Construction and Management Simulation
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Construction and Management Simulation

Construction and management simulation (CMS)[1] is a type of simulation game in which players build, expand or manage fictional communities or projects with limited resources.[2]Strategy video games sometimes incorporate CMS aspects into their game economy, as players must manage resources while expanding their project. But pure CMS games differ from strategy games in that "the player's goal is not to defeat an enemy, but to build something within the context of an ongoing process."[1] Games in this category are sometimes also called "management games".[3][4][5]

SimCity represents an early example of success in the genre. Other games in the genre range from city-building games like Caesar or Dwarf Fortress, pure business simulation games like Capitalism, and true CMSs[clarification needed] like Theme Park.

CMSs are often called "simulation games" for short. Although games can simulate many activities from vehicles to sports, players usually deduce the kind of simulation from the title of the game.


Economic challenges

Economics play a primary role in construction and management simulations, because they allow players to build things while operating within economic constraints.[6] Some games may challenge the player to explore or recognize patterns, but the majority of the game challenges are economic in that they focus upon growth.[6] These games are based in a setting where an economy can be built and managed, usually some kind of community, institution, or empire.[2] The player's role seldom corresponds to a real life activity, since the player is usually more involved in detailed decisions than a real manager or administrator.[6] Players usually have two types of tools at their disposal: tools for building and tools for managing.[1]

Construction mechanisms in CMSs tend to be one of two types: plan-and-build where the construction is completed gradually, or purchase and place where the construction appears immediately.[6] Random disasters can also create new construction challenges,[1] and some games impose constraints on how things must be constructed.[6] But usually the act of construction is quite simple,[6] and the main challenge of a CMS is obtaining the resources required to complete construction.[1] Players must manage resources within a growing economy, where resources are produced, consumed, and exchanged.[1] Resources are drawn from a source, such as money from a bank, or gold from a mine. Some CMSs allow players to convert resources from one type to another, such as fermenting sugar into rum.[1] Common resources include money, people, and building materials.[6] Resources are utilized in one of two ways: either construction, where players build or buy things to serve some purpose, or maintenance, where players must make ongoing payments to prevent loss or decay.[1] Sometimes demolishing a structure will cost resources, but this is often done at no cost.[6]


CMSs are usually single player games, as competition would force players to eschew creativity in favor of efficiency, and a race to accumulate resources.[6] They typically have a free-form construction mode where players can build up as they see fit, which appeals to a player's sense of creativity and desire for control.[6] As such, many CMSs have no victory condition, although players can always lose by bankrupting themselves of resources.[1] These games emphasize growth, and the player must successfully manage their economy in order to construct larger creations and gain further creative power.[6]

Unlike other genres, construction and management simulations seldom offer a progression in storyline, and the level design is a simple space where the player can build. Some games offer pre-built scenarios, which include victory conditions such as reaching a level of wealth, or surviving worsening conditions. But success in one scenario seldom affects another scenario, and players can usually try them in any order.[6]


An example of a windowed interface from the game OpenTTD

Because the player must manage a complex internal economy, construction and management simulations frequently make use of a windowed interface.[6] In contrast to genres such as action games, CMS players are given computer-like controls such as pull-down menus and buttons. Players may also understand the game economy through graphs and other analytic tools. This often includes advisers that warn players of problems and describe current needs.[6] As such, CMS games have some of the most complex interfaces of any game type.[1] These games can be quite popular even without the latest graphics.[1]

The player in a CMS is usually omnipresent, and does not have an avatar. As such, the player is usually given an isometric perspective of the world, or a free-roaming camera from an aerial viewpoint for modern 3D games.[6] The game world often contains units and people who respond to the players actions, but are seldom given direct orders.[6]


The Sumer Game, a later version of which was called Hamurabi, was a relatively simple text-only game originally written for the DEC PDP-8 in which the player controlled the economy of a city-state.

Utopia was released in 1982 for the Intellivision, and is credited as the game that spawned the construction and management simulation genre.[7]Utopia put players in charge of an island, allowing them to control its entire military and economy. The population had to be kept happy, and the military had to be strong enough to thwart attacks from rebels and pirates. This game required complex thought in an era where most games were about reflexes. The game sold fairly well, and it had an influence on games of all genres.[8]

In 1983, Koei released the historical simulation game Nobunaga's Ambition, where the player takes the role of the historical figure Oda Nobunaga and must conquer, unify and manage the nation of Japan. It combines number crunching, Japanese history, and grand strategy simulation, including elements such as raising taxes and giving rice to prefectures.[9]Nobunaga's Ambition went on to define and set the standard for most console simulation games,[10] and has had many sequels, while Koei continued to create other simulation games since, including the Romance of the Three Kingdoms series from 1986 and Bandit Kings of Ancient China in 1989. That same year, Capcom released a simulation game of their own, Destiny of an Emperor, also based on Chinese history.[9]

Utopia had a notable influence on SimCity in 1989,[8] which is considered the first highly successful construction and management simulation.[6][7] The game allows players to build a city from the ground up and then manage it, with challenges such as balancing a budget and maintaining popular opinion, and was considered a sophisticated simulation of city planning when it was released.[11] It appealed to a wide audience in part because it was not a typical high-speed, violent game,[6] and was notable for shunning a traditional win-or-lose game paradigm.[11]SimCity has spawned numerous successful sequels and spinoffs,[12] is credited with inventing the city-building subgenre.[13]SimCity also led to several other successful games in the same mold such as SimTower and SimFarm,[6] and launched its designer Will Wright into a position as one of the most influential people in the game industry.[14] These games influenced the eventual release of the Tycoon series of games, which are also an important part of the genre.[6]


Several more specific genres have developed over time.

