Game Review - Game Dev Tycoon

3 stars for 'Game Dev Tycoon'

Have you ever wanted to design your own games? It seems like a lot of hard work, doesn't it? Sure, the independent gaming scene has made it easier to get your foot in the door than it has likely ever been. But, it is still likely to be months of constant work before you have anything to release. And, even then, there is the quiet dread of wondering if people are actually going to like the results of your effort.

Why put yourself through all of that, when you could just play a game like Game Dev Tycoon, instead?

Game Dev Tycoon is exactly what it sounds like - a business simulation based around the gaming industry. Starting out as a single aspiring developer working out of your basement, your goal is to make a name for yourself in the industry by designing the next big game. Succeed, and you will eventually be able to move out of your little garage, and into a proper office - hiring a team of developers as you take on bigger projects. Fail, and bankruptcy awaits.

Honestly, it's a little tricky to figure out how best to approach a review of a game like this. Should I judge it by the same standards that I apply to any other game? Well, that would make sense, wouldn't it? But, this is the first game released by a couple of independent game designers - so, should I keep that in mind if I find myself getting too critical? On the other hand, they're aspiring game designers who want to be taken seriously - and, it would have to be a little condescending to constantly pull your punches, and point out how it was 'a good first try'. So, it seems like judging their game by the same standards you would apply to a major release would be most appropriate. But, then, they're only a couple of brothers working out of their own home - so, how is that fair?

Reviews for the life sim, 'Minimum Wage', were surprisingly positive.
Reviews for the life sim, 'Minimum Wage', were surprisingly positive.

There is a lot to like about Game Dev Tycoon, though. Throughout a single game, you will find yourself living through the entire 30 year history of the gaming industry - beginning way back in the early 80s. It all starts out pretty basic, with you simply developing a small game, releasing it to the general public and hoping for the best. But, as you progress, increasing layers of complexity are revealed. You will eventually find yourself in charge of a growing team of developers, who all need to be carefully managed. As well as that, you will find yourself having to make decisions like how much to invest in marketing your project, whether it is worth paying the fees for a booth at gaming conventions, and whether or not to accept a contract from a large publisher. All of these decisions can have a huge impact on your success - in addition to whether or not the games you design actually turn out to be any good. And, of course, throughout all of this you will have to continue researching various ways to improve on your own projects.

It's an entertaining little game - though, of course, it isn't perfect. Simulation games like this one thrive on their complexity. The more involved the experience, the more fun fans of this particular style of game will have with it. The problem is that Game Dev Tycoon often feels pretty straightforward. Even with the increasing levels of complexity brought on by later stages, you might find that you are still relying on the same basic strategies to succeed. It isn't quite the deeply involved business simulation that you might expect from a game with the title Game Dev Tycoon. Though, in saying that, I do have to admit that that isn't particularly a problem with the game itself - there is always a market for more casual, and less time-intensive, sorts of games, after all. It may be a problem for player expectation, though. If you want a deeply involved business simulation based on the video game industry, it's just that this might not be exactly what you are looking for.

With a good team behind me, development of the first game in the 'Battle Fighter' franchise went well. This was followed up by the sequels, 'Battle Fighter 2' and 'Battle Fighter: Fighter of Battles'.
With a good team behind me, development of the first game in the 'Battle Fighter' franchise went well. This was followed up by the sequels, 'Battle Fighter 2' and 'Battle Fighter: Fighter of Battles'.

I also have to admit, too, that I have some issues with the way that the game is structured - particularly with the way that research is organized. For example, it makes perfect sense to me that one of the first things you will need to research is how to design your own game engines. That just seems like the right place to start. But, some of the later research options which depend on your ability to design your own engines include things like 'better dialogue' - which, I would have liked to have seen included in a category of its own, separate from those features that are clearly focused on 'programming' (just as I have always imagined it is organized in the real game industry. Writers and programmers work independently from each other). There are minor details like that which seem to show up often in the research and development of your games. Nothing truly significant - but, it still gives the impression of it all being poorly organized.

On the other hand, though, with the game's release on Steam approaching, the developers of Game Dev Tycoon (brothers Patrick and Daniel Klug) have displayed a willingness to continue to refine their first project. So, there's no telling how the game could be improved on in the future. In my own first play-through of Game Dev Tycoon, my first game got reviews that were slightly above average, and comments along the lines of it showing potential, and the reviewers being eager to see where I go from there. It's kind of amusing that, in the end, that's exactly what I am going to say about the first release of the brothers Klug. It shows a lot of potential, and I'm looking forward to seeing their next game.

© 2013 Dallas Matier

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