Two Point Hospital
|Two Point Hospital|
|Developer(s)||Two Point Studios|
|Platform(s)||Microsoft Windows, MacOS, Linux|
|Release||30 August 2018|
Two Point Hospital is a 2018 business simulation game developed by Two Point Studios and published by Sega for Linux, MacOS, and Microsoft Windows. A spiritual successor to Bullfrog Productions' 1997 game Theme Hospital, Two Point Hospital puts players in the role of a hospital administrator tasked with constructing and operating a hospital (and, by extension, an empire of hospitals in the fictional Two Point County, where the game is set) with the goal of curing patients of fictitious, comical ailments. The game was designed and developed by some of the creators of Theme Hospital, including Mark Webley and Gary Carr. They made use of their expertise in developing games such as Theme Hospital and Black & White and wanted players to be confident in using the menus. The use of humour was deemed important because visiting real hospitals is unpopular.
Two Point Hospital was released to a positive reception from critics, who acclaimed it for its style, humour and its faithfulness to Theme Hospital's aesthetics, but the game was criticised for its repetitiveness and lack of challenge.
Two Point Hospital offers a similar style of gameplay to that of Theme Hospital. Players take on the role of a hospital manager charged with constructing and maintaining a hospital; tasks include building rooms and amenities that cater for patients and staff (such as toilets, staffrooms, reception desks, cafés, and seating), expanding the hospital into new plots, the hiring and management of doctors, nurses, janitors, and assistants to maintain the hospital; and dealing with a variety of comical illnesses. Two Point Hospital features unique, comical conditions, including "Light-Headedness" (having a light bulb for a head), "Pandemic" (having a pan on one's head), "Mock Star" (patients are Freddie Mercury impersonators), "Cubism", and "Animal Magnetism" (having animals stuck to the patient's body; the latter disease was planned for Theme Hospital but was cut.). Like Theme Hospital, hospitals start out empty.
Patients' diagnosis begins in a GP's Office before they are sent for further diagnosis in other rooms, and eventually treatment. From time to time, emergencies (an influx of patients with a specific disease) can occur. The hospital has a reputation rating (affected by how well it is doing) that affects the chances of new patients coming. Every game year, there is an awards ceremony in which the player is awarded performance-based rewards. There are 15 hospitals within in Two Point County, the game's setting.
The game features modifications to Theme Hospital's gameplay - while rooms are square or rectangular, they can be expanded with individual additional plots; staff have personalities that affect their work and specialisations; expansion of the hospital onto new plots requires the player to wait for a fixed time before they can build rooms in the new wings; patients will require players to tend to their needs such as hunger and entertainment by establishing amenities such as vending machines, magazine racks, telephones, and plants; the completion of challenges and other tasks awards "Kudosh", a currency that can be used to unlock new items that can be placed within rooms and corridors. Training is more complex than in Theme Hospital; all staff (not just doctors) can learn and receive qualifications that grant them new skills or improve their ability in a certain department. For example, the General Practitioner skill improves a doctor's skill in the GP's Office. Assistants can run marketing programmes to attract patients with a certain illness or staff with certain skills. When patients die, they sometimes become ghosts, which disrupt the hospital by terrorising patients and staff. Only janitors with the Ghost Capture skill can remove them. New rooms and machine upgrades can be researched in the Research room, and unlike Theme Hospital, researched rooms and upgrades are available throughout the empire (they do not have to be re-researched in each hospital). Machines upgrades are performed by trained janitors.
Elements new to the game include Star Ratings, Hospital Levels, and room prestige. Each hospital has a set of objectives, including the curing of a set number of patients, an increase of the hospital's value, the earning of a fixed sum of money, and an increase of the hospital's level that eventually increases the hospital's Star Rating. The achievement of a one-star rating allows players to progress to the next hospital, though they may continue building up their current hospital by completing additional objectives to increase the rating to two or three stars. If the player moves on, (s)he can return to the hospital at anytime. Once a three-star rating is awarded, players can continue running the current hospital. Hospital Levels are determined by the number of rooms and staff members a hospital has – increasing the level unlocks more skilled staff to hire. A room's prestige is affected by its size and ornamentation, and the higher a room's prestige level, the happier staff are inside it.
