19 years ago, System 3 partnered up with publisher Acclaim to release city-building title Constructor.
The game became a cult hit, launching on PlayStation, PC and Mac, and went onto sell over 5m units. Now System 3 is bringing the series back, releasing a new HD version. It's launching later this year for PS4, Xbox One and PC, and is being made by members of the original's development team.
After Mark of the Ninja, Constructor has been one of our most-requested games to bring back and relaunch,” System 3 boss Mark Cale says. Based on that, and coupled with a strategy and RTS boom, it made sense to bring it back.”
The decision was in part due to the success of Paradox Interactive's Cities: Skylines. But also because Cale spotted a gap in the market on console.
The RTS sim game is an under-supported genre on console,” Cale says.
A lot of fans that have consoles really wanted this game. We trialled the PlayStation edition as a PS3 emulated version a number of years ago, and it was one of the first games on PSN. We launched that in five territories in Europe and saw over 200,000 downloads. It showed there's a huge market for these games.
Certainly our market research shows that there are a lot of people that would want a different gameplay experience on consoles.”
"Constructor has been one of our most-requested games to bring back."
Mark Cale, System 3
He continues: For us, attacking the RTS market is the right move because it's a sector that's ripe for the picking. Other people are starting to see that. As you know XCOM 2 is coming to PS4 and Xbox One, Tropico has been on console in the past, and there are a lot of RTS games planned on console for next year. At the moment, there's a big market that's crying out for great strategy games. Thankfully, I believe that we've got something that could fulfil those needs.”
RTS and sim games are historically PC-focused, largely due to how dependant they are on a mouse and keyboard set-up. Overcoming this, and thus making Constructor HD accessible and playable on console, was a huge focus for the development team.
The first thing was looking at the original PlayStation controllers and how it was frustrating to move that cursor, click on each icon and make it feel like a PC game,” Cale says.
It did not feel as good as the PC version. The way we have engineered the ergonomics of the pointer on console means that, for the first time, it feels like a mouse pointer. Now we have the mouse cursor moving around correctly on the game pad and the inertia is correct and feels good. What you don't want to do is keep moving all over the screen because it becomes frustrating.
What we also introduced was a lot of hot keys, where a combination press of buttons opens up different keys that quickly access an area. It makes the experience much quicker, better and it redefines how an RTS game can be explored and played on a console. We're not just exploring a classic IP that has a cult following. We're not just exploring the second largest genre of games in the market currently. We're also exploring how to actually match the experience to console where it has previously been largely PC-exclusive.”
As well as a single player mode, Constructor HD comes with a competitive multiplayer section.
In this, gamers can build their own maps that can be shared with their friends. It's a model not entirely dissimilar to some of Minecraft's social features.
As you play the game, you unlock buildings and new resources and new Undesirables [characters],” Cale says. What we've designed in this game, which was different to the original, is a layout mode whereby you can have a set amount of money, decide what your financial starting point is, how many players you are competing with and you can design the map for not just yourself, but your enemies as well. You will be able to share this online with your friends and effectively build maps with different challenges, depending on what you want to do.
By letting gamers share maps, it saves them the rather laborious process of trying to build a map online and have hours go by before they and their friends can play it.
You're instantly into a strategy game in which you can challenge your friends with a design you have made, or you can select the maps that we have built as challenges for different people. Or you can play your friends' maps online.”
Controls aren't the only challenge standing in Constructor HD's way. The game has a very absurd, dark and, well, British sense of humour. Not only that, the UK build that MCV played had a cockney voiceover from John Challis, the actor best-known for portraying Boycie in Only Fools and Horses. But Cale says System 3 has invested in giving the game a global appeal.
We've invested a lot of time and money localising this into many other languages,” he says. We're going to have not just different text, but also voice overs for Germany and France. We're planning an Americanised version with a US voice over.”
Cale says that Constructor HD has wide spread appeal and, as a result, System 3 has high expectations for the game.
As the second largest genre in the gaming world at the moment, RTS titles are attracting a wide range of gamers,” he says. There's a large spectrum of consumers that like to sit, think and play strategy games. The market is open to all age groups over 13 years old.”
He continues: The response we have had in the market from a couple of behind the scenes reviewers, distributors and retailers has been extraordinary. People really see this as hitting the market at the right time, with the right quality and brand. All of which is going to turn this into something a lot of people believe will be very successful. We do have high expectations for this title.”
System 3 is going all out for Constructor HD, with a wide-reaching campaign to push the game.
We're looking to reward some of our loyal fans with playable demos which will be coming out in – hopefully – late August or early September,” Cale says. This will be done in conjunction with the platform holders; Sony, Microsoft, Steam and so on. Aside from that we are also going to be doing a pre-order campaign where there will be additional DLC that people will get if they pre-order with various partners. There will be an extensive marketing campaign through social media, print magazines as well as outdoor activities.
We're also looking to do some sort of eSports promotion after we launch the game, too.”
Though System 3 is currently focused on getting Constructor HD out to market, the publisher does have plans for the franchise beyond this release.
We're going to be supporting the game with additional characters after launch. We're also adding in new buildings and scenarios. Following on from this, there was always going to be