Living the Deal is an upcoming PC title from RPG Tycoon’s Skatanic Studios, putting players in charge of a property trading career while attending day-to-day needs like food, showers, and happiness. With an isometric view and a click-heavy approach, this indie title feels like a cross between The Sims and Game Studio Tycoon, with a charming soundtrack and graphics but packing a significant less jovial and light-hearted approach.
During the EGX Rezzed in London last week, I had the chance to test a demo of Living the Deal in the company of game creator Matt Gambell. I spent around 15 minutes with the game, from the moment it starts to when the demo ends. Starting with a short tutorial, Living the Deal introduced me to its mechanics before tasking me with accruing enough money to pay the character’s late rent.
The actual gameplay consists of two separate sections: tending to your needs at your apartment, and buying and selling property. The former is typical The Sims stuff; you click on the refrigerator to eat, click on the bath to shower, and click to bed to sleep -- all while keeping an eye on the clock. The later involves a mix of decision making and math, where you must click on specific areas of the city to see the list of properties available, buy one, then sell it at a profit. Buying a property requires a lot of paperwork, so the clock significantly advances when a purchase is done -- during the demo, no animation appeared to indicate when or how much time was passed, so I basically just rushed through it in order to complete it.
After learning the basics, the game progressed smoothly -- you have the option to walk, or take a cab or a bus to move around the city, making you constantly balance time against monetary concerns. Again, as no feedback was given regarding it at any point, I just walked everywhere instead of wasting valuable cash. I went to the office, visited properties, and went for a walk in the park, balancing work and leisure to keep all my little “needs” bars happy.
The game has both a clearly defined goal and a way to achieve it -- something we often lack in real life. By presenting the opportunity and giving the player the tools to change, the game manages to tap into that which made The Sims such an overwhelming, addictive success: accomplishment. It is a binding and powerful emotion when harvested correctly, and one games like this have an uncanny ability to exploit.
After approximately nine in-game days, the required money amount was reached. I went back to my apartment, where the eternally present landlord (who never left my living room) was located. I approached him, clicked on him, and tried bumping into him -- all to no avail. I looked at Matt puzzled, and was abruptly told that was the end of the demo; no conclusion, no payoff, no sense of mission accomplished -- just a pat on the back from the developer. Well.
After my hands-on time, we chatted about the development of the game. Living the Deal has been prototyped for about a year, and like RPG Tycoon before it, is made by a two-man crew: Matt Gambell acts as game developer, while Chris Lucca does the music and sound effects. Matt is happy with the direction Living the Deal is taking, and seems to be satisfied with the feedback he’s been getting about it. His previous game, RPG Tycoon, had a well-received premise but was heavily criticised for it’s numerous bugs that never got patched, and I asked him about that. “I worked on RPG Tycoon for as long as I could. I fixed as many bugs as I could, but the money eventually ran out and I couldn’t keep supporting it”, Gambell told me, “So I decided it would be best to take what I learned from it and apply that to a new game, where I could build it from the ground up, and hopefully, be better”. The game is quite early in it’s production cycle -- this seems to be only the second demo, and it features absolutely zero animations -- but the developer seems dedicated to it: “I’m not in a rush. I got enough money to support the development until the end of the year, so I’d rather take my time and make sure the game is good before releasing it”, says Gambell.
Living the Deal is aiming for a February 2018 release, although that is far from set in stone. Pre-orders are coming soon to the Humble Store, and buyers will get access to both Alpha and Beta versions. You can read more about it here.