Two Point County, the colourful home of both Two Point Hospital and the upcoming Two Point Campus, couldn’t be more welcoming. There are no sharp edges here, just warm smiles from happy characters, eager to leave you in charge of sprawling hospitals and chaotic universities. Everything about these management games is satisfying. Rooms secure into place with a gleeful pop and ripple that send their inhabitants flying into the air out of harm’s way, and ludicrous treatment and education machines spin into action in gleeful technicolour.
Sprinkle in a very traditionally British sense of humour as Two Point Hospital patients wander in the door afflicted with Mood Poisoning or Spinal Bap, and you’ve got sim games on a serious charm offensive. Importantly though, it’s not all fluff. As anyone who has spent hours attempting to reach three stars in all of these healthcare facilities can attest, these are artfully layered and granular management experiences; a skill that Two Point Studios has acquired over decades. The studio was founded by ex-Bullfrog, Lionhead, and Rare devs Mark Webley, Ben Hymers, and Gary Carr in 2016 with a focus on creating fresh experiences in the mould of the sim games like Black & White, Theme Hospital, and The Movies that they pioneered in the 90s.
Being an accessible and welcoming experience for gamers of all ages is always at the forefront of the team’s collective hivemind. “It’s a pillar of the game. That’s one of the things that’s been from day one. It’s deep, but broad and casual and approachable,” confirms Two Point Campus creative director Gary Carr. “It’s just something I think was instilled a little bit back in our Bullfrog days, if I’m honest. And Fable did it brilliantly at Lionhead. Because it was on console first and we’re going, ‘okay, how do we make this kind of game work for a more casual RPG’? We made it more approachable. We made the characters more, if you like, accessible. We didn’t put lots of tables on the screen and UI buttons and things. We kind of let you play with the game and discover the depth. And that is just something that’s in our DNA to some extent.”
“I think that’s been one of the things that we’ve always kept in our minds. How do we ease someone into actually quite a deep sim management game, but almost without them realising it?,” adds Two Point Campus lead designer Ben Huskins who also worked on the Fable series alongside Carr. “Certainly thinking about the early days of Two Point, some of it probably comes from us and the things that we like and dislike in games. If a game is too full on with just chucking you in at the deep end at the start, it probably puts us off. So when we started making Hospital, we actually just needed this to be really simple at the start so that you can just get going without any friction and then just gradually layer on and introduce those features. Then, you know, just over the course of a few hours, it’s like, Oh, yeah, now you’re a professional hospital administrator.”
Carr credits a lot of the wide appeal and the humour of Two Point Hospital to the age range of the developers at the studio and the balance of old and new hands. “When I started making games, I was a kid and now I’m a middle aged man. And I think now games are for everybody,” he says. “You have to think broadly about things. A lot of our team are a mixture of smart, fresh people to the industry and, you know, haggard old farts like me and Ben. I think that’s a lovely mixture, where we’re not necessarily trying to follow trends. It kind of feels like its own thing. It’s important to be timeless as well. I think when we’ve tried to be hip back in the past, those games dated a lot more than when we did things in the past, which perhaps were more about the gameplay than it was about the tech. You know, engines get old very quickly. Trends get old very quickly. In fact, most of our jokes try not to be contemporary jokes because they can get lost very quickly in time. So I know we say dad jokes or puns. They’re just timeless jokes. Old fashioned, sad, you know, slightly cringy Christmas cracker jokes..”
Humour is everywhere in Two Point Campus. Where Two Point Hospital loves its absurd machinery to remove lightbulbs from the necks of those suffering from Lightheadedness, going to university adds even more absurdity. VR machines glow in Science Labs and giant cake and pie machines spin into steaming action in the classrooms of the Gastronomy courses. Zooming into these absurd creations is an easy distraction from creating campus entertainment and worrying about dormitories and that’s no accident. Even in its quietest moments, Two Point doesn’t do boring.
“Going back to the beginning when we did Theme Park back in Bullfrog days and then when Mark and I moved on to Theme Hospital, one of the questions that we used to ask is ‘how do we make this like a ride?’,” explains Carr. “Because obviously in Theme Park everything could be a really cool rollercoaster, it could be a bouncy castle, it could be a water flume. But when we went to Hospital, it was kind of like “how do we make an examination machine feel like a fun ride?”. We kept that mental thing. We have to make it seem visually attractive. And that’s how the Heath Robinson thing comes about again. Everything’s got to have levers and cogs and pistons and pumps.”
But upgraded machinery wasn’t all the team wanted to change for Two Point Campus. Where patients felt ten a penny as long as you could make plenty of money for your hospital, the students at your university actually matter. They have wants and needs and they won’t be in a hurry to pay their rent if your student digs aren’t up to scratch. You’re going to have to actually care. “That was something that we wanted to do right from the start going into Campus. I think looking at Hospital, you know, we always talked about it as the “little people” game and we wanted the people to have these really interesting personalities,” explains Huskins.
“In the hospital, there’s a limit to the extent to which you can care about an individual patient coming through because of that limited amount of time they’re going to be with you and the fact that they might well keel over. We just immediately latched on to this idea of a game in the world of education that would actually give you that opportunity to get to know the characters a bit better and to have them with you for that long period of time.”
“An academic year system means that we’re fully in control of how our university runs in Two Point Campus. We can add courses or upgrade them and even have particular specialities, all the while with a focus on making sure our students are having the time of their lives with social events and parties.”
“They’re with you from being freshers to graduates for a good hour or so in the game. So you really realise that they’re going to want more than just being educated,” says Carr. “I like the fact that we delved into that. It is a sim game and you can’t simulate college life without dealing with relationships because usually that’s when you first have relationships. It’s when you first do things for the first time without being told what to do. So you’re learning about socialising and parties and we did want to lean into that. Obviously, we did it the Two Point way, but it wouldn’t be a true delve into academia if we didn’t deal with the other half of what you do at university like how to socialise and how to have fun.”