hospital ward

Theme Hospital

Theme Hospital is a simulation computer game developed by Bullfrog Productions and published by Electronic Arts in 1997, in which the player designs and operates a hospital. Like most of Bullfrog's games, Theme Hospital is permeated by an eccentric sense of humor. The game is the thematic successor to Theme Park, a game also produced by Bullfrog.

General information

The game is set in a hospital, and requires the player to build an environment which will attract patients with comical complaints, illnesses, emergencies, and diseases. The game has a somewhat dark sense of humor, which is similar to that of Theme Park in many ways. The player has no direct control over the patients that wander the hospital, although gameplay largely centers on influencing their actions in one way or another. The player does, however, have the ability to pick up any staff member in the building and move them to a different area (to speed up their movement from place to place) and to expel any patients from the hospital (if they are being a nuisance, causing rowdiness or about to die and affect the hospital's statistics). The player may also force the patient into taking a chance of possible cure at the risk of killing the patient (this is useful, for example, if a patient is about to die but has already completed enough diagnostics requirements to identify the kind of disease the patient is suffering from) and rearrange the queue of each of the rooms in the hospital (useful for moving dying patients to the front of the queue so they can receive treatment first).

Each level consists of an empty hospital to plan and design, with set goals in the fields of financial attainment, patients cured, percent of patients cured, and hospital value. Holding negative funds or allowing sufficient patients to die will bring about losing requirements. When the goals have been met the player has the option to move on to a new, more elaborate hospital with tougher winning conditions and more diseases present. The final level in the game, 'Battenburg' consists of an enormous, yet somewhat awkward, hospital with all the diseases and rooms in the game present, all disasters frequent and very high winning requirements.


The game revolves around buying and placing rooms (or facilities) in a hospital, and hiring doctors, nurses, handymen and receptionists to operate it. Some rooms are fundamentally required for the running of the hospital, such as GP's offices, Staff Rooms, and Toilets, while others provide optional services (such as General Diagnosis rooms, Scanner Rooms and X-Rays). Some rooms are dedicated to the treatment of a specific illness, and a number of rooms contain machinery that has to be repaired occasionally. Rooms are divided into 4 categories: Diagnosis, Treatment, Clinics and Facilities. Some rooms, notably the Ward and Psychiatry, may overlap and appear on two categories.

Patients are attracted to the hospital, in part, by the reputation of the hospital and the cost of treatment there. They arrive with a number of amusing fictional illnesses which must be diagnosed and cured to earn money and achieve targets set by the game. Rooms and equipment to treat fictional and comical diseases such as Bloaty Head, Slack Tongue, Fractured Bones, Serious Radiation, Hairyitis and Baldness must be researched before they can be placed in the hospital, while other conditions like Heaped Piles, Uncommon Cold and The Squits require research before a cure can be provided using the pharmacy. Advanced levels in the game feature epidemics where the player must either pay a fine and take a reputation hit or try to stop a disease infecting other patients by curing infected patients and vaccinating others within a certain time limit and without discovery by the ministry of health (catching the attention of the ministry by the means of an infected patient leaving the hospital or the time limit running out brings upon a usually more severe fine and harder reputation hit (although this is glitched in some versions of the game and sometimes fine the players less if they try to cover up the epidemic), while successfully suppressing the outbreak and before news reaches the ministry will bring upon bonuses). Medical emergencies also take place, where several patients suffering from the same disease must be cured within a specified time limit, and earthquakes occur which damage equipment. Equipment may also break down on prolonged use and negligence.

At the end of each year, the player can be presented with several awards based on their performance and management of their hospital. These awards also provides bonuses like additional cash or increased reputation. If the player does badly, however, he/she can lose the game, with the game ending with a creepy albeit humorous CGI Full motion video.


The success of any hospital lies in hiring well-trained staff. Staff are separated into four categories of expertise: Doctor, Nurse, Handyman, and Receptionist. Stereotypically, all Doctors and Handymen are male, while all Nurses and Receptionists are female.

