Replay Value in One-Building Games

I enjoy one-building games, that is, games in which you are building one building, like Project Highrise (the best entry in the SimTower genre I’ve yet found) or Spellcaster University, or a campus of buildings that could be one building, but don’t have to be, like Prison Architect or the alarmingly similar Academia: School Simulator.

One thing that turns up a lot with these, however, is their lack of replay value. Once you’ve played one stage of them, you’ve played them all. Why is that? City-builder games seem to get replay value out of things like different lot restrictions (i.e. smaller lots, lots with rivers in them, that sort of thing) and resource restrictions (i.e. no water on this map so no hydroelectricity, weird zoning regulations require you to have no residential lots in this city at all, and so on). How come one-building games can’t seem to do the same? Are they just not trying hard enough? Are there versions of the scenarios in Project Highrise and Prison Architect that could do better, and just aren’t? Or is there something about the one-building concept (maybe the inevitably narrow focus of making a single building, even one with as broad a purpose as “a skyscraper”) that narrows variety to the point where you can’t make good scenarios out of removing options, because removing any significant number of options cuts the game to ribbons?

I definitely feel like there’s a better version of Spellcaster University to be had, just by changing up its victory goals, mainly. I think Spellcaster University has a problem in that you have three objectives to complete, all of which will likely take at least 75% of a stage’s runtime to finish, and none of which are directly related to the game’s basic premise of fending off the invasion of a dark lord. In fact, you continuously lose against the dark lord. You can delay, but never thwart, the invasion. Instead of choosing either to get twenty students who graduate into a mediocre job or three who graduate into a rare and prestigious job, what if you first had an objective to do one, and then the other? What if the assumption was not that the dark lord would inevitably destroy your academy, but rather that preventing the dark lord from doing so is a resource you have to manage but which can be kept at bay indefinitely, with the goal being to achieve all of your objectives before that happens? I think this would make Spellcaster University better, but I don’t know that it would make it any better than Project Highrise.

There’s not really a conclusion to be had because I have no firm idea on how to solve this problem. It’s just a thing I noticed.

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