6 Waves recently published another new social game to Facebook, and it’s rapidly making its name known. Developed by Game Insight, the app is Big Business, and while the name might lack a little pizzazz, it’s actually one of the better made and more highly polished city-builders around, comparable to some made by major players like Playdom.
Though a city-builder, Big Business won’t have users groaning “not again.” Rather than following a formula, the game pulls in some of what made the original SimCity fun, and in the process creates deeper resource management than the norm.
The premise is entirely typical: the player has just bought a city, and must transform it into an actual functioning metropolis, economy and all. In order to do so, they must balance population and happiness, as with Social City, as well as ecology, power, production, and roadways.
Every building constructed requires all of those resources, save the last two. The first are simple enough: players build houses to periodically increase population, and entertainment facilities keep the plebs happy so that more keep coming. However, ecology and power are a bit more unusual.
Power is provided by a Power Station building that produces a set amount of electricity. The management of it is not extensive, but players must periodically construct more stations in order to grow their city bigger. More buildings equals greater power requirements. The same goes for Ecology, with each building requiring a certain level of greenery to be present before it can be constructed. Consider it carbon offsets.
So what about money in Big Business? Within the game, there are a number of production buildings for money. From farms to oil refineries, players start out contracting for work. This means that players spend a little coin to produce some product over a set amount of time. The longer the time, the greater the end value.
Here’s where things get fun. Once any given good is complete, it can either be shipped off to the store to be sold directly, or taken to yet another production facility and refined further. As a basic example, a farm can produce grain which can either be sold directly, or transported to a milling plant to be turned in to either flour or millet, thus increasing its value. In time, players will have materials being produced and shipped all around town, crafting an industrial loop as they attempt to create the most efficient form of business within their city.
Transport is also a key element, as players must connect every building with a road and must purchase a variety of vehicles (trucks, milk tankers, gasoline trucks, etc.) to actually haul the goods. When the player moves resources around, these vehicles will leave a pre-placed garage and use the fastest route to the production facility, transporting the good to the desired location. The bigger the city, the longer this takes, so intelligent road placement, while not critical, is helpful. Furthermore, trucks break down, and while none of ours have bit the dust yet, there is a mechanic structure that can be built to apparently service them.
The real allure of Big Business isn’t so much the resource management, as it really isn’t all that hard (at most it’s a choice between what to build within a finite space), but the level of polish this game has. Like the Playdom games and Zynga’s newest, CityVille, this is an app that feels very alive with cars moving, lights flickering, and people milling about. And like SimCity there are random events, such as fires and medical emergencies that require players to deploy, with a click, rescue services and earn money.
Other nifty little features are that Big Business follows a real-time clock, with the city changing between night and day and updating its animations and effects accordingly. On top of that, the game further plays up the aesthetic value of city builders by allowing users to alter the color schemes of many of their buildings.
Socially, the game is a bit disappointing, with social mechanics that are rather basic compared to the rest of the game. Players have leaderboards and gifting, but the only other real form of interaction is to visit friends’ cities and clean or repair their buildings for some extra coin and experience.
If Big Business has any flaw, it’s that every building must be connected by a road. However, unlike, say, Millionaire City, the roads must already be present before placing a building, which can be moderately annoying. The ecology and power aspects of the game feel like great additions, but there’s not a whole lot of meaning behind them as no real choices have to be made. If the user needs either power or ecology, they place a building where they have space. There’s no strategy behind placement or even much in what to build.
Nits aside, Big Business is a fantastic addition to the city-builder genre on Facebook and does a tremendous job of pushing the genre ahead. The game is a bit too new to give an accurate prediction on how it will do, but the game has done fairly well in its first days, picking up over 28,000 monthly active users.