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Postmortem: Stardock's The Political Machine
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Postmortem: Stardock's The Political Machine

October 11, 2004 Article Start Page 1 of 3 Next

The Political Machine is a PC strategy game in which players take on the role of campaign manager of a Presidential candidate. Players can either manage real-world candidates (Bush, Clinton, Kerry), historical candidates (Reagan, FDR, Lincoln, Jefferson), or create entirely new candidates from scratch. Players then compete for the 270 electoral votes needed to win the Presidency. Candidates can take out ads, make speeches, raise funds, win endorsements, hire operatives, and even go on cable TV shows such as "The O'Malley Factor", "Hard Hitter", and so forth. Even if you're not into politics, we tried to build in strategy game mechanics that everyone would find solid, and we're happy with the final game that has resulted.

Cable TV shows such as "The O'Malley Factor" allow you to express your stance on hot button issues and pander to the public in The Political Machine.

That said, the game was a huge departure for Stardock. Most of all, it was the riskiest project we've ever undertaken. In order to have the game available at retail at the exact right time (so that the first 90 days after release were during the peak interest in U.S. presidential politics: second week of August to second week of November), we would have to finish the game by June. No "it's done when it's done"-type philosophy would work here. It was all or nothing. Miss the ship date and you have a very expensive coaster.

As if time constraints on finishing the game weren't enough, there was the fact that the game had to be rock solid out of the box. So even if we wanted to take the "we'll fix the game with a patch post-release" route, we couldn't, because by the time the patch came out, the election would nearly be here. In effect, we had an AAA console-type quality requirement on a PC shareware-type schedule.

But to top all that off, there is the fact that no one has ever tried to make a political strategy game aimed at the mainstream (there are election "simulator" games out there for the hardcore, but there's nothing that's designed to be on the shelves at Wal-Mart). Would people want a game like this? Could we make a game like this "fun"? Could we make a game like this even remotely accurate?


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