It’s day four (slash five) in the Xbox LIVE Indie Games Uprising house, and reviewers are using pop culture references which are years out of date. That’s because for some reviewers, working in a call center is a part of their past, a bygone time when people were still angry at Nasty Nick and wondered whether they’d get to see a pretty girl named Kate with her top off. Well, perhaps some things don’t change.
Smooth Operators puts you in charge of the call center. There are targets to hit but instead of having to call angry people at 7:45 in the evening when they’re trying to watch Coronation Street, you can just hire some poor sucker to do it for you. And then another, and another. And then a janitor to clean up all the mess they made. And then an IT guy to fix the computers they broke. And then another janitor to clean up after the IT guy. And it goes on and on, and in the end you’ll wish you were phoning angry people at 7:45 because it turns out balancing the books and making sure all the targets get hit is harder than it seemed.
Well, you won’t really, because Smooth Operators is a joy to play, and balancing the books isn’t too hard. It’s actually very difficult to turn a loss in the game, but at the same time it’s also quite difficult to make a fast buck. Floors are expensive, the staff that you employ are the same, and the bonuses you get for hitting targets are rare because hitting targets is regularly a challenge.
What’s key then, is making a call center that can maximise those profits in order to make more of those lovely profits, and then there’s suddenly an awful lot to think about. Staff cost money to hire (as well as taking a salary, the greedy sods) so it’s important to keep them happy because if one of them gets upset and jumps from the 36th floor (or resigns, anyway) you’ll have to replace them and pay what that entails. How to keep them happy, though? Do you hire a person to keep spirits up, or build a nice place for them to relax? Both are expensive options. You could send them on vacation for a few days, but that’s not a long-term solution and who’s going to make all those calls in their place?
Such are the decisions you’ll have to make within minutes of starting the game, and that’s only the start of it. Do you want to build new operations floors to house more staff or would you rather build some office space for your project managers to work in – these PMs will eventually allow you to upgrade your current floors and facilities to increase their efficiency, but it’ll take some time to unlock them and you have targets to hit right now. And which targets do you try and hit, anyway? You can try and make 200 outbound calls for $5 apiece or 500 jobs for $3 apiece which will require way more staff, way more room to house them, and way more support staff to fix the stuff they break and clean up after them.
So, there’s a lot to think about and many different ways to play the game, and even though the game has a very simple exterior it merely serves to hide how much depth lies within. Sure, it’s difficult to make a loss and so you’d have to go to quite some lengths to “lose” the game, but there’s an incredible amount of strategy in trying to make as much money as possible and making it as quickly as possible, because watching your call center expand and reach for the stars is addictive as all hell.
That last bit was another out of date reference, because most of S-Club 7 probably work in call centers these days.