Music Tycoon is a social network real time simulation of nightclub management. The game revolves around selecting music, decorating, cleaning, and security all in the pursuit of collecting coins. The game achieved mixed success with its mechanics, user interface, and replayability, all which will be discussed and analyzed in this article.
Expectation vs. Reality
The more familiar a game’s environment is to the player, the more players’ minds scrutinize for authenticity. In other words, the more realistic a game’s context is, the more disappointment that things aren’t perfect. Music Tycoon builds itself as an abstract recreation of nightlife and disc-jockey culture, something modern and relatable. Bottles of alcohol, drunks, dancing, sitting; most of the club elements are there. Where the game lacks accuracy are the mechanics, interactions and feedbacks within venue promotion and music that makes the premise so appealing. Disc jockey is a lifestyle bent towards the new, fanaticism of musical knowledge, and working within genres to make things blend seamlessly. Promoting is a lifestyle that glamorizes a business with advertisements, monetizes social experiences and manipulates people into having a good time. Anyone familiar with these lifestyles knows that Music Tycoon falls short of recapturing their gameplay allure. The potentially most fun aspects of Music Tycoon seem missing. In fact, the “music”, in its teasing bite-sized form, is completely arbitrary as the game can be played with the sound muted.
Music Tycoon has the tightest feedback loops. Every bit of information for the player to achieve greater success is conveyed through a series of menus and interfaces. The main sources of information are the three color-coded bars indicating music, décor and safety. Any depletion in those bars is signaled to the user immediately. If the player isn’t receiving the hint, the game will alert a special message about what needs to be done to increase the user’s rating. If that message still isn’t getting through, an exclamation mark will point out a problem area. And if the player continues to ignore the game’s prompts, the user’s neglect will be shown in the amount of tips received from patrons. The amount of money earned, the highest level of gameplay, is directly reflected in players’ efficiency in keeping their status bars filled and notifications at bay.
The game offers little variance; the objective is clear and it is up to players to plan ahead and make as much money as possible while the game “runs”. The money earned is then used to increase décor by customizing the play space and player avatar. Quickly the player runs out of options, limited by arbitrary character level based item locks or an end game lack of materials. With such a shallow interactive experience, one would think that the ability to express individuality would take a higher precedence. Often the most fetching virtual items are made unappealing by a real dollar price point or a lengthy wait. Arguably this virtual item policy gives the game longevity and delivers a profit to the developers. Still, the end users are burdened with managing a resource and an aesthetic within limited margins.
A main feature of the game is a play area editor providing wallpaper, decorations, chairs, tables and other digital accoutrements. The implementation is straightforward and responsive but at times stifling and cumbersome. It’s very easy to add yet very difficult to subtract.
For instance, the game offers no immediate undo option, so any chair, floor, or decorative item is locked in place on the spot. Second, there is no assurance prompt to cancel any mistakes. Also, the game offers no resale option for any item purchased; all items procured can be stored in an infinite inventory space collecting virtual dust past necessity. Lastly, Music Tycoon offers no clarification of the items available, nothing written to discern what each material is. While not a huge fault, the lack of small descriptions can hamper the investment of an object such as a new floor when wood looks like marble.
The game gets easier as more friends get involved. Friends help each other by becoming chore-bots, cleaning or fixing items around the venue. Solo played, Music Tycoon requires constant attention while with friends, in-game profits are maximized as individual responsibility decreases. Complications arise from convincing members of players’ social circle to invest into Music Tycoon. There are a number of similarly constructed applications on Facebook, all requiring a time commitment. Some of those applications already have a larger install base of active friends. What makes Music Tycoon stand out and does it stand out enough?
Music Tycoon is a satisfactory game experience. The game teaches mastery: its rules are straightforward and progress continues at a satisfying pace. It offers a number of social interactions and every aspect feels familiar. Still, while the experience is well designed, the game leaves the player wanting more.