City-building games

City-building games are a subgenre of CMS games where the player acts as a city-planner or leader. Players normally look at the city from a point of view high in the sky, to grow and manage a simulated city. Players are only allowed to control building placement and city management features such as salaries and work priorities, while actual building is done by game citizens who are non-playable characters.

Theme park management

The earliest known theme park management game is Theme Park. The idea for the genre was attributed to programmer Peter Molyneux, who thought that the genre was worth pursuing.[15] Another game, RollerCoaster Tycoon, was created by Chris Sawyer.[16] The series would later become a success, spawning several sequels including RollerCoaster Tycoon 2 and RollerCoaster Tycoon 3.

After the release of RollerCoaster Tycoon 3, the genre went dormant for nearly a decade.[17] In 2016, several new games were released, including RollerCoaster Tycoon World and Planet Coaster. Furthermore, the upcoming game Parkitect had been released in Steam Early Access that same year.[18]

Colony management

The colony management genre has fewer titles compared to the other subgenres due to the niche market. These games utilize construction and management extensively, with incredible detail in more aspects of the game than other genres. They also may feature combat, typically not a feature of other subgenres.

Notable titles include Dwarf Fortress and Rimworld, the latter of which takes inspiration from the former.[19]

Business simulation games

Business simulation games are a subset of CMSs that simulate a business or some other economy. These games typically involve more management than construction. Rather than investing in physical buildings, construction can be abstract, such as purchasing stocks.

The closest example of a 'pure' economic simulation may be Capitalism, the goal of which is to build an industrial and financial empire. Another highly ambitious business simulator is Transport Tycoon.

Active development of Internet technologies and the growth of the Internet audience in recent years gave a powerful impetus to the development of the industry of online games, and in particular, online business simulations. There are many varieties of online business simulations--browser-based and downloadable, single-player and multiplayer, real-time and turn-based. Among the most notable online business simulations such as Virtonomics or IndustryPlayer.

Factory simulation games

Factory simulation games typically involve the efficient conversion of resources into production through a combination of manned workforce and automated systems. Some of these are closer to business simulations, where the player is challenged to make products in a cost-effective manner to compete with other virtual competitors, such as in Big Pharma (where players manipulate raw chemicals into new pharmaceutical drugs). Other games are based on open-world survival games, with the goal to build enough parts from raw materials on the planet to escape, such as in Factorio and Satisfactory. Generally these games require the player to manage resources availability and production timing effectively.

Government simulation games

A government simulation or political simulation is a game that attempts to simulate the government and politics of all or part of a nation. These games may include geopolitical situations (involving the formation and execution of foreign policy), the creation of domestic political policies, or the simulation of political campaigns. Early examples from the Cold War era include Balance of Power, Crisis in the Kremlin, Conflict: Middle East Political Simulator. An early example of online play was Diplomacy, originally published as a board game in 1959, which was one of the first games to be played via e-mail.

Sports management games


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Rollings, Andrew; Ernest Adams (2003). Andrew Rollings and Ernest Adams on Game Design. New Riders Publishing. pp. 417-441. ISBN 1-59273-001-9.
  2. ^ a b Wolf, Mark J. P. (2002). The Medium of the Video Game. University of Texas Press. ISBN 0-292-79150-X. Retrieved .
  3. ^ "Emperor: Rise of the Middle Kingdom for PC". GameSpot. Retrieved .
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  11. ^ a b Julie Lew (1989-06-15). "Making City Planning a Game". New York Times. Retrieved .
  12. ^ Dan Adams; Steve Butts; Charles Onyett (2007-03-16). "Top 25 PC Games of All Time". IGN. Retrieved .
  13. ^ Alex Navarro (2006-11-28). "SimCity Review". GameSpot. Retrieved .
  14. ^ Gamespy Staff (March 2002). "GameSpy's 30 Most Influential People in Gaming". GameSpy. Archived from the original on 2009-01-01. Retrieved .
  15. ^ "Funtime at Bullfrog". Prescreen. Edge. No. 4. Bath: Future plc. January 1994. pp. 37-43. ISSN 1350-1593.
  16. ^ Bauman, Steve (January 26, 2000). "The Pursuit of Fun". Computer Games Magazine. Archived from the original on January 3, 2004. Retrieved 2017.
  17. ^ Becker, Matt (November 17, 2016). "Planet Coaster Beta Review: Simulation Evolved". App Trigger. Retrieved 2017.
  18. ^ Donaldson, Alex (January 4, 2017). "The Theme Park management sim is having a renaissance and I couldn't be happier". Retrieved 2017.
  19. ^ Moser, Cassidee. "How RimWorld fleshes out the Dwarf Fortress formula". Retrieved .

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