Doctors usually demand higher wages than the other three occupations, and also serve a much larger role; they can diagnose and heal most illnesses, they can research new illnesses and equipment and they can train other doctors. Doctors can specialize in psychiatry, surgery or research (or any combination of the three) and they pass their specialization(s) to the doctors they train. However, doctors also have ranks, and only consultant-ranked doctors can train other doctors. Nurses run the Pharmacy, the room for Orthopedic casts and the hospital ward, as well as being responsible for vaccinations during an epidemic. Handymen clean the hospital, repair machinery and water the plants.

All staff with the exception of the receptionists, are affected by both tiredness and warmth, which must be cared for if the staff are to remain content. Use of staff rooms allows staff to be rested, which can be furnished with a number of relaxing and entertaining devices. Placing a suitable number of radiators in rooms allows staff to be kept warm. Having the staff overworked often results in the staff demanding a raise and threatening to quit, but in some cases the staff may go crazy instead, although this has no known ill effect in the game.


Micromanagement is heavily present in Theme Hospital, and it can influence both the hospital's efficiency and its reputation. The player must arrange and furnish the rooms to minimize the time required for the doctors to perform their tasks and satisfy the needs of their patients. These needs include a comfortable temperature (neither too hot nor too cold), a clean environment, benches to sit on, and access to drinks and toilets. Furthermore, the player can manually pick up members of the staff and drop them where their intervention is needed (e.g. place a doctor in a room left unattended to visit a patient, or a caretaker over a vomit pool to clear it up), as happens in Dungeon Keeper. With no player intervention tasks are completed much more slowly, since in many levels the staff members have to travel from one end of the hospital to another. The player can also advance a patient in a queue for a room or dismiss them, in order to avoid a death in their hospital, which negatively affects the hospital's reputation and reduces the number of end-of-year awards.

Economic management is also important: the player can change the price for the treatment in all the rooms, balancing a low reputation with cheap prices to gain visitors or quickly raising money while maintaining a consistent number of visits due to high reputation. A common tactic is also to place benches and radiators next to one another, in order to make the patients feel too hot and buy expensive drinks from the vending machines.

Networked game

The last official patch from EA for the game (Beta 5 patch) enables a network game option for the PC version of the game. The game supports 3 different networking methods: Serial Cable, Modem, and IPX/SPX network gaming. In theory the first two options allow for two players to compete in building the best hospital while competing against two computer-controlled hospitals, while the IPX/SPX network gaming allows up to four players to compete against each other on a network for the best hospital.

Other Versions

OpenSource Clone

Various attempts have been made to develop an OpenSource game engine based on the original Theme Hospital data files. Reverse engineering projects exist, such as Alexander Gitter's format specification Wiki, although no complete clone of the game engine has been released.

On the 2nd September 2008 a new OpenSource project OpenTH began a fresh attempt at cloning the game based on existing Theme Hospital format specifications .

PlayStation (PS1) port

There is a PlayStation port of Theme Hospital, developed by the team who also ported Bullfrog's Magic Carpet. The port is very faithful to the original, but runs at a lower resolution, lacks background music, and has minor presentation tweaks, including a game-play based introduction video.

The PlayStation version was released as a download on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable in the EU on 31st January 2008.

Windows Port

The Windows port of Theme Hospital was actually a Win32 version of the dos version, but all display, mouse, keyboard and sound output and input was performed using DirectX. Because of this, it still had a Low Resolution mode, despite the fact that it could only simulate it. Also, some dos applications were still installed with it (including MIDIFORM.EXE for converting midi files, and the companion batch file).

References to other works

The opposing hospitals in the game are almost all names of well-known computers from fiction and real-life:

Also, the doctor is seen playing Dungeon Keeper in the intro video, and several Dungeon Keeper characters appear in the hospital waiting room. Later on in the intro video, a Populous III demo option was briefly visible as one of the selections on the Electrocardiogram machine.

Lastly, the drinks machine for the UK version of the game features the Kit Kat logo. Whether Nestle had sponsored the game (like Midlands Bank did with the DOS and Amiga version of Theme Park) or it was added without consent remains to be known.


See also

External links

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