Two Point Hospital is a spiritual sequel to Theme Hospital, a 1997 simulation game developed by Bullfrog Productions and released by Electronic Arts. Among those involved in the development of both games were Theme Hospital's producer Mark Webley, its lead artist Gary Carr, and its lead composer Russell Shaw. Theme Hospital followed Theme Park, also developed by Bullfrog, and there had been plans to expand the range of Theme simulation games. Near the time of Theme Hospital's release, Electronic Arts began exerting more control over the products made by Bullfrog, leading to the departure of Webley and Peter Molyneux who co-founded Lionhead Studios, and Carr who joined Mucky Foot Productions, and the expansion of Bullfrog's Theme series never happened.
After they left Bullfrog, Webley and Carr continued to discuss a follow-up to Theme Hospital. Their first attempt was ER Tycoon, which was planned during Carr's time at Mucky Foot Productions but was cancelled because they could not find a publisher for the game. Mucky Foot closed in 2003 and Carr joined Lionhead; however, ongoing projects did not permit the continuation of the Theme concept. In 2015, Carr left Lionhead, which was closed by Microsoft Game Studios the following year. Webley had left the studio in 2013. They designed to found Two Point Studios to follow up on the Theme idea. Webley stated, "Gary and I have been talking about this project for a number of years and are really excited to be announcing Two Point Studios".
The timing of a Theme Hospital-style game was also apt: Art director Mark Smart said making a hospital-simulation game "felt right" and that there was "a lot of love for Theme Hospital", while studio co-founder and technical director Ben Hymers said players had been wanting a sequel to Theme Hospital for years. According to Webley and Carr, Two Point Hospital is a completely new game, rather than a reapplication of new assets to an existing game. Carr said "I wanted to work on something like Theme Hospital again, appealing to a broader range of people". The game was developed by envisioning fictional symptoms, often based on word play, and the means for the player to cure them, and determining which ones most attracted the attention of the development team. Webley and Carr also wanted to develop a graphics style that would remain "future-proof" relative to changes in graphics rendering technology, and opted to use claymation-like effects, which they found made it easy for players to observe on-screen situations and would not become dated.
Online features were an early target of the design of Two Point Hospital; Webley and Carr recognised that players of management games tend to prefer single-player experiences. They designed the online elements of the game to be opt-in and to feature asynchronous gameplay elements, including multiplayer challenges. Players would be tasked with achieving objectives such as curing patients within a set number of months and their scores would be placed on online leaderboards. Players would be able to view their progress compared to that of friends and other players during the challenge from these leaderboards, an approach Webley and Carr took from ghosts that are used in some arcade racing games. Theme Hospital was recognised as one of the first games with support for mods; Webley and Carr said Two Point Hospital would feature mod support, which will not be available at launch.
To produce the game, Webley and Carr considered a few approaches to developing the game before signing with Sega. They originally considered crowdfunding the development through Kickstarter; they spoke to Playtonic Games, which had used Kickstarter to revive a 1990s property Banjo-Kazooie for Yooka-Laylee. Shortly afterwards, however, they found video game development via Kickstarter was waning and decided this approach was too risky. They also considered taking an early access approach. Hymers suggested they approach Sega as a publisher, which was fortuitous because Sega wanted to expand their profile with games similar to Theme Hospital. While they were in negotiations with Sega, they selected a number of Lionhead Studios developers to help with Two Point Hospital's development, but Microsoft closed Lionhead in April 2016 before the Sega deal was complete and they had to quickly choose their staff on limited funds, building the team more quickly than they had planned.
According to Hymers, the developers used their experience in making games including Theme Hospital, Populous, and Black & White to make Two Point Hospital, which GamesTM described as "engrossing time-vacuum gameplay". Smart said the team wanted the game to be accessible and not throw players in at the deep end, and that they wanted players to have confidence when examining the sub-menus and realising the level of strategy involved. Smart also said people do not like to visit hospitals and that using humour makes a difference. According to Smart, the ailments were concocted backwards; someone would decide that they wanted something and the team worked from that, or that they worked on them from "terrible puns".
Hymers said queues of patients and their movement along corridors was difficult to produce because the game is in 3D, which raised questions about wall thickness and cell width. He compared these elements with their counterparts in Theme Hospital and believed it was much easier in that game, which is 2D with graphics made from sprites, and that people were drawn in front of the walls. He also stated that making people avoid each other was tricky. The game was developed using the Unity engine. A later patch for the game featured character customisation, and a "copy and paste" rooms feature.
