Tales of the Rampant Coyote

Adventures in Indie Gaming!

Quick Take: Game Dev Tycoon

Posted by Rampant Coyote on January 6, 2014

gdtycoonGame Dev Tycoon has now entered that coveted (or at least it should be) territory of games that kept me up until 4:00 in the morning. I picked up a copy during the Steam sale sometime last week, and at the end of a session of real game development, I thought I’d try the virtual version. Afterwards I entered the loop of “just one more release!” until it was … well, around 4 AM. There’s things you can get away with while on vacation, sometimes…

I haven’t yet played Game Dev Story, which was an inspiration for this game, so I can’t yet compare the two. My previous excuse was that I didn’t own the right platform, but now I have an Android tablet and phone, so that’s no longer an excuse. I’ll have to rectify that one soon.

Game Dev Tycoon made news last year by a clever prank against pirates – the “cracked” version played such that your virtual game studio eventually goes bankrupt from piracy.  Sadly, that proved to be over 90% of the players of the initial release – a number that is proving to be pretty average, along several different independent tests for different games.

It starts you out working as a solo game-maker working out of your garage in the mid 1980s, around the time of the Commodore 64’s dominance. If you are an old-school game fan, it’s probably more fun, as you remember these eras as the game takes you from the mid 1980s (around the time of the Commodore 64’s dominance) up through the not-too-distant future, growing your company and adjusting to the changes in the marketplace and technology.

The gaming platforms have all been renamed, but it’s pretty obvious what systems are being represented. Being armed with the foreknowledge of the level of success of a particular console can be really handy, so you don’t waste time and money (on licensing) on a platform that’s destined to be short-lived and have a poor market penetration.

Anyway, from my perspective – I have quibbles galore with the game. It’s a problem when you know too much about the subject matter, I guess, although it’s more of a case of what they chose to abstract and make a game element rather than “simulate” in reality. While it’s a ridiculously simplified strategy game, there are a few more realistic aspects I’d like to see. It’s possible they are already in the game, and I just haven’t stumbled across them yet (I’ve only played through one full 35-year campaign so far). While later in the game you can research multiplatform development, I couldn’t find an option to make or contract out ports of games. Porting a successful game to multiple platforms was so integral to independent game development studios and publishers that it’s hard to imagine publishing games without that option.

I got burned the first time I tried to create a sequel, because I hadn’t researched “sequels.” IMO, that should be an option to research much earlier in the game.

It would be useful to have a randomization option that changes up the success or failures of the various platforms throughout the game – and then throw in some analogs to some failed systems or less popular gaming devices like the Atari Jaguar or Lynx, the 3DO, or the Mac into the mix and see what happens. That’s a big part of the challenge of modern game development – trying to anticipate the next success story and be a part of it, but being agile enough to get out while the getting is good.

It’s amusing how the thrill of anticipating review scores once you release a game inside this game mirrors real life. There’s definitely some randomness involved, as I’ve had times when I’ve hit new records on technology & design points, zero bugs, a winning subject / genre / audience combo for the best platforms, and still gotten crappy reviews and sales. Just like real life.

I guess it’s probably a good thing in that it does not too closely mirror the real-life process, as that might threaten to rob the fun from the game.  It’s not a hard game at all – on my first play-through, still figuring out the game, I came to the “end” (the point where it scores you – although you can keep playing after that) with having been the #1 booth at the big gaming expo for many years in a row, and had almost a billion dollars in the bank. Of course, I named my company “Rampant Games” and could only WISH that I’d end up that successful. 🙂

Anyway, it’s a cute little casual game about game development. If you hate casual games, you may not enjoy it. But otherwise, especially if you are familiar with the history of the industry, it can be pretty cute and fun. And… beware the urge to just release one more game!

Filed Under: Impressions - Comments: 3 Comments to Read

  • Andy_Panthro said,

    Bought this in the last Steam sale after a friend of mine had recommended Game Dev Story (I assumed they were the same!).

    I really enjoyed it, and managed to do very well on my first attempt (subsequent times have been less favourable though!). Keeps drawing me back again and again to try and do better.

    I feel like the research needs tweaking quite a lot, I’d like to see sequels being much earlier, and also multi-genre & multi-platform. The randomisation of the topics means that you need a little luck sometimes, as certain topics are much better than others.

    I felt like I was quite far from the end of the research tree after the 35 years too (an option to buy research points might help?).

    There is a modding API, and people have added a few features here and there (including extra consoles/computers). I hope the devs are successful enough to make a bigger better sequel or expansion, because I’d certainly be buying it!

  • LateWhiteRabbit said,

    Jay, you’re doing it wrong! If you want to replicate the success of your fictional game company in real life you just need to build a time-machine in a DeLorean and travel back in time to begin releasing games in the 1980s using future knowledge of the life-span and success of consoles and platforms! It’s easy!

    I thought having a time-machine under a tarp in the garage you start in was a cute touch in the game.

  • Rampant Coyote said,

    Yeah, I got a chuckle out of that, too. “Is that a DeLorean?”