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Game Dev Tycoon

Score: 85%
ESRB: 12+
Publisher: Steam
Developer: Greenheart Games
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Simulation/ Edutainment/ God Games

Graphics & Sound:

Before we get into this review in earnest, take a brief moment to look over the screenshots. You'll see that they're quite simple. Really, all you need in most simulation games, such as this one, is something iconic and representational that conveys the idea of what's occurring. When you watch two people carrying on a conversation in The Sims, you get some simple body language and speech bubbles with an icon; not much, but you get the idea. Game Dev Tycoon uses a similar tack here, avoiding wasting resources on developing more robust graphics, allowing them to invest more effort in creating "events" - the "storyline," if you will, around which you build your videogame development company.

Your warm bodies in the seats are just that... simple animations of programmers typing at their keyboards, scratching their heads and drinking coffee. When they're scratching their heads or drinking coffee, they're not outputting work. If they get too exhausted, their efficiency drops until you send them on a vacation for a bit. When they're on vacation, they simply become translucent and lean back in their chairs, I guess so you don't try to hire someone to fill their empty chair in their absence.

And, if you think the graphics are simple, you should hear the sounds. They're there, and they give a good idea of what's occurring, but they're even more symbolic than the graphics. The process of creating work is represented in-game by the generation of bubbles that are of four types: Design, Technology, Research and ((shudder)) the dreaded Bugs. The sound effects that accompany these bubbles are appropriately bubble-like sounds and - when they arrive at their destination - they have a sound that can get to sound like something between popping corn and a Geiger counter when they're occurring fast enough. These sounds help a lot at the end of a project when you can judge the speed of the bug-fighting effort without even looking, allowing you to keep your eyes peeled for an opportunity to get an employee to kick off a burst of speed.

The sound effects are simple, but there are a few background songs that are nice songs that do just that - sit in the background. I wouldn't rush out and buy the soundtrack, but they wouldn't seem out of place while waiting in line at the grocery store or riding in an elevator. Really, just something to avoid dead air while passing the time, I suppose.

To be fair, while the presentation style of the graphics is simple, what is depicted can have some surprising depth. For example, I was a bit tickled when I went to select PC as the system when developing a new game and didn't find it at first. As it turns out, the appearance of computers had changed from the beige boxes so popular in the 80's to the sleek black machines with accompanying flat-panel monitors so ubiquitous today.


Outside of driving and flight simulators, a lot of simulations really boil down to making some choices and seeing what happens. This has never been so obvious to me as it was in Game Dev Tycoon. When developing games, for example, you make some choices, then the developers start working. There really isn't a lot for you to do other than watch the bubbles float up to the top until you reach the next stage of development and have to make some more decisions. While the artwork is cute and entertaining, this same process could have been implemented on a webpage, simply asking the questions, doing the simulation step almost immediately and asking the next questions. This could, functionally, be done in text. That would take this from a simulation game to simply a simulation; however, making it interesting and educational, perhaps, but not fun.

As the game proceeds, you can go from your meager start in a garage to your own building with your own R&D department and even the design, build and release of your own consoles. As you advance in complexity, the aspects of time-management become more crucial; you don't want to pump 3 million dollars into your R&D or Hardware departments if they're not working on some big project at the moment, but once you release a console, you need to keep a little bit of a budget in your Hardware department to address warranty repairs on your console.

You start off your game in your parent's garage, back at the dawn of videogames, alongside companies plucked from this history, which will sound familiar, but be just a little off. Basically, the names have been changed to protect, well, the developers of this game. It's all done in good fun, with easy to guess, yet reasonably obscured names, such as Vonny Playsystem, Ninvento GameSphere and Active Visionaries. You'll work your way up through the years, having to deal with licensing fees and the inevitable and too-soon-arriving death of a system. You'll have to deal with games that need unforeseen patches and the rising costs and falling profits of MMOs. You'll get to try your hand at developing games with accompanying hardware. You can create your own game engines, then use them, sell them or give them away.


As I said above, Game Dev Tycoon is all about making choices. How important is Story and Dialogue in your new game? How about Engine features, Graphics, Sound and Gameplay?

You'll have to make the decisions and reap the rewards - or suffer the consequences. You can make some mistakes and still make it by, but if you go too far in the red, not even bank loans can bail you out. Be warned: simply letting your blockbuster MMO run too long after it loses popularity can take your company under. Quickly.

Making early, simple games is fairly easy to manage and, working in a garage in a one-person operation, it's fairly easy to be profitable. However, time marches on and people hunger for more elaborate, complex games with better graphics, realistic physics and orchestral sound. You're not going to be able to make a AAA title all alone, so you'll need to take the next step, set your start-up business up in a business incubator and hire - and train - some staff. This step, truly, starts you off on your roller-coaster, since more employees and better trained employees means faster and more complex game development, but skilled employees also mean higher wages, pushing you to earn more money to be able to afford your employees.

Personally, I topped out at around 1,000 million credits, or so, then handled some MMOs poorly, which, in turn, ate my lunch. I haven't tried simply firing most (or all) of my employees after releasing a game, then hiring cheaper employees for the next project, but that might be a strategy to try; it seems to be quite popular in real life and, perhaps, here we can see why.

