Game Dev Tycoon

Game Dev Tycoon is a very creative idea, one that will grab and hold the attention of anyone who’s interested in experiencing the industry from a developer’s perspective.

By PostMesmrc, Posted 07 Nov 2013

Feather Bat Studios, an up-and-coming development studio managed out of an ambitious college grad’s garage, was struggling. After two or three below-average to average game releases, the fans were evacuating and the funds were running dry. In one final motion to bring the company away from collapse, the development house released The Camera Eye, a strategy game for PC focusing on government control and surveillance. The game was a shockingly massive success, earning multiple perfect scores from gaming publications, selling over 100,000 copies in its first week and bringing Feather Bat Studios back into the fold financially. Though the company never made another hit as big as The Camera Eye, the company was able to move throughout the generations and continue working in the industry.

This was my first experience in Game Dev Tycoon, Greenheart Games’ game industry business simulation. It was also the first time I truly felt the pressure and reward of running a game development business.

Game Dev Tycoon, Game Review, Indie Games, Game Development

Game Dev Tycoon is a simulation game when you play as a fresh industry upstart, aiming to expand your craft into a full-blown game development studio. You start off small in your garage, but by developing games strategically, you can move up the ranks and become a juggernaut in the field.

There are two main resources used in Game Dev Tycoon: money and research points. The money is just as you would expect: the currency used to invest in the game’s development. Money can be earned directly through game sales, but can also be earned through contract work, smaller side-jobs that can earn cash in a pinch. Research points, on the other hand, are a different currency. They’re earned through game development, designing new game engines, writing game reports and pretty much anything involved in the actual production of the game. Research can be spent on new research projects, which can range from creating a new game topic to more concrete features to games like improved graphics, open world design or AI companions.

While you don’t technically “develop” the games, you will decide how these two resources for each game will be distributed throughout the project. After deciding the game’s genre, topic, platform and developed engine, you can use your money to invest in specific aspects of the game itself. Using a sliding scale, you can invest more money toward level design, storylines, technical engine fidelity, among many other factors. You can also put more funds toward additional features, depending on the game’s engine you can create.

When your game is done and released, it’s at the mercy of the public, more specifically (and in my case, ironically) the reviewers. Gaming publications distribute scores for your game, which do have a significant effect on how well the game will be received to the consumers. A game with multiple perfect scores will not only sell well, but will gather fans who will stick by future products.

Game Dev Tycoon, Game Review, Indie Games, Game Development

However, the reviewer system highlights one of the most significant issues with Game Dev Tycoon: pattern feedback. If you are creating a game, you might at one point think you have the perfect game formula. It’s a cohesive mesh of genre and topic, the console of choice is one with a solid following for the combination and each individual aspect of the engine and development are just right. However, you’ll see those scores roll in, barely cracking a 5.5 average. What exactly are you doing wrong? Why didn’t your idea take off and leave you rolling in cash? Well, the game never really explains that. You can research game reports to see what aspects of your game were received well, but the game reports can only do so much (sometimes only the positives are highlighted with no negative criticism to go on). This lack of concrete feedback is what makes the game less of a strategic challenge and more into a guessing game. With so many variables involved in making a game, the feedback is so neglected that there’s no room for growth and no learning experience to make you into a leaner, meaner studio. Also, there aren’t many moments for exceptions to the rules. A game might try something new (mixing two otherwise incompatible genres) and become a success in our real world industry, while Game Dev Tycoon will instantly dub it as “mismatched.” In an industry based around creativity, this establishment of empirical guidelines doesn’t offer room to break outside that template, making Game Dev Tycoon much, much less realistic in comparison.

Also, Game Dev Tycoon isn’t a game for someone who isn’t already educated in the video game world. If you can’t tell the difference between an RPG and a simulation game, Game Dev Tycoon will not accommodate that and you’ll find yourself bankrupt before you even move out of your garage. However, if you are a follower of the gaming world, Game Dev Tycoon will not only be an easier game to get, but also an easier game to like. The nods to the game industry of past and present are appreciated. Wordplay on classic gaming systems and companies are charming inclusions, lightening the mood of the business circuit. Also, real-world examples are usually what influence successes and failures in game. For example, a fantasy RPG is a fine match and when put on a console with the kind of love for the combination (like, say, a Playstation 2), you could find success. Game Dev Tycoon is not a game for newbies to the business management world and while its demand for knowledge of its topic is steep, those who are already familiar with the buzzwords and phrases of industry will find its charm and legitimacy to stick around for the long haul.

Game Dev Tycoon, Game Review, Indie Games, Game Development

The art design of Game Dev Tycoon is reminiscent of flash and browser games, but the interface itself is clean and intuitive. You can bring up one of two menus in-game: by clicking a staff member, you can assign them duties to research or organize a training regiment for them. By clicking anywhere else, you can begin development on a game, contact a publisher or begin a contract job. It’s easy to navigate and never feels cluttered or confusing. With that clean interface, the game’s aesthetic is allowed to shine, offering clever cues toward gaming in general and the atmosphere of a post-college startup. For a management sim, Game Dev Tycoon doesn’t use flair to make itself appealing. Instead, it’s all about functionality, and that works to the game’s advantage.

Game Dev Tycoon is a very creative idea, one that will grab and hold the attention of anyone who’s interested in experiencing the industry from a developer’s perspective. That sense of ambition in making the next must-have title is only surpassed by the sense of reward felt when a game is met with stellar reviews and a massively positive reception from gamers. It also recreates the frantic and urgent vibe any smaller development house experiences during the turbulent times of gaming evolution. These moments make the incongruent feedback system and avalanche of variables in the games’ creation all the more dizzying. Game Dev Tycoon’s issue of withholding these learning experiences is its Achilles’ heel, which makes the uncertainty of success a glaring problem. The lack of flexibility on the creative side doesn’t reenact the real-world industry either, another chronic issue. But even during times of financial crisis and brain-busting frustration, Game Dev Tycoon offers a special and remarkably intuitive look into the world of game development economics. Its flaws can’t be overlooked, but like a wise game developer once said, “the obvious objective of video games is to entertain people by surprising them with new experiences,” and Game Dev Tycoon is a definitely an entertaining surprise.

Alex Carlson, NoobFeed (@Twitter)

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Greenheart Games
Developer(s): Greenheart Games
Genres: Simulation
Themes: Business Simulation
Release Date: 2013-08-29

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