Phil Steinmeyer interview
by Mark Asher
Phil Steinmeyer and PopTop Software, now part of Take Two,
are busy toiling away the hours amid a chilly St. Louis Fall
dreaming of Caribbean beaches easier pace of life in the mythical
island of Tropico, their game that will be out next year.
Tropico is a game of building and economic management that
presents a tongue-in-cheek game look at banana republic politics
and misadventures and looks like it will be another hit for
the team behind Railroad Tycoon II. (A shorter version of
this interview first appeared in Computer
Gaming World magazine. Thanks to CGW for allowing us to
reprint this interview here.)
Tropico. Is that a game or a nightclub where Ricky Martin
Tropico is a strategy game where you play a Castro-ish figure
running a Caribbean island, jailing your opponents, oppressing
your people, and filling up your Swiss bank account, as the
case may be.
I think you're confusing it with Tropico 2, the sequel, where
you're an Menudo-ish figure running a Salsa band, trying to
shake your bon-bon, impress your 13-year old groupies, and
score a second hit to revive your flagging fortunes.
You grabbed the Railroad Tycoon license from Microprose,
somewhat to Sid Meier's surprise. Will we see any dinosaurs
Tropico and Jurassic Park are both set on remote islands in
the Caribbean. The leaders in Tropico and Jurassic Park both
try to draw American tourists and they're hefty wallets. Both
games climax with everybody being eaten by... whoops I've
said too much, you'll just have to buy the game and find out
What's your favorite game?
My favorite relatively recent games are Total Annihilation
and Fallout 1 & 2. From back a ways I loved the early
Sid Meier games.
PopTop was just acquired by Take 2. What's the stupidest
thing about running your own company?
Lawyers. I'm married to a lawyer. Most of my college buddies
turned into lawyers. My brother's a lawyer. I can't stand
'em (the lawyering part - they're all quite honorable and
nice people otherwise).
You ever go to a party and tell someone you make games
and then have them tell you about a great game idea they have?
Come on now, Mark, I've told you repeatedly that your idea
for "Checkers 2000" just won't fly. Party schmoozing won't
help. [Dang! - ed.]
Are you worried about offending Fidel Castro with Tropico,
a thinly veiled look at Cuba?
At least Castro doesn't put death sentences on the heads of
those who poke fun of him. There's a reason we went after
Cuba, rather than say, Iran. Salman, buddie, I feel for 'ya.
Castro's kind of ugly - the beard thing and all... What
if gamers don't want to play a Castro-like figure?
You can play the game however you want. You can even be <gasp>
a democratic leader, treat you people well, and implement
all the latest plans for your people's welfare that the United
Nations happens to be pushing at the moment. Of course, there
aren't to many democratically elected leaders who've managed
to stay in power for 40 years.
Your people's welfare... you mean there's more to running
a country than a luxurious presidential palace and a fat Swiss
The peasants can be so annoying - they want good housing,
adequate food, churches for the spirit, sports arenas for
entertainment... the list is endless. Sometimes, though, its
easier to fulfill their wishes than to declare martial law.
Does your wife understand games, or does she just roll
her eyes a lot?
More eye-rolling than anything else. Of course, I roll my
eyes when she starts talking about lawyer stuff.
Seen the Killcreek photos? What do you think? (It's ok
Phil, your wife won't read this!)
She had a talented surgeon. But I only have eyes for my lovely
wife. (Yes, she will read this)
How do you celebrate a game finally being done?
One long 12-14 hour sleep in, followed by going right back
into the office to work on the German version, French version,
demo version, etc.
I heard that Mike Wilson looked pretty cute dressed as
a Catholic schoolgirl at E3. Did you lust after him?
I've been lusting after Mike since way before E3 - it's gotta
be the hair.
A condensed version of this interview first appeared in Computer
Gaming World magazine.
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