After 3.5 million Two Point Hospital players and one big Two Point Campus leak, developer Two Point Studios is finally ready to talk more about its new project. Officially, this time. On the the morning after Microsoft's naughty store listing slip-up, I sat down with Two Point studio director Gary Carr and senior animator Chris Knott for a quick tour of the game, and a chat about how things were going.
As previously leaked, Two Point Campus is a university-building simulation sandbox and, on the surface, it looks a clear follow-up in terms of presentation and gameplay to the studio's hospital-set debut. But on further inspection I think it's fair to say Campus also represents a clear evolution from its predecessor, based on what I'm told about the virtual students themselves. Instead of churning through patients (and their money) to get them released as quickly as possible, Campus is more about the student experience, and ensuring their happiness (and their money) across four in-game years.
Of course, there are the wacky treatment rooms - sorry, classrooms - plus oddball VIPs to manage and money to earn ("it's still a business", Carr reassures, "you're just farming education rather than illness!"). But each location is meant to feel more uniquely yours, and each crop of students are designed to leave a lasting impression.
In Two Point Campus you'll see students rock up and interact - learning, living and vomiting their way through a virtual university experience you control. Each in-game year (which currently lasts around 20 minutes) will conclude with a graduation ceremony for departing characters, and begin again with a new intake of freshers. Over time, you'll build progressively more varied classes for the students to study, as well as all manner of, erm, cultural things to do. You'll also build the actual buildings all this takes place in, landscaping and decorating outside for the first time. And you'll have to balance overall student happiness, to ensure enough of them are smart (and sober) enough to graduate.
"It's not just about their day life, it's about their night life as well," Carr says. "Clearly if you let them have too much fun, they're not going to turn up for the day life. So you've got to strike that balance. You're basically parenting your students through the game."
Pupils will adhere to a variety of typical university stereotypes - geeks, goths, jocks, wizards, etc. - but also be shaped by the studio's procedurally-generated personality system, which returns here from Two Point Hospital in a more prominent fashion. In that game, you really only saw staff interact and cause problems for each other. In Campus, students are also meant to be individual characters, who hopefully you'll get to know as they potter through their four years of learning about their chosen subject and themselves.
"With Hospital, we had a limited amount of time with the people that came through your your worlds," Carr says. "You bring people in, they'd be diagnosed, cured and then leave. With Campus, we're letting you spend multiple academic years with the students so you get to really get to know them. Characters will be mixing together or making friend groups and even forming relationships with each other, and you'll get to watch all of this happening in your campuses.
"You'll have to be mindful, when you're building your classes, how these characters are going to interact with each other. We've got students unions, for example, we've got clubs, societies, events. You can create gigs. You have got to make sure your students are happy, both academically and also in their extracurricular activities on campus as well. There's all sorts of stuff that feeds off the back of that pastoral care and making sure you've got the right staff for them, that they're getting the right tuition they need."
There are staff too, of course, professors, teaching assistants, staff for the campus shops and janitors. As you might expect, there's plenty to sweep up at university. "That's what I'm doing at the moment," Knott tells me. "I'm doing the students slipping over on fluids. That is what I'm currently working on."
Two Point Studio is filled with veteran British development talent from Bullfrog and Lionhead so, as you'd expect, humour will again play a key role. Expect terrible puns - the "Knight School" level being a good example - and oversized Willy Wonka-esque machinery in classrooms where you'll watch culinary students crank out oversized pizzas and cow pies. Influences include Animal House, Pitch Perfect, Grease and Harry Potter. The game will also slot neatly into the Two Point County world begun in Two Point Hospital, with recurring characters and running jokes for those keeping up.
Two Point Campus won't launch until 2022 for PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation and Xbox consoles, but fans can expect to more of it a lot sooner. Carr and Knott say fans of the studio will be part of the game's development via Games2Gether, the platform built by fellow British Sega studio Amplitude, to show off more of the game, gather feedback, and get schooled themselves.