Recently I’ve been deep in niche subreddits, looking for new gems to follow and get involved with. On my travels I found a post about an upcoming airport management game from Apoapsis Studios named, Airport CEO. Their team were looking for feedback and ideas for the tycoon game and received a lot of positive feedback from the community. Following some more work and development blogs, I interviewed Fredrik Lindahl & Olof Kindblad about the game itself, design influences and the importance of community. It was fascinating to take a deep dive behind the scenes of game development, and it’s great to see this title progress forward.
Airport CEO is your upcoming title, and I for one couldn’t be more excited – for those that don’t know – what is Airport CEO?
Airport CEO is a 2D tycoon and management game in development for PC and Mac where you take seat as the CEO of your own airport. You will build the airport’s infrastructure with everything from runways and taxiways, aircraft stands and hangers to constructing terminals with check-in, security and tax-free shopping. You will manage the business perspective of the airport by hiring employees and board members, making deals with airline companies and making sure that ends meet by keeping an eye on budget and resources. Airport CEO is more than just a tycoon game, it’s an airport simulator where each aircraft, each employee, each passenger and each bag i unique, each passenger has a purpose and each bag has a final destination. Being a CEO is not an easy task, unexpected events such as severe weather, equipment breakdowns or security breaches will have you frantically planning and consider each decision.
How long have you and the team been working on the game so far?
We began developing Airport CEO, or “Generation Flight” as it was originally called, in August 2015, however, the idea of developing an airport management game was already in the thought process a year earlier. The development really kicked off in January 2016, when we were able to allocate much more time to the project.
What made you want to do an airport management game?
As huge aviation fans, we have played many different aviation related games, both simulation and management. On the simulation side, we’ve always felt that MS Flight Simulator and the X-Plane Series are really well made, but we felt like there was always something missing on the tycoon side. Although we have to give credit to Airline Tycoon, at least, the first one, we felt that after years of waiting for someone to develop a serious airport management game, we got tired of waiting and decided to do it ourselves.
What are your biggest influences in gameplay, concept and art style?
While we grew up playing games such as the first SimCity titles, Transport Tycoon and Theme Hospital we are mostly influenced (and impressed) by some of the new tycoon and simulation games such as Cities Skyline, Factorio and Prison Architect. What they have in common is a really smart “simulation realism versus gameplay” tradeoff, great art style and great UI. We consider these games a great inspiration for our project but at the same time, we want to bring many new things into Airport CEO.
There have been a few airport management games in the past, with many failing to hit the mark – is this something you and the team are worried about or do you see it as a challenge to bring the genre back into the frame?
Well, you know what, we try to not think about other games and the inevitable comparison between titles that you as a developer eventually will have to face. While we might get inspiration and influence from airport management games as well as other tycoon titles, we ultimately want to go our own way and not spend time worrying on how it will stand against another title. The ultimate judge on this game will be the community, the community knows what’s been wrong with previous titles and we are convinced that as long as we are open with the development process and listen to the gamers, we are not really worried about anything.
Currently, what core mechanics are you focusing on during this stage of development?
One of the earlier goals, which we discussed quite a lot in the DevLogs, was the merging of the passenger and aircraft cycles, basically creating a simple but functional test airport that can continuously simulate the flow of passengers and aircrafts for days and days. Right now we are focusing on creating a powerful building system so that players can design the airport of their dreams, everything from the terminal foundation, walls and doors to roads, taxiways and aircraft stands. The overall strategy is to get a playable version out as soon as possible and then gradually add new features as work progresses. That’s what we’re working on now and when we present you the gameplay video you can rest assure that the first alpha is only a few months away.
Interestingly, you went to the community for ideas and feedback when development started – I was involved in a discussion on the tycoon subreddit where I saw your game, how important has the feedback and ideas been so far?
It is extremely important, right at the beginning we decided to have a very open and honest relationship with the community in order to share a sense of involvement in the process. Some people have asked us why we decided to announce the game in such an early state and the reason is that we don’t want to start by revealing a finished product, we want the community to help us finish it. The community is also a great tool for us to help us stay on the right track.
Also, how many of the requests and feedback been developed/planned for the main release?
We can’t really set a figure for that, but all relevant suggestions are taken into consideration and, if the same feature gets mentioned over and over again, we will surely implement it. One example could be the building system, where several Redditors wanted a complex terminal build system with walls, doors, items and zoning, which we ended up putting a lot of effort into. Another example are aspects of simulation and management, users have great ideas of things that should be accounted for in the economy system, things that should be accounted for with passenger behavior and of course, the community is a great source of knowledge for how airports operate and how everything is interconnected.
Community seems to be at the heart of any successful indie title, how key is it for you that you continue to build a good relationship with the community?
It is absolutely crucial, we have always said that the game will not happen without community support, as indie developers could have a hard time getting venture capital or just not wanting to add too much business in the development process. We want to expand the community relationship further and right now we are thinking of various ways to actively involve the community in the game development process. We have a lot of good ideas in the pipeline which we’ll reveal as we move closer to the first release!
You’re currently running a development blog, updating fans with your progress. A lot of big companies seem to hide details when developing, why do you (and other developers) now choose to note your progress?
Well, given the success that a lot of other indie titles has had it is obvious that, at least for small time developers, working behind closed curtains is something that belongs in the old world. We work extremely agile and the key to maintaining that agility is to work with transparency. We want the community to understand the process and time it really takes to make a good game and the blog is a great tool for us to use in order to achieve the type of community involvement we strive for.
One thing I’m keen to know is, where the Airport CEO road map takes us what your plans are for the title going forward? When are you aiming to release more info about the crowdfunding campaign?
One of the biggest concerns for an investor when investing money into a crowdfunding campaign is whether or not the product will make it. We’ve seen, and invested ourselves, in crowdfunded campaigns that never made it to market. Before we launch any crowdfunding campaign we want to show that we are credible, that Airport CEO is a product that’s working and lives up to all the promises we’ve made and that potential investors don’t have to wait months and months before they can get what they’ve paid for. This one actually gets asked a lot, which is great, though, people’s excitement for the game is what fuels the development process and keeps us going. We are only two developers working on Airport CEO and unfortunately, we can’t work full time on the project since we’re in our last university semester. Hopefully, this can change soon, hopefully with the help of crowdfunding, which we plan to initiate before the beginning of the summer. Right now we are focused on putting together a second video which shows a few minutes of gameplay. Once we have that, once we see the reactions, then we’ll proceed with the next step.
You can find out more about Airport CEO on their official website.