Take a walk through the history of videogames and try to make your mark.
Tycoon games have been a staple for PC gamers from the very beginning of the hobby, and now Greeheart Games have added to that much loved genre by offering gamers the chance to start their own business developing video games. A video game about developing video games – there’s an idea!
Well, it would be a great idea had it not already been done in the mobile Game Dev Story. As it stands now, Greenheart Games have lost the chance at any uniqueness and will forever be compared to the other, hugely popular game. However, Game Dev Tycoon does have a few aces up its sleeves. To begin with, it is a PC game that is available on Steam, which brings with it the possibility of better graphics and deeper gameplay. Can it compete or even compare with the mobile game?
In Game Dev Tycoon, the player takes on the role of a game developer starting from the very bottom of the business by trying to develop blockbuster videogames from a computer in their own garage. The game is a business simulation and the player will find themselves having to make decisions about which type of game they make, and on which platform, as they juggle monthly expenses and research.
The game starts off quite simply, with the player having only a couple of choices for which platform they want to develop for, and what type of game to develop. Players will combine themes and genres in their hope of creating a successful game, such as the sure fire hit of combining flight and simulator on the PC. Further options will be unlocked down the line as the player researches the different genres available and new platforms are released.
Once the basics have been chosen, the little developer on the screen will get down to the business of writing code. Here, the player can adjust sliders to give more emphasis to different aspects of the game, such as the AI or the sound. As the development goes ahead, little bubbles will rise up from the developer as they gather points in either technology or design. These points will give a final score that dictates how creative or how technologically cutting edge the game is. Research points will also be gathered that can be spent on increasing the developers skills through learning, developing a game engine which offers all sorts of benefits, or unlocking new themes and genres. Bugs are the other thing that development produces, and these will have to be removed before the game goes to the shelves otherwise sales may be poor and the critics will complain.
Once the game is finished and put to sale, the player will be able to watch a sales graph and enjoy their success, or failure, and gaming magazines will offer their opinions of the game. It is these scores, combined with the hype of the game, that will dictate the games success.
As the game progresses, and the player hopefully makes loads of money, things start to get more complex. The player will be able to expand and move into an office, hire employees to help work on the more complex games, attend trade shows and run marketing campaigns. Opportunities may turn up from time to time, where the player may be offered stolen code or the chance to upgrade to a greener footprint. These little options keep things interesting when they pop up, but there is never really much explanation of their consequences.
Which is one glaring flaw in the game. Someone who has been playing games for a long time will have a rough idea of which genres work together, or what is most important in an RPG. But there is very little explanation offered by the game, and the player will often be faced with a failed game but no idea why. Obviously many factors are taken into account in the game, but the player is not told what they are or how to improve.
Visually, Game Dev Tycoon looks decidedly old school. This is not a bad thing, and it is quite pleasant to watch as the business expands and time moves on to bring modern tech into the office. The constant references to gaming with a tongue in cheek flavour are entertaining, with the companies, the platforms and even the trade show given parody names (attending G3 this year?). The game runs through in an accelerated real time, so it acts like a virtual history lesson with new platforms coming out and old platforms retiring, or companies failing just like they did in the real world.
Much like the mobile game which came out first, Game Dev Tycoon suffers when monotony kicks in and the player is just plugging what works and making money the best they can in an endless cycle of trying to improve. But the game looks better than the mobile Game Dev Story, and seems deeper. That being said, it can be difficult to understand the reasons why some things work and others don’t, which will frustrate many players. At the end of the day, the game is entertaining enough for anyone with an interesting running a software company, and has the potential to grow even better. The history lesson is also nice and provides plenty of humor.