Blue Parrot: When Tropico 1 was in development, Poptop were asked by CafeTropico if an advisor character would be included, and they replied that they felt it would be more a hindrance than a help, with the player feeling they weren't playing the game, but being told what do to. Tropico 2 includes an advisor, Smitty. Do you believe he is a help or a hindrance to the player?
Bill Spieth: I believe an advisor is a good thing for rookie players of Tropico 2. The two games demand different types of game play. It is easier to get stuck in Tropico 2 because of something you don't understand or didn't know.
As for Smitty in particular, he and I got along okay. But my brother Ted really hates his ugly face.
Blue Parrot: If you had been granted an extra month, what would you have personally included that is otherwise not in the release?
Bill Spieth: A month is not really much time. Just enough to polish the game more and fix the bugs that ended up being fixed in the patch anyway. Six months more and you might have seen significant additions. A better campaign scoring system including among other things a cool scoring screen, a complete reworking of all episodes and scenarios to reflect all abilities of the scripting engine, a piracy mini-game, more depth in war, diplomacy, invasions, fostering wars and related edicts, additional island log functionality, and no doubt a lot of other stuff. And as long as we are dreaming of "pie in the sky", with a 3rd CD we could have included more buildings, complete rotations for all buildings, more music, more decor, three more pirate ship types, and more captain characters.
But the main point is that games have to be paid for and they have to ship. I am happy with the game we shipped.
Blue Parrot: What game concepts did you have to leave out of the final cut and why?
Bill Spieth: I would not say we left out any concepts. Conceptually, the game came out as I pictured it. Extras or added features did get left out, I guess. My previous answer includes some of these.
Blue Parrot: Looking at the final product, what parts of the game make you smile and think, If only the players knew how much work that was?
Bill Spieth: For me, balancing and testing and rebalancing the campaign. For my brother, balancing and testing and rebalancing the basic economy. But the most difficult features or challenges in development were really not design-related at all. I'd say they were performance and pathfinding.
Blue Parrot: Do you have any regrets about how the game turned out or anything you would like to improve?
Bill Spieth: Any game can be made better with additional time. I have some ideas about how to do this. But these ideas don't become regrets because this is a business--you have to work incredibly hard especially at the end of a project-- and then you have to ship a game. If you did a good job with your schedule the game is a final quality product when it ships and it is stable. If you failed, you're forced to ship it when it isn't ready. When we released Tropico 2 it was final quality, it was stable, and it conformed conceptually to the original design.
Blue Parrot: Did the Poptop beta tests and/or beta demo bring about a lot of changes to the game or just minor ones?
Bill Spieth: PopTop's beta testers, as well as Frog City's, were helpful mainly be finding feedback gaps. These are areas where the game was hard to understand or failed to tell you something critical. They also helped us set difficulty. The game was much too difficult prior to the feedback we got from these testers. Beta is too late to change the big things.
However, Phil Steinmeyer and Franz Felsl (at PopTop) played the game at much earlier stages and offered valuable input on the design, interface, and game play. Their help was critical. This was mostly pre-alpha. Their feedback changed the game fairly early in the process -- not because they told us what to do -- but because they pointed out problems and left us to find the right solutions.
Blue Parrot: Tell us a bit about the atmosphere at Frog City during the final 4 weeks wrap-up time of game production?
Bill Spieth: I would characterize it as stressed and tired, but not panic-stricken or exhausted. To give you a personal example of hours, I figure I averaged 12 hours a day 7 days a week from mid January on. And some people here worked longer hours than I did during this time.
Blue Parrot: Tropico 2 has a cheeky attitude about it. Is this something you deliberately set out to achieve, or something that just happened?
Bill Spieth: Deliberate.
Blue Parrot: How reflective is this cheeky attitude of the team at Frog City?
Bill Spieth: Not very. It seemed appropriate for the game. We're all very earnest and serious here, of course.
Blue Parrot: How important are fansites such as the Blue Parrot, to the success of Tropico 2?
Bill Spieth: In my experience interest in a game prior to release (which fan sites provide) is one of the ways the publisher decides to allocate marketing and sales clout. So fan interest can be used to build the game's market to prior to its date of release.
Blue Parrot: How happy is Frog City with the success of Tropico 2 so far?
Bill Spieth: In Europe very happy. Less happy with North America