Education is the foundation of our society. Students are expected to get great marks through primary, secondary, and for some, higher education too. As a student I diligently concentrated on my grades… sometimes. But as an institutional boss in Two Point Campus, I was more concerned with placing the staff room darts board.
Two Point Campus puts you in the shoes of a school administrator looking to build the best education environment possible for the students of Two Point County. You’ll have to cater to their wants and needs from library desks to food vendors to keep them fed. Balancing work and play for both teachers and students is of the utmost importance. And although you may get yourself into debt, see some students drop out, and struggle to keep your staff energised, it’s still a bundle of fun.
I started my journey in Freshleigh Meadows, a small town college where "life moves slowly and expectations are… lowly". This is the perfect place to start your career as a campus administrator. You're trying your best and that's all that matters. As long as you give these students the basics and a dollop of goodwill, they're happy to take a chance on your budding career.
First thing's first, you need a course to teach. There isn't much point in having a college without something to learn, is there? The courses of Two Point Campus aren't exactly conventional either. Scientography, as you may have guessed it from the name, is science in an unusual format. It's not the usual sitting around with bunsen burners and litmus tests—rather your students crowd around a gargantuan flask-shaped machine with far too many buttons and have a go pressing them. A giant hammer whacks away at the flask while multicoloured steam (or is that smoke) plumes from its spout. That's the science I wish I took at school.
When I asked Ben Huskins, the design director at Two Point Studios and senior producer Jo Koehler about creating these courses and their interpretations, they reference the serious medical conditions Two Point's last game, Two Point Hospital, tackled like Denim Jean or Shock Horror. Huskins says: "Obviously with Two Point Hospital it's all slightly, well completely bonkers. And so we asked, what's the equivalent of that?
"As we started making Campus it felt like the courses were the obvious place to give us that scope for having some courses that feel more grounded in reality, like Scientography. The reason we put that at the start of the game was that everyone recognises science and thinks about having science classes at school, but let's put a bit of twist on it. And then as the game progresses we gradually get introduced to the even more weird and wonderful courses."
I only managed to get a sneak peak at Scientography and Gastronomy, but I was assured by the team that the studies of students continue to get more wacky, such as Knight School, where your scholars will learn to joust.
For now, though, Scientography is my focus. I was quickly put to work designing a room with all the necessary equipment. A board for calculations and the aforementioned flask machine. But that's not all a college needs, is it? I need a dormitory for students to get their beauty sleep in, a bathroom and shower for hygiene and, of course, snacks to keep their energy up. Freshleigh Meadows is already looking pretty swish and I'm on a roll. Bins, plants, lockers, oh and let's give the students a library too. In their downtime the population should also have a place to socialise so a student lounge is a must, complete with dart board and perhaps an arcade machine if I'm feeling generous. Yes, that'll do nicely. Class grades are rising, as is the mood and that's a success in my eyes. Just don't look at my bank account.
My campus is hustling and bustling. It's gone from sleepy to full on curriculum chaos. Koehler talks about some of the animations that go into making the game feel like this, saying that the animation team were given very little direction, and just understood the concepts right away. She says, "They're so fun, there are so many tiny little animations that if you just look at what's happening in front of you in play, everything is really spot on."
Amusingly, when I asked the development team about the first level's setting, it turns out Freshleigh Meadows was based on a real place. Huskins and Koehler revealed that the location was based on an artist's home town from when he grew up. Huskins laughs, "in fact we had a meeting and we went on Google Street View to where he grew up and then we were like, 'hang on a sec, there's the canal'."
That classic Britishness flows through Two Point Campus. It had been a long time since I'd heard someone say "bully for you" before this hands-on, for one. Although there are masses of Americanisms in aesthetics, from lockers to sports flags, deep down Two Point Campus is hilariously and vainly British.
Huskins says: "The game is inevitably going to have that British twist on it just because of who we are and the sorts of things that we do. I mean Two Point Campus itself is meant to be a bit of a mix of lots of different DNA. As you progress through the game you get to go to different locations. And so although you start off with this very quintessential British rural area you jump around the map of new and old locations established by Hospital. And not all of them have that British feel to them but you've still got the radio and the announcer."
As I'm toiling away on my campus, assiduously placing posters of fictional pop-stars and frowning at smelly students yet to take a shower, the radio and tannoy system in the game are throwing out jokes and jibes. Contact lenses lost in lasagnas, mystery radio plays about world class detectives, and tannoy reminders reminding students to set reminders are all on the menu. I chuckled along in between the jovial tunes and snappy clips and clops of placing and moving my newly purchased coffee stand.
The team at Two Point had already thought about their next game as they worked on Hospital, and a school management sim felt right as the next step. "We have loads of different ideas for potential Two Point games now", Huskins says. "I remember while we were making Two Point Hospital, we had a list on a whiteboard. But we latched onto that education setting partly because it felt like that's a great opportunity to get to know some of these characters better. Students are going to spend that bit longer with you than a patient within a hospital.
"We also felt like it was a cool setting from the point of view of everyone's got some experience of education. Even if they didn't go to college or university, everyone's got those memories from their eccentric teacher or that classmate that used to eat crayons."
"It's relatable, isn't it" Koehler interjects. And I agree.
Playing just a little bit of Two Point Campus did make me think back to my school and university experience. Even though a sim is very different to attending classes and studying, I did want to provide a great college experience to these students. Oh and nothing was more relatable than finding myself in some debt I was struggling to pay off, am I right student loan companies?
Plainly, from what I experienced, Two Point Campus was shaping up to be a tightly knit bundle of fun. As someone unfamiliar with the systems of Two Point Hospital, for example, the mechanics were clear and I could instantly see myself losing so much time managing these little campuses. The pride I felt when a room came out the way I wanted it to was splendid. And the jigsaw-like fitting of elements together was impressive. When I asked myself if I could fit a plant in the corner, a drinking fountain on the wall or a bench by a tree, the answer was yes. That satisfaction of seeing your vision for a room come to life and seeing these little people use it as intended was just swell.