You’d think that’d knock off some bricks or something
When you play an urban planning simulator like SimCity or Cities: Skylines, you probably don’t give much thought to the structures themselves, other than trying to place them where they’ll do the most good. Indie developer Blackstaff Games is aiming to change this point of view with their upcoming title Buildings Have Feelings Too (BHFT). I got to try out the light management simulator at this year’s PAX West, and while I don’t think I’m any more sympathetic towards buildings than I used to be, I have to admit this game does look like a fresh take on the genre.
Zoning sims usually don’t have much of a plot or a personality, but BHFT has a fair amount of both. You play as the planning department building in a small industrial town, and the developer explained that at the beginning of the game, every structure in the surrounding area has lost their job and it’s up to you to find them employment. There are several different types of structures available, from brick-clad apartment buildings to churches and towering smokestacks. Every building has arms and legs, and when they’re idle they’ll bounce up and down like they’re in a Bosco cartoon, or might take care of a phantom itch in their nether regions.
Your buildings earn money regularly, and this can be invested to add more businesses in an existing building, renovate one which has fallen into disrepair, or bring a new structure into town. You can pick up human workers and assign them to your established businesses, and will need to keep up some apartment buildings so they have somewhere to go at night. Certain businesses will need specialists, for example a restaurant will need a chef. These workers are represented by a star above their heads, but you never know what kind of specialist they are until you grab them. Other special humans are financiers, each of whom has a certain amount of money to invest and can be extremely useful when you’re trying to afford a more expensive structure or upgrade.
While it’s not as technically deep as SimCity, there are several interlaced systems at work. Buildings without tenants will eventually go into disrepair, and will require an investor to renovate the damage. Factory buildings will create smog, and putting several too close together will make the residents in that area unhappy. Fortunately, you can tell buildings to pick up and move from one location to another pretty effortlessly, so it’s easy to clear the air if you’ve made a mistake.
The main storyline asks you to keep as many friendly buildings occupied as you can from the 1900’s until the modern day, and the developer told me there will be procedural quests which will pop up from time to time depending on what buildings and businesses are active. As an example, he said a bank building might ask you to gentrify the neighborhood, but was quick to add that you’re free to ignore such requests.
Blackstaff is based out of Belfast, Ireland, and the developer let me know that almost all of the buildings rendered in BHFT are based on local structures near their studio. The developer is working with local historical and architectural societies to make sure the structures are rendered somewhat faithfully, and pointed out one of the in-game buildings as being located directly across the street from their headquarters.
Buildings Have Feelings Too looks like it’ll be fun for those who want to play an urban planning simulator but don’t necessarily want to invest a lot of time, or would prefer to play in short bursts. The title will be heading to PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC when it launches in Spring 2019.