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Talking To The Developers of ‘SimAirport’

ScreenCritics talks to the developers behind one of Greenlight’s more recent successes ‘SimAirport’ – and find out what the devs have planned!

With Steam Greenlight entering its final days, there are many questions about how indie developers will fit into Steam’s future. Yet as the service slumps towards its sunset, there are still some hugely promising titles making their way onto the service. One such title is SimAirport – a hugely promising title that looks set to follow in the footsteps of recent simulation titles and fill a niche we didn’t even know we wanted filling. 

SimAirport cleared its Greenlight requirements within days and is now racing towards its own release. The success of the game and the commitment shown by its developers reminds us that Steam Greenlight can be great for spotlighting genuine promise – and it seems the game has attracted a strong early following.

We got the opportunity to talk to Arthur from LVGameDev, the lead developer behind the title, and pick his brain about the exciting things he has in store for fans and backers.

What videogames inspired you to create SimAirport – how will those influences shape the game?

I’ve been a huge tycoon fan since I was young, so there have been a number of inspirations sprinkled throughout time. Back then, I’d scour the retail shelves for anything remotely management oriented, or with “tycoon” in its name, and grab it! Some experience were better than others, but I even recall many hours spent playing the very old Lemonade Tycoon, on an old green-screened computer, and having a blast!

Many of the older tycoon-genre games were really great games though, with really solid and in many ways timeless mechanics; those have definitely been a big inspiration for us. Even quite recently I managed to get Bulldog’s Theme Park running to take a look at a few specific gameplay mechanics. Really, we’ve been inspired by a ton of the great games in the genre, from the original Bulldog games to the Roller Coaster Tycoon series, to the original Airport Tycoon games, and even some of the greats that were considered outliers, like The Movies.

Our feeling has been that, up until recently, the “tycoon” genre had largely fallen out of favor with gamers & developers alike, and generally become stagnant. That is, until Prison Architect came along — which was also a huge inspiration for us, and definitely was a big catalyst for us in deciding to embark on the development of SimAirport. In our minds Prison Architect is largely responsible for revival of the tycoon genre, and really showing both players & developers how deeply engaging this style of gameplay can be when it’s done well.

“That’s really our only goal, to create an engaging and fun game.”

How has early feedback changed some of your ideas for SimAirport and its future?

Early feedback so far has been great, and it’s helped us to generate ideas and to see some things that we’ve just overlooked, which is very easy to do when seeing things the same way, for 12+ hours, every day! We almost begin to forget that we could change it!

It’s also been fantastic to really start getting a better idea of how much excitement there is for the game, how much interest there is in this type of game altogether — there are a lot of great ideas that we really want to get to, and players really seem to understand & desire the depth of gameplay that we’ve set out to create — we’re really excited because it seems that everything is aligning and we can’t wait for the next steps.

That’s also the reason that we’re so excited to get the game onto Steam’s Early Access platform, to really have the opportunity to put the game in front of players & gather their feedback. We’re excited to be able to react & iterate on it quickly, and just generally begin hearing what does and doesn’t work, what is and isn’t fun, and begin really pushing the boundaries as far as we can on the most enjoyable concepts!

 

The early trailer is hugely impressive, how long has it taken you to get to that current state of development?

Thank you! It has been a long path already, right at about a year of development so far, though we want to go much further with it even still.

We’re also very proud to say that none of the content in the video is “staged” and nothing shown was crafted or altered for the video — it’s just a lot of real actual gameplay footage pieced together and paced appropriately. That’s part of what gets us really excited though, knowing that what we’re showing and what people are excited to begin playing, it is an accurate portrayal of SimAirport.

Though if you watch too closely, you’ll definitely see some bugs, too — which really drives us nuts, especially one of them — but that’s part of showing the game, especially an ‘open’ game like this, and overall it’s something we’re now quite proud of! 🙂 And yes, those bugs have since been fixed!

“We think that players who enjoyed Prison Architect, Rimworld, or even Theme Park will probably very much enjoy SimAirport”

What features are you hoping to get into the game that aren’t fully there yet?

