Disclaimer: Greenheart Games provided Dragonblogger.com with a copy of Game Dev Tycoon for evaluation purposes. Opinions expressed in this review are 100% my own.
Growing up as a kid, I always dreamed about what it would be like to craft the games that I loved to play so much. Greenheart Games seeks to fulfill dreams like mine with their game creation simulator simply billed as Game Dev Tycoon. Unlike other simulators which pack on level editors or some basic animation scripts, Game Dev Tycoon instead puts the focus on the arduous process of setting deadlines, managing cash flow, drumming up market hype, and maintaining a top of the line game engine. While all of the categories I listed sound like the dry side of the creation process — this could not be further from the case. I poured in an unholy amount of hours into playing the game and am left hungering to continue fine-tuning the formulas I have discovered that produce the perfect game.
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What immediately struck a chord with me about Game Dev Tycoon was the fact that you start out as a humble basement coder. It is in this beginning stage that you are taught how the development interface works and the importance of allotting the appropriate amount of time for each category/element for your game title. Two challenges kept smacking me on the forehead during these early years. The first was the fact that finding the magic formulas that would result in critically acclaimed titles were quite daunting. The game’s guide does not provide adequate enough information to base your decisions on and you may have Game Hero brand you with the dreaded “Meh” rating title after title. Money also seems to go through a vacuum during the initial stages and many players may find their early playthroughs cut short thanks to the leech lenders at the bank. Once you get past these trying times, the game starts to become slightly more intuitive and less punishing.
Progression is the Dangling Carrot
Progression in Game Dev Tycoon is truly what will drive you to keep playing and tough out some of the less forgiving elements. It is immensely satisfying to see how your choices lead to your studio becoming a force to be reckoned with. The more research points you earn, the more opportunities you have to invest in cutting edge technologies. Benjamins are what will allow you to upgrade your studio though and with some careful planning you will be rolling in them. Money oriented games do not always rub me the right way but considering the subject matter, money is the perfect measure of how you are surviving as an up-and-coming game studio.
Studio Upgrades Lead to Even More Fun
Beefing up your studio in Game Dev Tycoon is a rewarding process in many ways. Besides the research benefits like a Hardware Development wing, which allows you to create a custom console, the whole feel of what you are doing takes on a new scope and becomes even more special. For example, when you move into the middle range studio you get to employ team members. You will start to notice little notes dotted along the white boards and an area for the team to brainstorm on bean bag chairs. The biggest studio comes with the aforementioned wing and sports some of the best touches of the game. When I see a figurine like the Journey avatar prominently displayed on the top mantel, the game makers have done something right.
Impact on the Industry
Game Dev Tycoon comes packed with its own lore which is quite interesting to follow. As your studio grows, you will receive news items reporting on how you are impacting the industry. These news pieces also report on the progress of the console and hardware giants you share relationships with and can be rather funny to read. I get the biggest kick out of connecting the very subtly parodied names to the actual real life counterparts. The only negative I noticed regarding these items were the typos scattered among some of the announcements.
Game Dev Tycoon isn’t All Fun and Games
There are a few problems that are holding back the great potential of this game. One thing that I am a bit baffled by is why your competitors serve such a minor role. The most you will hear from them are grumbles regarding your game sales or offers to sabotage them through a shady entity called Agent Blowfish. To improve the accuracy of the simulator, I truly believe your competition should affect your studio’s progress more substantially. Problem number two became apparent to me later in the game. For some reason the game is quite fond of assaulting your screen with “design” and “tech” bubbles and the sound effect can get old rather quickly when you start to crank out AAA titles. However, the biggest issue of the game was the never-ending trial and error process. While it is not at all wrong to present steep challenges during game development, Game Dev Tycoon becomes a bit too punishing and does not always have reliable ways of indicating to you that you need to bulk up your game engine.
Game Dev Tycoon is so charmingly executed that it is incredibly easy to look past the simple graphics, the basic interfaces, and the caffeine fueled androids that are your employees. Without question, it is a game made by gamers for gamers. I am going to let one of the game’s critics do the hard work for me and give it the following rating: