Tropico on iPad will live or die by its interface design

By Joe Robinson 12 Jul 2018 0

You may remember back in mid-June that Feral Interactive are not only still working on their Rome: Total War iPhone version, but have also partnered with Kalypso Media to bring us the wonderful Tropico to iPad.

Tropico is a series of PC strategy games that put in charge of an island in the Caribbean as ‘El Presidente’ – a dictator. It’s a humorous and very charming take on the city management genre, where you must exploit your island’s natural resources as much as possible and play foreign powers against each other. You can use your profits to either improve the welfare of your citizens, or the welfare of your swiss bank account – but beware, rebels could strike at any moment.

As with a lot of management-style games, it’s how you model the interface which will be key to a game’s success on tablets. Feral have recently shared an insight into how they’ve adapted their UI for the game.


Named the ‘Dictator’s Desk’, Feral have created a bar of quick-access items that run along the bottom of the screen. In order, these are:

  • Intel – where notifications will be stored that demand your attention. Pretty standard.
  • Avatar – El Presidente exists in the game world, and you can send him places to get short-term boosts and benefits. We imagine this will be a quick-use button to deploy yourself to the map.
  • Edicts – A core part of Tropico is the ability to change and mould various aspects of your Government and general way of life through Edicts. Some of these will only help yourself, some will help your citizens but will come with a one-off or regular cost. Deciding what kind of nation you want to be and choosing the right Edicts is a key gameplay loop, and quite rewarding.
  • Overlays – Like any city-building game, being able to look at different types of information is important in knowing where to build. Knowing where the best resource deposits are, or which ground is the most fertile will help you with the placement of your economic buildings. This area will probably have several different filters you can use to help with these decisions.
  • Construction – Pretty much what is says on the tin. Not all buildings will be available to build – some will be gated behind Edicts, or milestones, or even minimum relationships with foreign powers. Whatever is available to build though will be found here.
  • Almanac – Tropico was great in the sense that it provided a lot of granular information on induvial citizens. Their name, relationship, political leanings, education level… it all feeds into the mechanics elsewhere, so keeping tabs on your populace is important. Other stats like your diplomatic relationships and the book-keeping will also be found here.

The only thing we imagine a decent UI can’t solve is the finnicky-ness of building and placement itself. Being a tropical island, the terrain doesn’t always lend itself to block or grid based building (apart from maybe residential areas) – being able to finely manipulate and place buildings to optimise resource output etc… was a key part of the game, so it’ll be interesting to see how Feral handle this particular challenge.

At the moment, there’s no concrete release date, but Tropico for iPad should be out by the end of the year.



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