How Should Research Work? (Part I)

Research in Theme Hospital was very simple. You choose the percentage of time you wanted invested into each area and then things just appeared.

The research screen (Moby Games)

The research screen (Moby Games)

Is this the best way? Alternative ways could include: Deciding particular projects to research (for instance, “Cardiogram”) or having a queue of things to research (for instance, “Research a new diagnosis equipment” and “Research a new treatment equipment” in a queue). Maybe treatment rooms could only be discovered once there is an example of the case? Or perhaps some research could be ‘bought in’?

What thoughts do you have? I am just getting around to programming this in now, so your input will affect what I do!

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22 Comments on “How Should Research Work? (Part I)”

  1. Joey Says:

    Well actually I liked the way it worked in TH, although it does have some flaws.

    Buying in knowledge from other hospitals is also a great way of expending the research without having to invest too much, which can turn out to be useful for smaller hospitals.

    It would also be cool to be able to investigate and learn from people who get in the hospital with a decice not known yet.

    I think a combination including a bit from everything would work best.

  2. Silva Says:

    I like all ideas, really. As for how to do research, I was thinking something like a timeline, where the player can drag icons over it ordering the team what to do, and depending on the staff, the time bar decreases or increases. The timeline should only last for an year or two – once an item takes the last available day, no more items can be added. This has the advantage of knowing approximately when a research will be completed (something fuzzy – somewhere near a month), and planning things carefully. I’ll make a mockup tomorrow over this, I can see it, but not describe it as well.

    As for stealing research, in Grand Prix Manager to get better parts the player had the option to either research in-house, buy the blueprints from other teams or trying to steal them, at the cost of a hefty fine if they’re caught. I liked that part, so perhaps could be adapted here – for instance, after being caught (the lack of a security team makes it harder to determine what makes an attempt successful) the player has to pay the equivalent of three machines to the opponent as compensation, plus take a severe reputation hit along being forbidden to use the said equipment for two years, even if it becomes “commercially available”. Which reminds me of Transport Tycoon, and thinking along it a bit further and combining with the idea of multiple manufacturers for equipment, perhaps the player should be also given the option to do risky “clinic trials” with not-so-reliable procedures, but providing more advanced free tech and some additional cash. Or course, the companies should give the option to keep it a secret, for very risky procedures with the possibility of a PR hellstorm and a huge fine if someone dies, but highly rewarded with a large cash bonus and perhaps a company-paid top doctor/nurse who deals exclusively with it while the trials last, or public, with less money involved but more reliable and carrying no major penalties for killing a patient.

    Am I thinking too far ahead the curve?

  3. neuralshock Says:

    having a queue of things to research (for instance, “Research a new diagnosis equipment” and “Research a new treatment equipment” in a queue).

    I’m a fan of that idea on the research queue; adds enough complexity for the player to gain advantage but not too much micromanagement.

    Maybe treatment rooms could only be discovered once there is an example of the case?

    Treatment rooms should only appear if this example is diagnosed — isn’t it somewhat like the way it works in the original game? I haven’t played it in a couple of years…

    Also I agree with Silva’s idea of stealing technology, but with a smaller time interval in which you can’t use the technology stolen if you’re caught: 1 year or 6 months. Maybe a security team can be hired and this would show up in-game as one security guard per door, or just in the hospital management screens somehow.

  4. Noah Says:

    Hmmm i kinda liked the research in TH the way it was. However, drug research could be improved to saying “all done” when all the drugs have been researched for a level.

    I was also thinking that VIP awards (like cash and rep boosting) could extend to awarding “research grants” thus awarding you an instant researched room or drug or improvement to machinery (inflator, x-ray, hopefully the new lie-detector :P).

    Also some way to inform the player how long the research will take, depending on the skill and ability of the researchers in the department…im not sure if this would accually work..just an idea.

    As for stealing tech, im not 100% convinced on this one, however you could add a new class of personal called SECURITY who would patrol the hospital. This would work as most modern hospitals do have some form of security and there should be some kinda of award/punishment system in place if your hospital prevents stealing or allows it to happen. Hmm after typing all that im warming up to the idea. Maybe you can acually LOSE a researched room if you are discovered….

    However im keen for adding some way to focus research on a individual room or machine or drug..but they already have this ability in-game (look in case book and you can click focus research) however this doesnt really flow very well.

  5. neuralshock Says:

    @Noah,

    Lose a researched room wouldn’t make any sense, in my opinion… a fine + reputation hit would be reasonable punishment.🙂

  6. Noah Says:

    Wow Silva, me likey! I think thats a really good idea saying how long something will take. Nice work

    Neuralshock: Yeah it was a bit extreme, just throwing out ideas😛

  7. Silva Says:

    Noah: Thanks 🙂

    And before I forget, after working all that with Arial, I think this gem must be included as a illness: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aY7XH2ulTEU

    I can already imagine it:
    HELVETICA SCENARIO
    causes: the side-effect of the collapse of a calcium molecule
    description: the patient loses (literally) his face
    cure: a nurse must prepare a mixture of honey and milk to attract the queen atom back to it’s nest, restoring the patients’ face

  8. Noah Says:

    Hahahaha! Nice one!
    Ill add that one to the list..so far we are up to 5 completely original diseases.

    HELVETICA SCENARIO! LOL. Thats made my day…

  9. openth Says:

    Hahaha Silva that is brilliant! I’m a massive Look Around You fan (well, first series anyway) and the Helvetica Scenario is my favourite bit! A must have! Shouldn’t be too complicated to get the sprites either (hopefully).

    Also, the idea looks brilliant. Also, the user interface in your mockup is really good I think. Currently the OpenTH interface is not pretty at all, we need more like your design!

