As gamers, we generally don’t see the inner workings of how a video game is made, sans short documentaries or developer blogs. When we see a high score for a game, we don’t feel the triumph a studio may feel, or when a game bombs, we don’t witness the disappointment and frustration. Game Dev Tycoon, from developer Greenheart Games, looks to get you more in depth with the creation of games by putting you in the role of an up-and-coming game developer.
Game Dev Tycoon is essentially a business simulator with a video game coat of paint. You’ll spend much of your time developing games, but aside from choosing the type of game and what areas to focus on, that actual development is created from your basic choices; most of the game’s actual gameplay is focused primarily on employee, time, and money management.
When developing a game, there are four areas of expertise an employee can focus on: design, technology, speed, and research. While speed can obviously be attributed to how fast your employees complete tasks and research, design and technology are what make the game actually function. Based on your employees’ skills in each area, that determines how well your game turns out. If the team you have is focused in a particular area, that team may be stronger in some game types over others. A team filled with technology experts can roll out an excellent simulation game, but give that team an assignment for an adventure game that focuses on design, and that team becomes obsolete. So the best strategy for building a team is to fill your studio with a mixture of both design and technology experts. This challenge makes hiring your team critical, and neglecting a skill could cost your studio everything.
While developing games starts out fairly simple between two computer platforms, it quickly evolves from a parody of our real life console and platform releases. Choosing between PC and the Ninvento Entertainment System (yes, you read that right) is fairly safe since both have about the same marketshare. When more platforms release, it becomes all too important to know what sells on said platforms. This is where research is key. It is imperative that your team has the development side of things down, but they must also research and discover new innovations, state-of-the-art tech, and exactly what works on each platform. This is where each team member’s research ability comes in. Through earning research points from freelance contract work, studying old games you’ve released, and making games themselves, you can spend those points on new topics for your games, or research new technologies to put into game engines.
Game Dev Tycoon‘s development gameplay suffers from its inability to fully explain just how a game is received. Small summaries from game outlet reviews can give some insight, such as the studio developing too many titles with the same genre and setting, but beyond that, your success and failure is almost always a mystery. The lack of an in-depth tutorial or menu to help explain certain situations leaves some gameplay penalties up in the air, and certain segments of the game feel overwhelming at times. Situations arise where a game with a lower amount of design and technology points score high, while a game with record-breaking points in each pool scores incredibly low with little to no reason why. This gives an overall feeling of the game beating you, not you losing for your mistakes.
Visually pleasing at first, Game Dev Tycoon cosmetically starts to become fairly dull after multiple hours of play. The game offers three different office buildings: your garage, a mid-tier office, and then a corporate office, but when spending hours upon hours staring at the same office, it becomes stale to look at. New console images entertain from time to time, but the presentation is fairly lacking. Apart from adding research and development among other production additions to your final office, there isn’t much that you can do to change your surroundings. More customization to offices would have been a nice way to further personalize your own game development company.
Game Dev Tycoon is admittedly addicting, and it’s easy to log multiple hours in one sitting. The perspective of being a game developer is fascinating, to say the least, and letting you experience both success and failure through a medium like a game itself is an achievement. That being said, the game’s inability to fully explain how some grading systems work is irritating, and penalties for scores seem inconsistent. While these frustrating aspects harm the game’s overall experience, its refreshing humor and leveling make this game within a game very entertaining.
This review is based on a review copy of the PC version of Game Dev Tycoon by Greenheart Games, distributed by Valve Corporation (Steam).
- Enriching Perspective
- Addictive Levelling
- Incoherent Grade System
- Repetitive Visuals