With Two Point Campus, the team had set a bizarre task ahead of them- take the management sim genre out of the more objective-based medical industry and into something more subjective- education.
From building cool campuses to managing your students love lives, it sounds like there’s something for every micromanager in Two Point Campus.
We spoke with Mark Webley, Studio Director and Chris Knott, Lead Animator on Two Point Campus about their bold attempts at gamifying the education system.
How Important Is Money In Education?
As anyone who’s graduated in the past 5 years would be familiar with, it was quite alien to hear Chris and Mark say that the goal of a university in Two Point Campus wasn’t just straight As and a fat paycheck. According to them, they had to break the formula for management sims and start looking at other so-called “win-states”.
“As we are currently developing the game, one of big conversation we had is “How important is money?” I mean it’s there on the HUD, how much money you’ve got, you need the money to do this and that, but it’s not necessarily your goal”, Mark says. “Make as much money or make as much profit as you can, get your capital up…we are kinda talking about get the grades high, get the students’ happiness high and getting people graduated”.
“Money is kind of, well, it’s important, because without the money you won’t be able to train your staff, you won’t be able to upgrade your equipment, you won’t be able to expand your campus, so it’s there. But the focus isn’t on money money money”.
“A lot of conversation we’re having about Should it even be on the HUD? As we ended up, it is on the HUD, but its almost like “should it be a smaller sort of icon there” vs a big “this is how your students are doing” as one of the main ones”.
That being said, they also didn’t want to take away from player choice. According to Chris, the idea of an Education-for-Profit does exist in the game, and the game still allows you to play it that way.
“We have actually put that in there, you can play the game like that”, Chris says.
“If you want to be really mercenary you can just try to make money. But then you don’t care as much about the students. So if you have students who are struggling then you’ll get rid of them. “I don’t want him, get rid of him I only want A+ students, I don’t want anyone else”. “, he continues. “You can play the game that way but then the students welfare suffers. The other students will become unhappier because they can see them being treated so badly. So it becomes harder to do it that way, but then if that’s your actual goal and that’s the way you want to play the game, it’s up to you, to the player”.
Mark seconded the point of player choice, too. Rather than give players a template Campus that they’d need to follow, they’ve made the game in such a way that it’s more about managing the various knobs and dials of the game, such as player expectations, particularly when you’ve been cranking up fees.
“If [fees] goes up, they will expect a lot more. So, you know, you’ll have to do plenty of other things to keep their happiness high because if they are paying a lot of money for just a rubbish course, then they won’t be happy”, Mark says. “We’ve given the objectives and the guides to make sure the players always know what they are doing, the direction they were going”.
As Chris says, we kinda want it to have a bit of a guided sandbox, if you will. Two people can play it [differently]- even in the studio, one person will spend all their money on beautifying things. Some people just don’t care what they look like and will go “efficiency! efficiency!” and “This is how it’ll work, bedrooms need to be by the Student Union” and theres a lot of stuff to beautify, amplify, and the landscaping and the inside.
Our University Days
Making a University simulator also brings with it new challenges- while not many people might have formative memories of being patients in a hospital, many people would have some memory of being university students. Listening to Mark and Chris talk about it, it seemed very clear that they wanted to do right by these experiences, by making a game that respected them as more than just another financial scheme.
“I think one of the overriding things about Campus is, as we talk about it, you don’t go “oh yeah I had an amazing Lecturer,” or “I did an amazing course” “, says Mark.
“You said “I saw an amazing band, I had brilliant friends”. It’s a social life of a University that’s the kind of stuff we’re talking about and how you’d remember doing this and doing that. I think that kind of laid the bedrock”, he continues. “Education of course is absolutely important, that’s why you’re there but we wanted to cater for personal bias and keep your students happy and it’s also the first time people move away from home and looking after them emotionally and keep them entertained and giving them opportunity to have relationships”.
“Obviously with [Two Point] Hospital, you just wanted everyone to not die. That was your main goal”, Chris says. “Try to heal everybody. Make sure they were ok and then walk them out the door. You wanted them to go away”.
The core of Two Point Campus is, of course, the students. Listening to them talk about the students was almost like they were having a mini graduation, reading out a typical convocation speech.
“With Campus, you’ve got these kids for three years, so when they first come to you they were young they haven’t done anything. They are fresh-faced kids in university, and you change so much in those years, just those three years in university”, he continues.
“You’ve grown, you’ve had your first relationship, your first argument, You might find your first enemies, you know, you might find the love for something you didn’t know existed, you’re confronted with opinions that are not yours. So it was a great idea of a setting for a game because there’s so many things we can do. And to help to make the player enjoy kinda molding these little characters”.
“You’ve grown, you’ve had your first relationship, your first argument, You might find your first enemies, you know, you might find the love for something you didn’t know existed, you’re confronted with opinions that are not yours”- Chris Knott
Speaking of, a lot of care was taken into making these students read well to the player. From your spot in the celestial management desk, you wouldn’t really have time to deal with each student individually- so instead, the game sorts students into different archetypes, all with their own unique traits.