Two Point Hospital was announced on 16 January 2018 in a short YouTube video showing the game's visuals and comedic styling, and depicted a patient suffering from Light Headedness. Edge compared this disease's role in the game's marketing to that of Theme Hospital's Bloaty Head, which was described as its "poster disease".
The first public viewing of Two Point Hospital was held at the PC Gamer weekender on 17 February 2018. The gameplay demo explored the game's user interface and its turning camera, which was not present in Theme Hospital. The game's publisher also announced a potential release date in August 2018. The panel discussed some of the new ailments that would be included in the game, confirming one that changes the patient into a mummy. In a GamesTM preview, Smart stated that the closest illness in the game is Hurty Leg, which he described as "almost like somebody in plaster".
Developers Two Point Studios announced in a newsletter that subscribers would receive a "golden ticket" that would allow the player to download an in-game "golden lavatory". An hour-long gameplay demo that included information about the release was available during E3 2018.
The game received praise for its nostalgia compared with that of Theme Hospital and its improvements over it. Rachel Weber of Games Radar was positive about the game's use of nostalgia, stating that the game had "taken the funny bones" from the original and transplanted them into Two Point Hospital. Weber also praised other aspects of the game, calling it a "delight". Johnny Chiodini of EuroGamer stated that the game "stays true to the spirit of its sort-of predecessor" in Theme Hospital, and that it was a "modernised successor". Chiodini also called the game a "welcome reinvention of a childhood classic". The game's similarity to Theme Hospital was also praised by Edge, who said it "extends beyond its predecessor both in terms of detail and scope" and that Theme Hospital had been replaced by "something better". GamesTM described Two Point Hospital as "Theme Hospital 2.0" and "A modern take on a beloved title", but also believed that it could have distanced itself from it more. Similar compliments about the game's similarities to Theme Hospital were given by Jeuxvideo.com and James Ide of the Daily Mirror. Even before release, Dominic Tarason of Rock, Paper, Shotgun described Two Point Hospital as "Theme Hospital 2 in all but name". This view was shared by Bit-Tech's Rick Lane, who described Two Point Hospital as Theme Hospital's "sequel in all but name". Jacob Bukacek of Hardcore Gamer was of the opinion that Two Point Hospital used Theme Hospital as a base for improvement and remarked that it "isn’t Theme Hospital remade; It’s Theme Hospital improved". Game Informer's Ben Reeves thought that Two Point Studios had done "a remarkable job reviving Theme Hospital". GamesMaster described Two Point Hospital as "the perfect cure" for "Bullfrog deficiency" and said it is precisely what Theme Hospital fans wanted it to be.
Critics also praised the game's humorous content. UK newspaper Metro regarded the "amusing script and visual humour" of Two Point Hospital as one of its best features, calling it "endearing". Nic Rueben of Rock, Paper, Shotgun also commented on the game's humour, writing; "it’s not that any individual element is hilarious – it’s more of an infinite dads pulling infinite crackers sort of scenario. It just feels comfy, goofy and pleasant ..." GamesTM believed the humour was taken from Bullfrog and praised its balance, saying the game is not "trying too hard" and keeps it light-hearted. Jason Coles of the Daily Star also liked the game's "Good sense of humour" and abundance of puns. James Swinbanks of GameSpot echoed these sentiments by describing the game's "British" sense of humour as the game's "overwhelming charm", as did Paul Tamburro of Game Revolution with his description of the game as "delightfully lighthearted", and GamesRadar+'s Rachel Weber's concurrence with Swinbanks about the humour's Britishness. Shacknews's Chris Jarrard compared the game's "outstanding" radio station to SimCity 2000's (which he described as "nonsensical") news system.
Jose Cabrera of IGN Spain was positive about gameplay but critiqued its lack of challenge (an opinion shared by Tamburro). Cabrera referred to the game as being "fun and casual", but was well put together. Cabrera also called the game a "perfectly balanced simulation" that is based on the nostalgia of Theme Hospital. TJ Hafer believed Two Point Hospital "revitalizes the business management genre". Fraser Brown of PC Gamer magazine was positive about the game's release, calling it a "brilliant management game regardless of nostalgia". Brown, however, was critical of the game's balance, saying some "missions bleed together" and only a few levels are noticeably distinct.
|Year||Category||Institution or publication||Result||Notes||Citation|
|2018||PC Game of the Year||Golden Joystick Awards||Nominated|||
|2018||Editor's Choice||PC Gamer UK||Won|||
|2018||Editor's Choice||Game Revolution||Won|||
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