Game Dev Tycoon
Developer: Greenheart Games
Publisher: Greenheart Games/Valve Corporation
Platforms: PC (Reviewed)
Release Date: 10th December 2012 (Non-Steam), 29th August 2013 (Steam)
Price: £5.59, US$7.79, €7.19, AUS$7.99 – Available Here
Game Dev Tycoon: The game that teaches us the valuable lesson that no matter how flawless you think something is, it’ll only be perfect if you happen to have a wiki on hand. Unfortunately, life doesn’t have a wiki, so what we’re left with is a heavily algorithm based foray through the history of gaming that will leave you hating review magazines more than “Informed Gamer” apparently hates every game you’ll ever release.
You begin your journey sitting all alone at a beaten up desk with only a primitive PC and a tarp-covered Delorean to your name. Scratching your head and fueled by coffee, you stare at the screen and tirelessly begin coding your masterpiece. Thus, your life as a game developer begins. There will be mountainous highs and cavernous lows, but with enough luck your little company can grow up to dwarf even the giants of the gaming world like Blizzard or EA.
When I sit down and play Game Dev Tycoon, I can’t help but feel that it feels horrendously out of place on the PC platform. Sure it works, but with all of the little sliders and regimented option buttons I always find myself thinking that it would be the perfect “toilet game” and should be on iOS or Android. That said, the quality of Game Dev Tycoon is far higher than 99% of phone/tablet games that I have “experienced” if it can be called that.
As you progress and your company claws its way to the top of the industry, the game becomes more and more dynamic. By researching various topics you can unlock different levels of sound, graphics, and level design as well as a ton of extra peripherals from the joystick to virtual reality headsets. This element of the game keeps you wanting to build bigger and better games as you upgrade your game engine trying to squeeze every extra design point out of your overworked staff. The addition of sliders that let you adjust how much time is spent on each element of the game gives the player a very hands-on experience that is actually extremely fun and really makes you feel immersed as a game dev. However, the more hours you put into this game, the more you realise that while you are under the illusion of having all of these features to play with, the impact that you think moving a slider a few pixels to the left will have is actually minimal.
What holds this game back and stops a good game from being a great game is how it is so heavily bound to algorithms. Chances are that now I have completed the game I will never go back to it despite its seemingly endless replayability due to its near infinite possibilities. “Why?” you may ask … Because unless I cheat and follow a perfect set of instructions written by someone who has sat and played the game to death I will never get my virtual reality, fantasy MMO, Sword Art Online, to be a perfect 10. I might get three perfect ratings and sell so many copies that I could never conceivably run out of money, but knowing that I can never beat that final goal crushes any hopes that I could ever have of coming back and starting fresh.
Character statistics, leveling up, market shares, R&D, your own console, genre combinations, a good presentation at G3. Things that originally sound like great depth and something that the game should be praised for end up coming back to bite you because unless you satisfy everything you’ll never “complete” the game. By trying to make the game more true to life they actually succeeded in making it less so. But then again fixing it by adding a “pay off Informed Gamer” button might be a bit TOO lifelike…
Visuals & Audio
Being an indie game with a relatively low budget it is fair to say that the graphics are not going to blow your mind. As I mentioned earlier I feel like on an iOS device or an Android phone or tablet this game would look brilliant. It has simple, easy to use assets; a bright and colourful aesthetic; and the fact that it all happens in your company’s office means that it is very static, much like many other mobile games. As a PC game though it looks smooth and refined and the UI is practical and easy to use which is something that a lot of indie games could learn from.
As far as the music goes there is not a lot of it which is a shame because the one looped track in the background isn’t bad. The only problem is that after an hour or so of playing Game Dev Tycoon you’ll either be ripping out your ear drums or if you’re a bit more level-headed you’ll have simply dropped a wrecking ball on your PC. Yeah, it is that repetitive… On the bright side though the in-game bleeps and bloops are satisfying and not too obnoxious which is all too common nowadays.
Toilet gaming at its finest… but that’s only because I use a laptop! I’ve said it once and I’ll say it again, this game should be on a mobile device, but that is not to say that it isn’t fun. Being the sort of gamer that has racked up nearly 200 hours on the crazily addictive The Binding of Isaac I know an enjoyable indie game when I see one and Game Dev Tycoon is incredibly entertaining. Despite its faux-dynamic features once you reach the 9-10 score region it still makes you feel like you’re really in control of development and that level of immersion is something that I relish in small indie titles. In the end, it is called Game Dev Tycoon for a reason … Because it is a game development simulator! All the bells and whistles might be mostly for show, but if you have a good imagination then you’ll still feel that glorious satisfaction as all of your 10-scores roll in, until that last reviewer gives you a 9 and you flip your desk and walk away, never to return.
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