“There’s a lot of more animations in Campus than there were in Hospital, that is because the students are doing so many more things and they are there for so much longer”, Chris explains. “When we are in Hospital, they come and they get cured and they go home. Whereas here, we got them for years, so we wanted them to be much more expressive and alive and interact with each other”.
“Yeah we got the archetypes of students, so we got some jocks…some cheerleaders, all those kind of stereotypes, university tropes, I suppose, and they all needed their own animations”, he continues. “So you got a year in the campus, you’ll find that different students will dance in a different way, the goths will dance like [zombie dancing], or some jocks would be like (screaming and yelling and really pumped up)”.
Of course, there’s more to each student than just their assigned stereotype. Building off of that, students can have individual needs, which you’ll want to learn to take care of to keep your students happy.
“So with all these kind of different things, these people are, as we all are, very different from each other”- Mark Webley
“We just try to give them personality as well, so to say like the different archetypes, and then even within the archetype there’s different traits as well, let’s say some people are quite unhygenic, go to toilet, not wash their hands or not use the showers very often. or some people don’t need to eat very much”, Mark says. “So with all these kind of different things, these people are, as we all are, very different from each other”.
“We might have some kids that are very very intelligent but also neurotic, so they are worried all the time, so you have to have pastoral cats to comfort them, you know? You have to care for them to get the best out of them. If you want to”, Chris says. “Or, as I said, you can just get them expelled. *chuckles* I just want someone that is clever and easy to look after. But there is a knock-on effect to that. Again, it’s about how you want to play”.
“The game we’ve made and designed are about caring and looking after people, as Hospital was”, he says.
Kiss Kiss Fall In Love
Of course, you’d be hard-pressed to find some uni student who hadn’t discovered romance in their tertiary years. Relationships are a big part of Two Point Campus, with many students being so hormone-driven that they’d straight-up ask the overseer to build more romantic vistas on campus.
“I think the relationship thing is, as we’ve said earlier,University is a time of making your best friends, meeting somebody romantically as well, that’s more in the player’s control. If they wanna put items that might encourage people to fall in love, then they can do that”, Mark explains.
“Our students want to grow, they want to become better and have relationships and do all these things. So they will ask you to help them do it”- Chris Knott
“As people meet, they form friendships. As they kind of level up their friendships, there’ll be more things they want to do like different items that they need to kind of level up their relationship. That’s why we’re kind of keen to do this as we kind of get deeper and deeper into our world of Two Point County. Having characters that you can care about and just make you struggle makes them able to level up their relationships”, he goes on. “Having a good relationship helps your happiness level, it gives you a sense of stability”.
It also plays into a fantasy no one in management hasn’t had- the idea of being trusted by people under you. According to Chris, you’ll get requests from students to help them grow:
“The students will send you notes saying like “I really like this thing. Can you put an item down in this hall to improve my happiness” or “I’m really into this course” or “I’d like to do a bit of extra work for my assignments but I need this item”, he explains.
“Our students want to grow, they want to become better and have relationships and do all these things. So they will ask you to help them do it. You can choose not to”, he continues, laughing like someone hardened by years as an educator would.
The World Is Your Classroom
Of course, one more important part about making a game about university is that, much unlike what some of our upbringings might have suggested, it’s no good only staying indoors and studying. Chris and Mark have made it such that you’ll need to factor in the outside world too, as part of how you’ll need to plan your curriculum in the game’s many levels.
“We kinda want it to have a bit of a guided sandbox, if you will”, Mark says. “Two people can play it [differently]- even in the studio, one person will spend all their money on beautifying things. Some people just don’t care what they look like and will go “efficiency! efficiency!” and “This is how it’ll work, bedrooms need to be by the Student Union” and there’s a lot of stuff to beautify, amplify, and the landscaping and the inside”.
“But that’s one of the biggest differences between Campus and Hospital, The outside is now just as big a part of the game as the inside”, Chris says. “Obviously in Hospital you just have the Hospital and people would arrive and you let them in. Whereas in Campus, we’d given you the tools to be able to create and play with the outside of your campus as much as the buildings themselves. Because it’s so much more important to the students health and well-being and happiness”.
“So for someone like me who likes to just spend hours fiddling and playing with things to make it looks good, it’s great! I can spend hours doing it. I end up in debt, but I have a fantastic looking campus and my students are really happy. So it’s great”, Chris says.
It’s not just extracurricular activities too- according to Mark, students can have outdoor modules, too.
“To be fair there are some courses, that are outside-based”, Mark says. “So things like knight school you obviously got jousting fields and combat fields, you have the lectures inside but there’s plenty of stuff outside. There’s archaeology course where, you are digging into the ground. That’s very cool”.
“Well its healthier for students to be outside as well. You look at your students and as they’re outside their health bar starts to go up. A bit of fresh air is good if you’re gonna be stuck in front of a computer screen”, he goes on.
If you’ve any love for management sims, you’re probably going to want to check out Two Point Campus. Chris and Mark clearly put a lot of love and thought into planning out how to be the overseer of people’s college lives, turning what would normally be a simple cause-effect genre into something more qualitative as you balance caring for students and making ends meet.
Our thanks to Chris and Mark for answering our questions, and you can pick up Two Point Campus when it drops on PC, PS4, PS5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S and Nintendo Switch on August 9th, 2022.