Oh, where to start, we could nearly write a book! There are just so many ideas & concepts afforded to us via the airport setting, and so many really interesting ones that we’d love to dive further into. For some we may already have a ‘topical’ implementation, but there are also a lot of ‘new’ things that we haven’t even yet been able to start exploring that we’d love to have the time to really investigate.

Things we’d like to get to soon include improving the weather systems & their impact on gameplay, random aircraft & passenger events, VIP movements, parking structures, airport arrival/vehicular additions (parking garages, train stations, etc), additional flexibility for airport security, and even just adding further features and some diversity to the food/retail operations side.

And then there are the bigger items, the “Maybe Eventually” list (which is quite large), but some of our favourites would be: airports with multiple floors/levels, and; intra-terminal transit options (light rail, shuttles, moving walkways, escalators, etc). We’d love to get to them eventually!

 

What kind of roadmap are you looking at?

We recently posted an update on our various platforms; right now the plan is for the Early Access release to be in less than 3 weeks.

From there it’s really going to come down to the community and the players — our hope is to be able to work on a monthly update cycle for the long-term foreseeable future, adding new gameplay elements, features, content, and tweaks each month — for as long as the community supports us and is interested in playing the game, and helping guide us towards what they want to see next!

“One thing we’ve seen over time is that Valve tends to be quite good at evolving and adapting, as we’ve seen that Greenlight itself has changed quite a bit over time; in a way they’re almost ‘dogfooding’ their Early Access program to some degree.”

I saw some of the discussion around the game centred on similarities with Prison Architect. What do you say to these fans?

As we’ve said all along, we feel Prison Architect has been a revolutionary game for the genre, and it’s certainly been a big inspiration for us.

Our general goal has been to incorporate those same strengths and engaging aspects into SimAirport, as well as the strengths and engaging aspects from many of the games that I mentioned earlier as inspirations for us — along with plenty of unique challenges — then to expand & really pushing the boundaries of the systems-based mechanics and underlying concepts that really make these kinds of games engaging.

We think that players who enjoyed Prison Architect, Rimworld, or even Theme Park will probably very much enjoy SimAirport too, though we do expect that they’ll also quickly find it to be quite a different experience, far beyond just the differences in managing airports versus theme parks, prisons, or space colonies — even if there are some common concepts or interface elements.

At the end of the day, we certainly pay homage to many of the “Greats” that have come before us, including Prison Architect, and we’ve done our best to incorporate existing & new concepts in a way that we hope will yield a great experience — that’s really our only goal, to create an engaging and fun game.

 

If the game is successful, is there some potential for console ports?

Right now we just want to stay squarely focused on delivering the best game that we possibly can for desktop gamers. Though we aren’t ruling anything out at this point, and our top priority right now is shipping a fun and engaging game — we’d consider consoles in the future if it’s something that players are interested in, though!

“Right now the plan is for the Early Access release to be in less than 3 weeks.”

How has the game’s quick passage through Greenlight made you and your team feel?

It’s been absolutely fantastic — it’s definitely been a whirlwind of excitement for us!

After working on the game for so long, we were of course a bit nervous — what if everyone hated airports, or no one was interested in building one!

So it’s been absolutely incredible, to finally be able show the game publicly and to have the opportunity talk about it, and to see and hear how many people really are excited to get involved and to actually play. We’re super excited to get the game out there, to get feedback, and to continue working on it!

“We’re excited to be able to react & iterate on it quickly, and just generally begin hearing what does and doesn’t work”

What do you think about Valve’s recent announcement regarding the future of Greenlight? Any opinions on the platform in general.

It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out and what the initial structure is and how much that changes over time.

Conceptually the goal seems straightforward enough — more quality games, less shovelware — and it seems like the vast majority of gamers and developers alike both agree with that concept. It’s really just a matter of how Valve can achieve that goal in a way that appeases both developers & gamers.

One thing we’ve seen over time is that Valve tends to be quite good at evolving and adapting, as we’ve seen that Greenlight itself has changed quite a bit over time; in a way they’re almost ‘dogfooding’ their Early Access program to some degree.

In the end, I think they’ll get it right with a system that makes most everyone happy and achieves the goal of higher quality overall, while improving upon what Greenlight is today.

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