Inception, create a game dev game within a game dev game! You can do it and many other things, continue reading our Game Dev Tycoon Review
I am going to say the truth, I knew nothing about this game existence till I saw TotalBiscuit post a tweet about the way the developers of the game, Greenheart Games, where fighting those who pirated Game Dev Tyccon, I'll talk more on this clever way of counter-pirating down below. So I downloaded the demo that was posted on their website and fell in love with the game. So I contacted them and they were nice enough to provide me with a review copy.
So what is Game Dev Tyccon? Well it's a game development studio simulator and from what I have been reading on the internet lately, it's being called a "rip-off" of Game Dev Story, an iOS game with a similar premise. Why call it a rip-off? Sure it has the same premise, but if that's the only condition to call games rip-offs, then all shooters are Doom rip-offs or all third person cover shooters Gears Of War rip-offs. No, it doesn't work that way. The guys at Greenheart saw that this type of game was missing in the PC market and they seized the opportunity and they made a great game.
The gameplay and the whole game looks like that of Farmville or the other 100 billion Ville clones, but without the boring and useless stuff. Quoting Greenheart Games:
In Game Dev Tycoon there are no virtual coins that you need to buy. You don’t need to invite or bother your friends to be able to progress and developing a game or gaining experience doesn’t have you waiting for hours or days, it happens right in front of you.
The game starts you in the early 80's with your one man studio set-up in a garage. You are given a budget of 70K and you are set, you can start to develop your first game. You need to pick the name, topic, genre and platform. At first the choices you have are very limited, 4 topics, 5 genres and 2 platform PC and G64. After you choose topic, genre and platform you begin to develop the game and you'll see that some orbs will come flying out of your character head. At the top middle of the screen you can see how the development is going. You can also see 4 different colored circles. One is for the bugs, one design, one technology and the last research. The orbs I was talking about previously, are points that go accordingly to each circle. Orange orbs are bugs, yellow one are for design, blue for technology and dark blue for research. The development goes into three stages, where in each one you need to assign in what you'll focus more that all comes down to design and technology. And depending to what you focused, your game design and tech points will vary. Once the game is finished, reviews come in. How well your game sells will depend on these reviews. Later in the game you will be introduced to the mechanic of Hype, where you can invest money in advertising, in gaming conventions, in interviews etc. to build more hype, have more fans and in the end sell more copies.
It all comes down to creating that first hit game. Will it be a sports simulator, military action, medieval strategy? For me it was an aliens action game for the PC. With it I managed to break the 1M$ and get out from the garage into a bigger studio. In this next stage you can hire people, train them and yourself, and create custom game engines. To advance and keep up with the industry's standarts you'll have to research new technologies and new topics. New technologies like savegame or multiplayer or gamepad support etc. The more you progress in time, the more you need to research and create custom game engines.
Creating powerful engines can cost a lot, but when you bear in mind what you will achieve later when you use one to develop a game, then it's totally worth it. In the later stages, year 30 you'll create engines that cost more than 1-2M$, but you can't really do without them cause you can't develop a 2D game for the mBox 720 and hope it'll generate millions of dollars. To keep your studio afloat you have a monthly fee to pay, so you need to make smart choices about the game, engine and platform. Also you should keep track of what is the trend out there.
For example you won't get any returns if you decide to develop a medieval strategy game for the Play System 4 using gamepad, advanced cutscenes, 2D v3 graphics etc. This will not work and as in real life strategy games play better on PC with mouse support and all of the other stuff. So you'll fail to make a great game, to score great reviews and you'll sell so little that you'll lose way more money that you will earn. But you can save your studio by doing contracts or get publishing deals. Contracts vary from small to big and are jobs you have to complete before a set time. Think developing a game and reaching some specific design and tech points in a set time. If you complete it you earn money, if you don't, you pay a penalty.
Publishing deals are what they sound to be. UberSoft will ask you to develop a game with a set topic or genre or platform or whatever and you have to score at least a specific review score. If you manage to achive the score you'll not pay any penalty and you'll get a percentage of the sales. The game you develop under a publishing deal will sell a ton of copies, cause of all the hype, well the publisher generate. But then again if you fail, you'll have to pay and some of these penalties can literally can kill your studio. The bank will "save" your studio by giving some money that you have to return double in a year. If you fail to do so, then Electronic Mass Productions will buy your studio and you are done, game over. So there's a ton of things you have to keep in mind when you develop a game, it helps keep the game fresh and engaging all the time and I really like, really really like it! The game continues to the year 35, which is like what, 2015 and after that you'll have to create a new game. Please Greenheart, if you are reading this, let us continue to play. Invent as many consoles or mobiles or PC variations and technologies as you like and can imagine, I don't care, I just want to continue creating new powerful engines and create amazing games. Can we have that, please?
So above, you might have read things like mBox or Play System or UberSoft. No they are not typos, these are the name that the dev uses in the game. Licensing problems? I don't know, but I like these name. Another thing that I really like about Game Dev Tycoon is that it follows the real industry timeline. The Govodore 64 will rise and it'll fail like it happened in reality. The Vega consoles, the Ninvento Cube, the PS2 everything will come and go accordingly to what happened IRL. What I don't like is that everything happens really fast, like the game is set on a 4 or 8x speed. The devs need to add a slider, so that we can control the speed of the game.
Now rememeber when I was talking about the clever way of fighting piracy? Well I read this article on their blog where they describe a clever way of fighting the pirates and posted there the complaints these "pirates" posted on different forum. The devs themselves released a cracked copy of the game, not SkidRow or extemezone or whatever, but in this version there was a slight change in the code. When the player reached a specific level in the game, a notification would appear that the games your studio has been creating, were being pirated massively by pirates and were causing you huge loss of money. This would continue till you're bankrupt. A very clever way indeed. Now I know that many of you out there can't afford to buy games, I really do, I too have pirated games in the past, but please don't do it with small indie developers. Like in the game, piracy can and will kill small developing studios like Greenheart Games and many other really good indie studios out there. Download the demo and if you like it, 7$ isn't much for a game that will entertain you for days to come.
So should you buy Game Dev Tycoon? Yes totally, even if you are not into simulation games. I am not into sim games, but I really liked this and probably will continue playing it again and again. It is fun, engaging and very satisfying when your game scores high and sell millions of copies. Visually it's alright nothing special and the sounds/music can be a lot better. Currently the game is still on Steam Greenlight, so go vote there, but you can buy it from their official website or in the Windows Store. Also if you buy the game now, you'll receive a Steam code later. Bottom line buy Game Dev Tycoon or at least get the demo, then decide for yourself.