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 performs?

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 in Tropico?

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 for yourself.

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 bank account?

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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