September 17, 2012 14 Comments
Smooth Operators is a time sink, and I mean that in a good way. I started playing yesterday around 11:30AM, and emerged around 8:00PM wondering exactly where the day went. Titles like this are the alien abductions of the game world. When you try to explain to people that you just lost eight hours of your life playing a game where you operate a call center, people look at you with rapidly blinking eyes as if you just took that last step off the deep-end. And then you try to explain your side of the story, saying “no, no! You don’t understand! You have to staff out buildings and hire janitors and there’s incoming calls and outgoing calls and it’s really, really fun!” And they just nod politely while thumbing through their phone, looking for your family’s number and wondering how they’re going to break the news.
As Brian pointed out to me back in July when this very site ran a contest to give Smooth Operators its name, the idea of a Sim Call Center is not original. A free-to-play game called Corporation Inc has been around since at least November of 2010. Smooth Operators is perhaps uncomfortably similar to it, but hey, some companies make billions doing this. At least the XBLIG is both a faithful tribute and a full evolution of the concept. Just make sure you keep an eye on your wallet in its presence. It’s a crafty bastard.
Dante, in his infinite wealth.. of knowledge, couldn’t conceive what circle of Hell has sinners forced to work a call center. But managing a virtual one is undeniably addictive. First you have to build an operations center. Then you have to staff it. There’s three kinds of duties that need to be done: answer incoming calls, make outbound calls, and back office grunt work. A helpful meter in the upper right hand corner of the screen tells you the work load and how far each occupation has to go to complete that day’s allotment. You also have to hire janitors, IT guys, managers, and cheerleaders. Sudden thought: wouldn’t cheerleaders be counter productive for a call center? All that shouting and pompom waving is bound to be distracting, especially for a job that involves talking on the telephone. “Okay, well why don’t you tell me the nature of your computer proGIMMIE AN B! GIMMIE AN E! GIMMIE AN C! GIMMIE AN C! GIMMIE AN A! WHAT’S THAT SPELL? BECCA!” I wouldn’t be too happy about that, even if the people in Smooth Operators seem to like it.
There’s no real goal in Smooth Operators per se. You just build and staff buildings to earn money to build more buildings to staff to earn more money. So yea, time sink. But it works, and it plays relatively well. Shockingly, I enjoyed playing it more with an Xbox controller than I enjoyed playing the PC game it was, ahem, inspired by. BUT, I’m not totally in love with the interface. I don’t think it gives the player enough. One niggling little thing that bugged me was having to click on an employee’s desk and hope they were somewhere in the building to be able to upgrade them. The process is slow and cumbersome. Why can’t there be a drop-down menu that has a list of every employee, so that I can attend to them that way? Smooth Operators practically demands that you micro-manage all the dudes you hire, but as your staff increases, this becomes more tiresome.
There’s no “increase all wages” or really any helpful shortcuts at all. I figured hiring Human Resources Managers would take care of issues like schedules and vacation time for me, but it doesn’t. In fact, all they do is make employees work longer without them becoming less happy. In a roundabout way, this actually made my employees less happy, as they were now clogging all the facilities and elevators in my building. I wanted to upgrade things, but even after hiring several spendy “Project Managers” that serve to unlock goodies, unlockables just take too God damn long to get, and most of the early things they get for you are as useless as a fireproof surfboard. What the FUCK is a potted plant going to do to increase morale when people have to wait two hours to get down one story on an elevator? If this game were made in the United States, that potted plant would be used to bludgeon the nearest authority figure.
Because of the slowness of the upgrades, and the indifference of my employees to water coolers, my moral dipped to record lows and my employees started resigning on me faster than I could appease them. Now, if this was Sim City, I would have responded in a perfectly calm and rational manner. Meaning I would have sent Godzilla in to kill and eat all my employees and knock the building over. Unfortunately, there’s no Godzilla, or earthquakes, or tornado, or alien invaders, or guys named Gustafsson who prefer to live on the 40th floor. Sigh, God damn Andreas. You couldn’t have used words like snickerdoodle or farfanoogin? Those would have been easier to work in.
So after I lost over half my employees, including most of my janitors and IT guys, I surveyed the remains of my once beautiful office building. Trash scattered everywhere. Computers smoking. Employees swearing at the slowness of the elevators. Mangers swearing at the employees. Cheerleaders cheering the one IT guy left who didn’t quit. Money drying up. Tasks being unfulfilled. I thought to myself “really? I spent the last eight hours of my life doing this and this is all I have to show for it?” After a brief period of reflection, I did the only thing that seemed rational at the time. I turned my Xbox back on and spent another eight hours doing the same thing.
Fuck you, Smooth Operators. Fuck. You.
80 Microsoft points have no idea what a Bengan is or why it would help upgrade things in the making of this review.
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