What happened to resource management/economic games?
Being a Jew, and a dork (as we have established by my contributing to this site), I love resource management games. Railroad Tycoon and Tropico bring back fond memories: games where you gather A, process A into B, and then sell B for C(ash). Unfortunately, I seem to be the only one, because no one has made a good resource management game in ages. It seems that Firaxis is the only company capable of “making” (and I use the term loosely, since Firaxis has yet to make a game in years in my book) these games.
Their most recent two efforts were half-baked bug-ridden crap: Sid Meier’s Railroads (which I loved for the concept before getting infuriated with the execution after writing a glowing review) and Sid Meier’s Civilization 4 Ultimate Colonization North American Challenge 2008, also known as Colonization II: We’re Using the Civ 4 Engine and Name for Sales. For the record, Colonization II also was a half-baked piece of shit, except this time they are sponsoring a contest so someone else will finish the game instead of pretending they finished it themselves.
Back on topic, why did this genre die? Did people stop enjoying constructing elaborate trade empires? The great thing about resource games is the settings are endless: it can be space, railroads, shipping, whatever. Further, you can get away with clean 3D graphics, because in a game like this, the emphasis is on the engine and gameplay, as opposed to expensive voice actors and fancy rendered cut scenes; you could probably develop a quality game on a reasonable budget.
But wait, I just answered my own question: because the basis would be a solid engine and quality game design, and not name brand actors and graphics, that’d be too much of a stretch for today’s game designers who value sizzle over steak.