also take place, where several patients suffering from the same disease must be cured within a specified time limit, and earthquakes occur which damage equipment. Equipment may also break down after prolonged use and negligence.
At the end of each year, the player can be presented with several awards based on their performance and management of their hospital. These awards also provides bonuses like additional cash or increased reputation. If the player does badly, however, he/she can lose the game, with the game ending with a CGI full motion video.
Doctors usually demand higher wages than the other three occupations, and also serve a much larger role; they can diagnose and heal most illnesses, they can research new illnesses and equipment and they can train other doctors. Doctors can specialize in psychiatry, surgery or research (or any combination of the three) and they pass their specialization(s) to the doctors they train. However, doctors also have ranks, and only consultant-ranked doctors can train other doctors. Nurses run the Pharmacy, the room for Orthopedic casts called the fracture clinic and the hospital ward, as well as being responsible for vaccinations during an epidemic. Handymen clean the hospital, repair machinery and water the plants.
All staff with the exception of the receptionists, are affected by both tiredness and warmth, which must be cared for if the staff are to remain content. Use of staff rooms allows staff to be rested, which can be furnished with a number of relaxing and entertaining devices. Placing a suitable number of radiators in rooms allows staff to be kept warm. Also plants are needed in rooms to comfort patients, as if they get too uncomfortable, they may leave. Having the staff overworked often results in the staff demanding a raise and threatening to quit, but in some cases the staff may go crazy instead, although this has no known ill effect in the game.
Micromanagement is heavily used in Theme Hospital, and it can influence both the hospital's efficiency and its reputation. The player must arrange and furnish the rooms to minimize the time required for the doctors to perform their tasks and satisfy the needs of their patients. These needs include a comfortable temperature (neither too hot nor too cold), a clean environment, benches to sit on, and access to drinks and toilets. Furthermore, the player can manually pick up members of the staff and drop them where their intervention is needed (e.g. place a doctor in a room left unattended to visit a patient, or a caretaker over a vomit pool to clear it up), as happens in Dungeon Keeper. With no player intervention tasks are completed much more slowly, since in many levels the staff members have to travel from one end of the hospital to another. The player can also advance a patient in a queue for a room or dismiss them, in order to avoid a death in their hospital, which negatively affects the hospital's reputation and reduces the number of end-of-year awards.
Economic management is also important: the player can change the price for the treatment in all the rooms, balancing a low reputation with cheap prices to gain visitors or quickly raising money while maintaining a consistent number of visits due to high reputation. A common tactic is also to place benches and radiators next to one another, in order to make the patients feel too hot and buy expensive drinks from the vending machines.
The last official patch from EA for the game (Beta 5 patch) enables a network game option for the PC version of the game. The game supports 3 different networking methods: Serial Cable, Modem, and IPX/SPX network gaming. In theory the first two options allow for two players to compete in building the best hospital while competing against two computer-controlled hospitals, while the IPX/SPX network gaming allows up to four players to compete against each other on a network for the best hospital.
The last official patch was version 1.01 and this allows multiplayer over DirectPlay IPX as well as serial, modem and IPX. Theme Hospital was never supported in internet game browsers (e.g. GameSpy, TEN, ENGAGE, etc.) but it is possible to play over the internet using either Hamachi or DOSBox.
Open source clone
Various attempts have been made to develop an open source game engine based on the original Theme Hospital data files.
Format specification wiki
Through the means of reverse engineering, Alexander Gitter researched the structure of file formats used by Theme Hospital and documented them in his format specification wiki. The purpose of this site was to accumulate all information needed to eventually create an open source clone of Theme Hospital.
On 2 September 2008 a new open source project OpenTH began a fresh attempt at cloning the game based on the Theme Hospital format specifications. OpenTH is written in C++ and Lua and released under the GNU GPL. As of September 2011, the project seems to be on hiatus, as the OpenTH blog is no longer being refreshed and the OpenTH forum is down.
Launched on 24 July 2009, the project named CorsixTH is another open source attempt to make a modern clone of Theme Hospital. It is coded in C++ and Lua, with a stronger focus on Lua than OpenTH and is licensed under the MIT License. The first official release was Playable Beta 1 on December 24, 2009 and the current stable version, 0.21, was released on May 5, 2013. Bug fixes are available at the project's webpage. It is necessary to have a copy of the original game as a CD or mounted disk image in order to use CorsixTH as the original files are used by the engine. It is also possible to play the game with the original demo files, whilst these offer limited functionality only (i.e. no research).
There is a PlayStation port of Theme Hospital, developed by the team who also ported Bullfrog's Magic Carpet. The port is very faithful to the original, but runs at a lower resolution, lacks background music, changes the size requirement for some buildings, and has minor presentation tweaks, including a game-play based introduction video.
The Windows port of Theme Hospital was actually a Win32 version of the DOS version, but all display, mouse, keyboard and sound output and input was performed using DirectX. Because of this, it still had a Low Resolution mode, despite the fact that it could only simulate it. Also, some dos applications were still installed with it (including MIDIFORM.EXE for converting midi files, and the companion batch file).
Android OS port
The Android OS port of Theme Hospital recently became available on the Google Play Store using code directly from the CorsixTH project, and developer Armed Pineapple, who built a free version of the CorsixTH code for android, and distributed it for free on his website. A developer based in the UK used the code and began selling it on the Android Market with neither CorsixTH -or- Armed Pineapple's permission. On his blog, Alan of Armed Pineapple states "Please note that the paid version on the Google Play is based off my code but has absolutely nothing to do with me. I can’t offer any support for it whatsoever. I have no idea what changes he has made to the code, if any, so my advice is to always download versions from here or compile your own. I will NEVER charge for this port as I think it discredits the work done by Corsix and the CorsixTH team to develop this amazing clone."
MAC OS Port
The Mac OS Port is a dos box port running on a similar virtual environment which allows Mac users to play the popular game without needing to install a windows Virtual Machine.
References to other works
The opposing hospitals in the game are almost all names of well-known computers from fiction and real-life:
- "Akira" means "bright" in Japanese, and is the name of a powerful psychic in the manga and anime Akira.
- Colossus refers to the British supercomputers used to break German codes during World War II.
- Deep Thought is from Douglas Adams' The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.
- HAL is from Arthur C. Clarke's 2001: A Space Odyssey.
- Holly is the computer in the British sitcom Red Dwarf.
- Multivac is from a number of Isaac Asimov's works.
- Zen and Orac are both from the BBC television series Blake's 7.
Also, the doctor is seen playing Dungeon Keeper in the intro video, and several Dungeon Keeper characters appear in the hospital waiting room, along with a character from an earlier Bullfrog title, Syndicate.
Influence on other games
- The Sims 3 has a condition called "Bloatyheaditis" in the Medical career, a reference to Theme Hospital's "Bloaty Head" illness.
- Hospital Tycoon, a similar simulation game.
- Theme Hospital at GameSpot
- Theme Hospital at MobyGames
- Theme Hospital at GOG.com
- Theme Hospital Clinic, a resource page and forum.
- Theme Hospital Fan Site, a resource page with hints, cheats and useful information.
- CorsixTH, also a clone project, but further in the development and more active than OpenTH.
- Beta 5 Patch at Wine AppDB
- Theme Hospital guide at StrategyWiki