My first substantial blog post and it is going to about…Game Dev Tycoon! Yes, I play a lot of video games and this is the game that has occupied my time for the last two weeks.
The premise is that you are a game developing company who sets out to make hit games. You choose the topic, the genre, the platform (all zany non-licensed names like ‘Ninvento Gameling’ or the ‘mBox 360’) and then you change some slides around corresponding to things like story/quests, action, gameplay, graphics, sound etc. and voila, a game is created! You then subject your game to some rather obscure critics who will not hold back on the criticisms. Unlike the real world which grades games on a scale of 7 – 10, it is very possible to garner a low score of ‘1’ at which it tells you that your game is a waste of time and money and that your mother should die in a firepit because of it (it doesn’t actually say the last part but it feels like it does!). The game itself also delegates you management tasks like hiring acne-faced young developers and designers, who you can train up by spending ‘research’ points. Incidentally, you’ll also research new topics, new game engine features and other things like ‘target audience’ by spending research points which you naturally gain from making games. You can also market your games, attend an annual game conference called G3 (no prizes for guessing what that references) and every so often, you get encrypted messages offering you new topics or the change to sabotage your competitors. There’s also a few scripted events like magazine interviews and also the possibility of being scammed by a Nigerian prince. The game releases new platforms periodically, based on their releases in history, so you start off with just the PC but work your way through the NES, Sega Genesis, Dreamcast etc. all the way up to the next gen consoles like PS4. In the very end game, you can even have your own game development lab which will help you research things like MMOs and create your own console.
It is ‘inspired’ by an old mobile game by Kairosoft called Game Dev Story which has a free short demo on the Apple app store which I played. When I say ‘inspired’, it’s in the very strong sense, and I was initially sceptical of GDT because it seemed like a rip off. Luckily, I can say that GDT goes into much greater depth and provides a much fuller experience (which you would hope given that it’s ~£6 whereas the Kairosoft game retails for about £1.50 on mobile app stores).
The game gained a lot of notoriety by a small trick pulled by the game developers on the first day of its release. Read about it here. Short version: they put a version of their game on all the major pirate sites and allowed people to download it. The catch? The version they uploaded included a feature called piracy, which meant that your in-game game sales would be affected by in-game pirates. Funnily enough, people complained that the piracy in-game made the game too hard…some even asked for a DRM feature to be added to the core game. An ironic twist given that of the people who played the game, a whopping 93.6% of people played on the pirated version of the game.
I haven’t encountered any of these piracy issues because I am part of that 7% who bought the game. Now I’m not some saint who never downloads things. I download TV shows and movies all the time, and I have my reasons (highly questionable and not justifiable reasons, but reasons nonetheless). But this was a no-brainer. I like supporting indie developers and £7 is just not a huge amount of money, even for a student like me. I have more than gotten £7 worth of game time out of this quirky game. Plus you get nice messages thanking you for paying in the actual game itself. Also they are regularly updating, they will give me access to a Steam version when it comes out and they just generally seem like nice developers who made a good game. I want to support that. I figure if I can give £35 to a demon publisher like EA (and yes, I did buy SimCity and yes I kind of regret that, and yes I might blog about that some time), then I should definitely want to pay ~£6 directly to a developer who actually cares. I buy things like the Humble Indie Bundle from time to time, and most of the games that I get from there just sit on my Steam list, never to be installed or played, apart from the odd occasion where I find myself without internet and need some single player offline game fix like the game addicted druggie that I am.
See, I don’t think that all gamers need to be actively involved and thinking of the industry which feeds them. There are plenty of people who just buy the latest COD, Fifa and Madden games each year and find that all really fun and have a great time. That’s good for them, but it’s not how I personally do gaming. I follow gaming news. I like innovation, originality and the recent trend towards ‘artsy’ games which tell beautiful stories. I want games to be a respected medium. I want games to be fun, but thought-provoking too. Game Dev Story is only one of these two things, but what the developers did on its release raised awareness of the thought processes of pirates in the gaming industry in a rather humourous way. Perhaps I will do some more meta posts about the state of the gaming industry some other day. Cover topics like piracy, DRM, the latest new gen announcements, the depiction of gender in video games etc. What do you guys think?
So to conclude, I greatly enjoy Game Dev Tycoon. You can buy it on their site which I linked at the start. It’s not the deepest game but it’s not as shallow as it seems. There’s a wiki which details how to make perfect games, and I have used it from time to time when I struggled and didn’t understand why. The game is a bit obtuse and doesn’t give you much feedback to improve. But to me, that’s part of the appeal. The randomness of success seems to reflect real life quite well. Plus it’s always funny when your Transport Simulator game called Trucking Tuesday sells 100 million copies whereas your Fantasy RPG called Time of Vesper flops and sells just 10k copies. It’s not totally random to be infuriating but random enough to keep it interesting. So yes, I would recommend it as a game which will waste a little bit of time and brightens your day a bit. Your mileage may vary depending on your love of simulation games.
On a scale of Avoid like the Plague and Would Sell an Arm to Buy, it’s somewhere in the middle.
Get it here for $8.