In the spring of 1999, Poptop had just wrapped up development on the successful Railroad Tycoon II (RT2) and its expansion, The Second Century. At the time, Poptop was staffed by the overwhelming count of four artists and two programmers. Being that small, we had had no time to think about anything other than the current project, and suddenly we found ourselves sitting around a table, eyes still slightly glazed from the inevitable project-end rush we had just gone through, looking for new ideas.
These were uncharted waters for Poptop. RT2 had been based very closely on Sid Meier's classic Railroad Tycoon. The original Railroad Tycoon had been an inspiration, a design manual, a blueprint for making a good game, and a launching point for new ideas. The upside was that a good part of the design work had been done for us. The downside, as we were to find out on our next project, was that it left us a bit naïve about the effort it would take to create a new game from an original idea.
As we sat around our company card table, brainstorming ideas, one idea quickly jumped to the forefront. The idea of taking a building game and putting a political game on top of it had captured everyone's imagination. With our creative energies renewed by a fresh idea and the thrill of starting a new project in our hearts, we rushed off to create Tropico — each of us in our own way.
Actually, it wasn't that bad. We did discuss major elements of the game. We knew that it would have buildings and people that the player would not control directly. We knew it would use the RT2 engine but would be more ambitious than RT2 had been. As we rushed off to begin development, that was about all we knew — and, as we were to discover later, each person on the team didn't even share the same vision about the things we thought we did know.
During the project, Poptop grew to the bloated size of 10 employees — seven artists and three programmers. It is a testament to the talent and hard work of this team that we ended up with a strong, fun product in spite of the pitfalls that we encountered along the way.