Game Dev Tycoon Review: The Art of the Deal
Et Gamera Studios was in trouble. A number of recent sequels of previously popular IPs were struggling both with critics and on the shelves. Going from older platforms to new ones or from PC to console with their series just wasn’t working for them or their pocketbooks. Having gotten a high-interest loan and laid-off a third of their staff to keep the developer solvent, they went back to the well for another sequel to the franchise that had saved them twice before…
By now, you’ve probably heard of Game Dev Tycoon. Developer Greenheart Games made waves by releasing a “pirated” copy of the game that caused pirates’ businesses to fail due to piracy. Between the coverage from major gaming sites and personalities, their website was overloaded for most of Monday as a result. Their unorthodox strategy for dealing with pirates made their game a hit. But how is the game?
In Game Dev Tycoon, you start out as a one-man game developer whose office is in his garage. The game simulates the next 30 years of your career as you try to become a massive development studio or, as it often seemed to be in my playthroughs, just staying afloat by pumping out a couple of epic hits in between mid-level crap.
The game starts in the 1980s as you develop for the Commodore 64 and the PC and carries through the next thirty years as you have to keep upgrading your skills and game engines to make games that people will by as technology and tastes change. You would think it would be easy for me as a game writer with a business degree but it’s not a simple as plugging some pieces into and engine and picking the right type of game.
This game is about putting together a strong basis with an engine, building a staff that can make well-programmed and well-designed games and managing your money so you don’t lose it all on a move into a new genre or platform where you can’t meet the expectations of gamers and the press.
To develop a game, you pick a genre (military, sci-fi, fantasy, etc.), a game type (action, RPG, strategy) and a platform. From there, you pick the graphics style (text, 2D or 3D), sound quality and other features to add to you game through your custom-built game engine which can include enhanced AI, game saves, dialogue trees, controller compatibility and more.
The real heart of the game is simulating the development of the game. Points are put into the design and technology of the game based on where you’ve put your focus. There are three stages of development that allow you to focus your time on either design or technological areas. Getting points up in each tend to make for critically acclaimed games but that’s never a certainty as those choices noted above will also have an impact.
Between developing games (or sequels as the game progresses), you can hire staff, research new abilities for your game engine or new genres, training staff to improve their programming ability or taking short contract work for some quick cash (which uses the same design & tech points system as game development but you have to hit certain targets within a specific time period).
It does feel as though there’s an element of randomness involved in your success though. Whether it’s the review scores, sales or “hype” for a game, it doesn’t feel as though there’s a discernible pattern to guaranteeing success. Granted, I suppose that there are many developers and publishers who feel the same way in real life.
If you’re looking for a game to push the boundaries of what your GTX Titan can handle, you’re not going to find it here. The graphics are slightly cartoonish and everyone is fairly static apart from some typing and thinking animations. The music is okay but blends into the background. Maybe it’s best to summarize it as the presentation isn’t genre defining but is serviceable so you can play the game without any major hiccups.
That’s not to say I haven’t run into the occasional bug. When you develop your first game when starting a new company after going bankrupt, I’ve had it go straight to release rather than allowing me to fix the bugs first. Selecting items on the in-game menus is a little difficult. You don’t actually get the whole box to click but a portion.
… Down on their luck, it was a return to the Game Boy for Final Castle III, a medieval RPG. Et Gamera had a pretty big hit with Final Castle II but sequels to past hits Racing Legends and Space Quest were critical flops and just barely broke even. Rather than change platforms, Final Castle III remained on Game Boy like Final Castle II. The result was a game that was Et Gamera’s biggest selling and highest rated game with an average score of 9.75/10. The company was saved. For now…
Game Dev Tycoon was a surprisingly fun game. I’ve never been a fan of the various tycoon-type games but I think the subject matter appealed to me. If you’re interested in the business of the games industry or think you can do better than some of the companies out there (EA, Gearbox, BioWare, etc.), you’ll definitely have some fun with this game.
Game Dev Tycoon was reviewed for Windows PC but is also available for Mac and Linux. Your impression of the game may change based on the operating system played on and your PC’s specs.