Quirky, but good.
Over the years, the video game industry has acquired a bad reputation. Although being successful on any given industry is always a harsh process, our beloved medium is usually considered one of the cruelest ones. As a way of illustrating this, strategy game Game Dev Tycoon encourages you to start your own video game development company. But while the concept sounds inviting, some caveats put a barrier on your enjoyment, making Game Dev Tycoon mildly entertaining and little else.
Game Dev Tycoon is a business simulator that puts you in the shoes of the owner of an independent video game development company at the beginning of the golden age of arcade games. The main objective is to build a company, create a handful of best-selling games, dominate the market and gain thousands of fans over the course of 35 years. As time passes by, old consoles are discontinued and new ones comes out, so you need to pay close attention to the market in order to develop successful games.
As soon as the game starts, you need to name your company that’s located in your parents garage. At first, you’re the only worker there, but with some time and dedication, you can make enough money to move to a more spacious office located downtown and hire some experienced employees.
Developing a game is a fairly simple and straightforward process. At first, you select from a limited number of genres and platforms, but as you acquire more experience and money, your projects become more ambitious. Once you’ve selected a game, you focus on specific areas, such as gameplay, game engine, story, sound design and so on. As you develop your game, you acquire points and naturally, the more points you accrue, the better the game will be. Paying attention to specific elements pays off, so things like soundtrack, dialogue, level design or the artificial intelligence of enemies is important before releasing the game. Bugs need to be ironed out before your virtual product hits the street, but your experienced team will take care of those during the final stages of development.
Congratulations! Your game is now officially out, which means that review scores will start coming out soon, as well as sale numbers and emails from fans. Before you start developing a new game, you can train your team, research the market to find out what the strongest trends are or do freelance work for other companies.
Developing a successful game involves more than just following the same steps over and over. Some topics work extremely well with specific genres (such as business simulation with strategy or monster training with role-playing game) and releasing those on the right console might translate into a tremendously successful title. So if you want your game to sell well and get rave reviews, you need to take into account various details. Following news is also important and every time a console is discontinued from the market you’ll receive an alert.
At the same time, Game Dev Tycoon is filled with nice little touches that people who have been following the industry for years will definitely appreciate. Nintendo and Sony collaborate to create a console with a CD drive, but a dispute between both companies encourages them to make their own consoles: the Nintendo 64 and PlayStation (these appear in the game with slightly different names, of course.) The biggest video game convention on the planet is called G3 (which stands for Games, Games, Games!) And the list of examples goes on and on.
But apart from developing a game, fixing bugs and waiting for numbers to come out, there are other aspects of game development to take into account. Every now and then fans will ask you to release an older version of one of your engines. If you accept, you’ll get more fans, but lose some money. If you decline, you’ll get more money, but lose some fans. Also, video game journalists will ask you some questions about your title to see what aspects you’ll prioritize. Renting a booth for the E3 convention (pardon me, G3) is also important, since this creates the perfect place to hype your game.
Unfortunately, there are some inconsistencies. Part of the fun of the game is matching genres and types of games with a console, so that the game you make is well received by critics and sells well. So for example, an action game will do well on the Xbox because you’re probably thinking of making the next Halo. With that in mind, I tried replicating the success of very specific games, but their results were poor, to say the least. Why is it that when I tried to make an action horror game on the PS2, the review scores were abysmal? Maybe my way of thinking is tainted by my personal experience (I played Resident Evil 4, Siren and Silent Hill on the PS2 and loved them,) but I feel like this particular aspect of the game is inconsistent.
Every time you start developing a game, you do so with something specific in mind (like Amnesia: The Dark Descent on the PC, Final Fantasy X on the PS2 or Wii Sports on the Wii) and you try to match as many of the available parameters with those games to maximize your chances of success. But most of the times, doing this doesn’t guarantee that your game will be successful. And on top of that, when your games fail, Game Dev Tycoon provides little to no feedback.
Since most of the times taking risks can result in a moderately successful game, you’ll eventually play it safe and develop the same style of games over and over. Sadly, this means that you’ll never feel the need to combine certain types of games with specific genres. But this is the game’s fault for never explaining which combinations work best and for rewarding repetition.
Game Dev Tycoon is an inventive management simulator that’s entertaining and to a certain extent, faithful to the history of video games. But some inconsistencies and a repetitive structure put a barrier on your enjoyment. If you’ve been playing video games for some time and you want to play a different kind of simulation title, give Game Dev Tycoon a chance. It’s quirky, but good.