Every time you're introduced to something new, there are Tutorial description boxes that explain what these new options mean, so as long as you read these, you shouldn't get too lost. Also, you can save your game at any time, so if you're curious about what might happen if you make a certain choice, you can save your game, try that choice and, if you don't like the result, reload your game and try something different.

The game follows a timeline that takes you beyond current (and near-future upcoming releases) right on up to their imagined replacements. If you hang in there long enough, you can make games for the Vonny Playsystem 5 and the Mirconoft Mbox Next as well as games for the Oya and games that support the Visorious. If you make it that far, you'll arrive at the end of the game, but the end isn't necessarily the end. Much like in Civilization games, you can keep playing after the time line runs out, simply without additional time line events occurring. It actually wasn't until after this point that I created my two game consoles - the Gecko and the Salamander, respectively.

Game Mechanics:

In general, I really liked Game Dev Tycoon. I should probably step back for a second, however, and give you a little insight into my background. I am a not just a videogame reviewer, but also work as a software developer, generating Design, Tech, Research and yes, Bug bubbles all day. I have developed a game before, and have designed and taught a class on game development, starting with a good bit of history - some of which is followed in the Game Dev Tycoon's game industry event timeline. My friends and I had even kicked around the idea of making a game based on game development, but probably most game developers toy with this idea at some point. Every aspect I mentioned above contributes toward my enjoyment of Game Dev Tycoon, so the more of those points that you match on, the more likely you are to enjoy it. However, if you have more than a passing interest in game development and some familiarity with the major systems, then this could be quite fun for you.

So, is the game perfect? Of course not - what game is? However, there were only two "bugs" I noticed: When you complete an expansion pack for an MMO, you will have the option to generate a Game Report on it, but when you try to do so, there is no game to select. Usually, you can generate a Game Report and gain insight on what works and what doesn't. Also, there were some points (after the end of the normal game timeline, just FYI) that I was nearing the end of a game development cycle and all of my employees just stopped generating any work. Nobody was exhausted or anything, they just sort of sat there for a bit, while time marched on. It didn't hurt me too bad, but time is always of the essence, especially if you're trying to publish a replacement for your aging MMO before it eats up all your funds.

I really would have liked to see the ability to create launch titles by getting development kits before a system releases and trying to make that launch title deadline. This is a major factor for large game development companies, leading to a possibility of really great sales (if the system does well), when you're one of the only games in town, so to speak.

Also annoying to me was the fact that when I launched my second console, I could no longer make games for my first one. This seemed counter-intuitive not only because that's not how it works in real life, but because that's not even how it works for other consoles in-game. For example, there are overlaps with some of the Vonny systems, allowing you to release a game for, say, the Playsystem 3 and the Playsystem 4, but I wasn't ever able to release a new game for the REPTECH Gecko once I had released the Salamander. What's up with that?

A friend of mine who had played further than me, at the time, was complaining that once you get later down the road, it becomes a bit repetitive. I can see what he's saying - and why - but, in general, I think the balance is pretty decent... at least up until you get really close to the timeline's end (and the official "end" of the game). Part of the problem, I think, is that there is a finite number of game Topics to research and, then, that's tapped out. Likewise, there's only so many things to research to put into your game engines. From my experience, the topics and the game elements outlasted the timeline, but players who focus on research may find that they run out before the timeline expires.

I think one of the great strengths of Game Dev Tycoon is its simplicity. With some slight retooling, it could easily be played on an iPhone or iPad. In fact, I did just that, using the LogMeIn app to remote into my computer. Most games these days use advanced features of graphics cards, with half the rendering actually occurring on the graphics card and then piping out immediately to the screen. The result of this is that if you attempt to remote into a computer to play an advanced game, you get a black screen. The low graphics requirements of Game Dev Tycoon mean I can remote into my computer and play it from any browser or portable device using LogMeIn. Pretty sweet.

All in all, I found Game Dev Tycoon to be fun and educational and would recommend it to anyone who is interested in the mechanics, business model and history of videogame development and realizes this isn't going to be running on the Unreal Engine, doesn't have an orchestral soundtrack and isn't a AAA game.

-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

Minimum System Requirements:

Windows XP SP3, 2 GHz dual core processor, 2 GB RAM Memory, Hardware Accelerated Graphics with dedicated memory, minimum resolution of 1024x768

Test System:

[Alienware Aurora] Intel Core i7-3820 CPU @ 3.60GHz, 16 GB dual-channel DDR3, Alienware Mainboard, Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit, Graphics: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 (4GB), Dual Monitors (Gateway HD2201 21" HDMI / Sony SDM-HS73), 500 GB Solid State Primary Hard Drive, 1000 GB Secondary Hard Drive, Logitech G600 MMO Gaming Mouse, Logitech G710+ Mechanical Gaming Keyboard, Logitech Z313 2.1-CH PC multimedia speaker system, A30 Gaming Headset, Cable Modem

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