Before you blow off Smooth Operators (80 MSP), convinced that living and breathing the call center lifestyle is not for you, ask yourself how many cities you built and ran into the ground, how many sims you deliberately walled off from the outside world while watching them squirm, or how many worlds you’ve minecrafted into a blocky paradise; your answer is probably ‘quite a few’. That need to create something on your own is fully represented and open to you in Smooth Operators, even if its choice of careers doesn’t immediately breed excitement.
There are similar games available elsewhere that do roughly the same thing, but the (somewhat) brief rundown is as follows; Build and manage a call center, accept contracts, expand. Do well, and you’ll complete challenges, gain unlocks and cash bonuses. Fail to meet the quotas set by your clients or keep your workforce happy, and expect to pay a penalty at the end of each day. And yes, you sick bastard, you can try to torture your peons into submission by cutting their salaries or forcing them into offices they don’t belong. Demolish the restrooms if you so wish. Wanton mismanagement is entirely legal, and occasionally fun (I had nine resignations in one day).
So needless to say, the early days of my first call center didn’t go well. Partially I was to blame (I tried to go too big too fast), as the game really only allows baby steps. I quickly realized this was for my protection. The limited cash and capacity to build (and thus expand my workforce) meant I was constantly struggling to meet the quotas, incurring fines and slowly bleeding my cash reserves as I tried to tear down and rebuild to better fit the client’s needs. Smooth Operators‘ tutorial gets the basic gist of the game across, and the in-game descriptions of each object and person help, but I was still sometimes lost on how to get a rolling start or to unlock more upgrade and building abilities.
Words on a screen can only do so much though. There’s never any experience like first-hand experience. My dad loves that line, and if ever a saying applied to a game, it’s here. So I cut my losses and hit restart. Version two of my call center did much better, striking a better employee balance and a focus on steady efficiency (starting and thinking small). And lo and behold, as the client’s workload increased, I was able to handle it, building a nice reserve and a happy workforce. Soon I was running a labyrinth of offices and a hundred different managers, janitors, IT guys (their repair work is hilarious) and call specialists.
Once your company is consistently in the black, and the day to day operations and issues become less immediate and more about careful growth, the game hits its stride, giving you access to building upgrades (each office can be spruced up to increase productivity) and the option to educate your workers, which is win-win for everybody’s bottom line. The visual leap of transforming from a small, fledgling brick house into a fancy, bells & whistles mega-corporation is awesome and worth the blood and sweat to get there.
But by the higher day counts, 55 or so, you reach a level of self-sufficiency (yeah, fine, sooner for you experts out there :p), and this is the point where sims like Smooth Operators tend to drag. You hit a comfortable plateau, a boatload of money, where your job as ‘omnipresent overseer mother’ isn’t as needed, and like a chick leaving the nest for the first time, you’re both filled with pride to see your creation fly on its own, and saddened that this means you’re past the more exciting times of the game. I found myself leaving it to run on its own, stopping only to see the daily report or do a few mundane changes. You can still grow further and accept more clients, but it just adds to your money pile.
Smooth Operators is nonetheless an addicting (it’s digital crack) sim game with incredible depth. It stumbles slightly in its initially-overwhelming list of to-dos and fix-mes, hits an excellent middle ground and pace, then just plays itself after awhile. This is after you notice you’ve sunk hours into it, and will continue to do so gladly, turning your paltry 80 MSP investment into a fun and healthy return.