The Two Point Campus has a childlike wonder. With its collection of fantastic lessons, it indulges those daydreams of “what do you want to be when you grow up?” and let’s play these in a silly way.
“Kids have these great ideas of what they’ll be, and you never will, you never really become someone who goes to the moon in a rocket,” said Gary Carr, game director at Two Point Studios.
“And in that game we said why not? Why can’t you fight dragons? And why can’t you fly rocket ships or build robots?”
It’s this blend of fantasy in a relatable yet mundane setting that really gives Two Point Campus (and by extension, Two Point Hospital) its distinct flavor. And after healthcare, education was an obvious next step for the simulation series.
“We all have some kind of experience in education,” says Carr. “We can’t think of a way to make outer space more interesting or to be a superhero, so it’s easy to take the mundane and turn it into something more interesting, but it helps when you have some kind of perspective on it.”
A big part of this twist is the studio’s signature humor, which really comes through in student radio and the announcements that accompany the game. For anyone who has been to college, it is truly true to hear “Students are reminded to find themselves” over the loudspeaker – or other student clichés.
This distinctly British sense of humor is something that has been instilled in Carr and the studio since working at Bullfrog, the studio behind the original Theme Hospital.
“Bullfrog was definitely a company trying to draw you into a fairly complex game with humor. And that was a good old trick by Peter Molyneux to disarm you as a player,” he says.
“You don’t feel intimidated when people make jokes in a game. You don’t think it’s very serious, but actually, systems down the line could be quite complex.
“I think humor is just our security blanket; when we try to make people laugh, they don’t get intimidated.”
Adding to this humor in this game are pop culture references, particularly from high school and coming-of-age movies: think Grease, The Breakfast Club, Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, and Fame. The 80’s inspired music also adds to the nostalgic vibe.
Still, it was important to remain timeless overall. That’s why it might seem a bit futuristic, but it’s delivered on a cathode ray TV – this mix of old and new ensures the game doesn’t seem dated for years to come.
“Two Point as a place is timeless,” says Carr. “We make it look a bit clunky. Big buttons. It looks very analogue.”
One of Two Point Campus’ biggest additions compared to Hospital is its inclusion of relationships. Where the hospital was something of a meat market with patients in and out at high frequency, the students stay in the game on campus for three years. During this time, they spend as much time socializing as they do studying and studying.
“We looked at Hospital and we were like, ‘What would people want us to do with changes and iterations for Campus?'” says Jo Koehler, Senior Producer. “I think the life of the students, their social life as well as their academic life was really important.
“You can really follow them on their journey, you want them to succeed. You want them to keep paying money, but you take care of them, you want them to be okay.”
Adds Carr, “We needed to do more than just treat them as commodities where you’re trying to monetize them. When they want something in the hospital, I didn’t care if someone moans because it’s someone else’s turn. If they die, they die.
“[Students] are still part of the economy of the game, they pay you, but they have to stay the course. And they’re going to want things: relationships, entertainment, that part of college life.”
The team expanded Hospital’s trait system by tying each student to a (clichéd) archetype, and then adding a behavioral system to it that allows for different types of relationships with different people. As students stay on campus longer, you’ll witness these relationships slowly build over time. And the more you attract different archetypes through the courses offered, the more diverse the relationships become and the more personal your own gaming experience becomes. “It’s quite nice to monitor and maintain,” says Carr.
These relationships include friendships, arguments, silly fights, and even love. Blowing bubbles out of a love trumpet and bouncing on a bed is about as romantic as it gets despite a lot of flirting. “We don’t want to be in vain,” says Carr.
However, they are included. “Anyone can relate to anyone,” says Carr. “People in Two Point are pretty androgynous anyway. Relationships [play out] Whatever they choose, it’s really up to the characters in the game if they like each other, regardless of what gender we sort of gave them.”
This inclusivity extends to in-game accessibility options as well, as the team explores UI scaling, colorblind modes, and other post-launch options.
A big part of this is onboarding too, especially with so many complex systems to manage. It’s something that’s only more recently come together with the team being able to work together in an office.
“Onboarding is something we’ve worked extremely hard on, we’ve redone a lot of onboarding over the last year,” says Koehler. “We don’t want to overwhelm people, we want people to be able to go slowly, come in and enjoy the experience.”
The team is very open to feedback from the community once the game is released, particularly regarding feature improvements and potential new content.
“You don’t really know what works and what doesn’t quite work until you release something,” says Carr. “And we use our community to help us constantly make a better game. So we’re ready to get a response from the community to say what they like and what could be better.”
Community feedback worked for Two Point Hospital and will continue with Campus, with community requests from the previous game reporting improvements here. It also means feature parity across platforms from launch – the main reason for the recent delay.
So rest assured that the team plans to support Two Point Campus for the foreseeable future, that childhood feverish dream that stretches well beyond a handful of academic years.
Two Point Campus will be released on August 8th on all platforms. Check out our preview of the game for more details.