During ESGS 2017, I roamed the Indie Arena section of the event and found developers from Squeaky Wheel demonstrating their strategy simulator Academia: School Simulator. Spoiler: It's pretty much Prison Architect with lesser features.
That's not a bad thing by any means since this game is still in development. It's hard to dismiss the game's similarity but when it comes to the art it makes sense since the artist that worked on Prison Architect is currently working on Academia. This is the second strategy game for the young studio and is different than their first game Political Animals.
As I sat down to give the game a try, I was guided by the Lead Programmer of the game as I work on my first school in Academia. As I build my cafeteria, classrooms, pretty much the bare essentials to have a working school, I saw students and staff naturally doing what they are meant to do while I fix design issues that hamper the flow of my school's day-to-day activities. I think at one point I had no walls for one classroom and people were fine with it. Then there was trash everywhere. I'm horrible.
But I was having fun with it. I see the potential. In its current build, they have a working foundation for a simulator that could find just as much success as Prison Architect. I was earning money thanks to the tuition fees and I was planning out how to expand as more students come in and graduate. I hired staff with teachers having different stats, specific rooms like the computer lab that allows students to improve a certain stat. This game could be one of those titles that pull you in and never let's go. There's a lot of possibilities with it being a school simulator - Varsity, extra-curricular activities, issues like bullying within the school, scholarships, there's a lot that the developers can play around with. Right now, none of what I mentioned exist in the current build of the game but Squeaky Wheels are planning to have more features as the game moves forward in development.
I also didn't see random elements to throw players off their game at the moment. I'm not expecting a hurricane to strike your school like in a city simulator, but having something troublesome will go a long way in terms of the game's replayability. So, there's a lot missing to complete the overall experience and it feels like they have a long way to go before they leave Early Access. But Academia: School Simulator is worth keeping tabs on and based on player feedback on Steam, feel the same way.
Academia: School Simulator is currently available on Steam's Early Access and is priced at P499.