    What should happen when research has run out? Maybe it should put one of those notification icons for you?

  10. Noah Says:

    I think thats a good idea…just something to tell you you dont need to waste $$$ on the research department.

  11. neuralshock Says:

    When there’s no more research to do, why not show a warning in the research screen, saying “no further research is available for now”, with all the possibilities (except exit screen of course) grayed out?

  12. Silva Says:

    In my idea, it would be as neuralshock says – the buttons grayed out (and so, can’t be dragged to the timeline). Well, something like this:

    I’ve added a few things I’ve missed the first time around, such as the overall progress (the blue bar on the left) and a thing I’ve thought to fill up the whitespace on the top – in this case, the doctors working on research (of course, might be a problem with busier rooms, but this was just to fill space up – could be just text).
    And I’ll gladly make a few more interface mockups. Do you want me to email you so I can find out what parts are top priority?

    Also, I was thinking about the stealing tech part… what about leaving that to the handymen (as they are the only ones that aren’t conspicuous enough to enter ALL facilities)? Choose one, and click a button assign him to a “special task” (for a nice bonus that month), then choose what kind of tech you want to steal. After that, he makes a quick stop by the research department, and then leaves the building. Depending on his attention to detail, on returning after some weeks, he can give either a small or large bump on the research, or even provide the complete blueprints of a room. Being caught means he’ll be arrested, so along the already discussed penalties, you’d also lose him (permanently or not, I leave that to discussion).
    Of course, these “black ops” get a permanent record on their sheet – firing one might make one resentful and blab about your “activities” to the press (you can also play on the loyalty and PR ideas from a previous post), and still result in penalties upon investigation.

  13. Tyler Says:

    What about creating a room dedicated to research, and then hire researchers.

    As far as the research staff goes, you could either hire researchers (a class of staff) or drop doctors into the research room to make them contribute.

    You could make it so that the size of the room determines how many researchers can be present at any one time.

    Also, when researching new diseases, treatments, etc you could always choose to have patients treated with whatever is currently being researched. This would speed up the research but you run the risk of killing your patient.

  14. gilly Says:

    I like Silva’s ideas of researching specific things on a timeline, queueing up research etc. It’s much better than the method in TH.
    I also like this bit from Tyler:
    “Also, when researching new diseases, treatments, etc you could always choose to have patients treated with whatever is currently being researched. This would speed up the research but you run the risk of killing your patient.”
    In TH you can send a patient with an unknown disease to the auto-autopsy machine and it kills them and improves research speed for that disease (apparently) having this is better, you don’t kill as many patients but either way, research becomes faster.

  15. openth Says:

    Tyler and Gilly: Yes the idea of having an experimental cure tested is a better idea. I’m not sure how to do this visually though?

    Silva: It is looking very nice. Please email me! Stealing via Handymen… Hm, it might work very well in multi-player games because then if you notice an extra handyman in your hospital you know it is your rivals and you can throw them out. On the other hand I don’t really like putting the button on the handyman screen instead of the research screen because then it separates things that shouldn’t be separated. Thoughts?

    One thing from before is I have been avoiding adding security personal as I really don’t think it adds much to the game. I am open to adding them if they really add something to it but I am yet to be convinced! Security and CCTV and Security Office might be pretty cool if it actually had anything to protect against but so far I don’t think there is?

  16. Noah Says:

    Hmm honestly i think the Security is something that will develop over time with this project.

    Its a good idea, just doesnt have many applications atm, but you never know will all the new content we are adding it might be useful in the future.

    Silva, it is looking really good! Good job!

  17. gilly Says:

    Well, this is what I have in mind, I think the process usually goes like this in TH:
    1-GP office (initial consultation)
    2-Diagnosis rooms (further diagnosis)
    3-If the disease is not identified at this point, you get asked (green question mark box pops up at the bottom) to send them to research (auto-autopsy, they don’t come back), kick them out, or have them wait in the hospital for a while.

    Now to do it the way Tyler and I suggested, I think after all diagnosis is exhausted, you can choose to send them to the research department to “consult” with the researcher, then he sends them to a specific treatment room where the cure either fails or works. This is better than sending them to the auto-autopsy machine and just killing them…

    The problem with this is you now have no use of the auto-autopsy machine. To solve this, you can have the “experimental treatment” approach improve research by some percentage but the auto-autopsy machine improves it by a greater percentage, at the cost of instantly killing the patient.

    I also think the “research stealing” concept should be put on hold until you finish the research system etc.

  18. openth Says:

    Of course, the Auto-autopsy measure doesn’t have to do anything. It could just be a required object that never has a use…

  19. Noah Says:

    Auto-autopsy could just be for looks … kinda like the computer xray viewer thing in the Operating theatre.

  20. Fowl Says:

    Could the auto-autopsy be used on dead patients?
    😀

    What about training on cadavers? Too morbid?
    😛

  21. Sean13 Says:

    This is my first comment on the site, I just found out about this project tonight via wikipedia and it has definitely made my night. I started reading the blog from the start just to get up to speed on where the project is etc,

    I had an idea regarding the research stealing etc and if to use Handymen to break into other hospitals. It seems that stealing research with this method would be to easy of an option to use thus making the users more inclined to use this option rather than the other ways for gaining new equipment/rooms etc. So I was thinking what if you could send one of your hospitals best doctors to work at another hospital for a limited length of time and on his return he also brings back a certain technology that their hospital may have which yours doesn’t?

    This would be a cost effective solution to research but would also have the disadvantage of loosing one of your doctors(putting a strain on everything else) and to go along with the idea of hospital reputation etc, if the hospital you send the doctor to is a better hospital he may not want to come back and stay there/he may demand a salary increase to come back?

    Just a thought.


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