Review: Game Dev Story

In: Reviews by Anthony McGill

19 Feb 2011

Back in October, this addictive little gem seemingly came out of nowhere. The original game dates back to 1996 on the PC but has been redesigned for Android and iOS devices. Game Dev Story is a game-development-company simulator in which you create your own games for a variety of platforms — and, boy, you will you lose hours to it.

You begin in a shack of an office with a few sloppy, inexperienced developers (like most great development studios once had). Slowly, you’ll climb your way up the financial ladder, train current staff to improve their abilities, hire new workers, or hire independent developers for individual features like graphics, sound, or writing. As you progress, more opportunities become available such as advertising, attending events or conventions, and winning awards for your games based on popularity and quality.

The core gameplay relies on four simple steps: Choosing a platform, a style and type of game, the direction of the game, and someone to develop the title.

Choosing a platform is largely based on its relevance in the gaming market at that time and whether you have a license to develop for the console. If a newer console is on the horizon, chances are you may have missed the boat for the current platform. Also, each console requires a license for development. These often ridiculously expensive licenses are mandatory.

Once you’ve chosen a console, you now have to decide what kind of game you’re aiming for. As you advance further, you will unlock more interesting styles and game types. Style and type should be arranged in a popular combination in order to ensure success. For example, RPG and fantasy is definitely a great combination. A lot of this is based on common sense. Would you play a romance puzzle game? Probably not, and neither will your audience.

Honestly, I haven’t found out how influential the games direction is to its success. You start with a limited number of points that you are able to put into a series of options including realism, innovation, simplicity, game world, and more. I’ve tried to adjust them in a way that makes sense for the game, but other times I’ve just thrown the points in random categories. Either way, my game either failed or succeeded, and they had never really made a difference for me. In any case, the direction feature at least makes you feel like you’re directly impacting the game.

Now comes the most interesting as well as frustrating step: Selecting your developers. You have the option to save money and choose someone in house, or hire an external party with better skills but often a higher cost. There have been so many times that I have paid the premium for a more skilled artist, writer, or sound engineer and they fail miserably. Other times, I’ve sat there with my jaw hanging open as I watched the sound, graphics, fun, and creativity stat counters fly off the charts. Usually, this section felt like a gamble to me and was ultimately dependent on how comfortable the individual was with completing the assignment.

In between the normal routine work, there are various side objectives that you can take on yourself or will appear at random. For instance if you’re low on cash, you can complete contracts for other companies. These basically have the same feel as regular development but often involve creating cartoons, software development, or other projects. Also, once a month, a salesman will appear in your office offering different items that can enhance the quality of your games or allow you to change the careers of your staff.

On the surface, Game Dev Story looks like a bad Habbo Hotel rip off, but once you get the ball rolling and start to feel the craving for success, it’s impossible to put down. It’s almost guaranteed that you’ll hit a point where failure is acceptable, and you’ll become hell-bent on improving the quality and reputation of your company at any cost.

Personally, I’m terrible at this game.

This is at no fault of the developer, Kairosoft as Game Dev Story provides an excellent tutorial. However, they supply the tools, and explain how to use them, but leave the rest to you. I have found it painstakingly difficult to earn enough money to become successful. The frustrating part is I actually know why. I create games that never sell well, even though they are developed for consoles that are popular at the time. Then, because I’ve made barely any money, I can’t afford the licenses for the new consoles. So now, my current console is slowly becoming obsolete, and I’m digging a hole for myself. For me, this cycle continues and eventually I’m back to developing budget PC games just to have something to sell.

Somehow, I still keep trying.

Game Dev Story is addicting for the same reason any game is addictive: Rewards and punishment. When you do well, the game rewards you with loads of cash, high review scores for your games, and a great company reputation. But when you fail (and you will) the game makes you beg for mercy and continue playing for just “one more go” to pick yourself back up. For better or worse, Game Dev Story sucks you in and doesn’t let go — ever.

Score 9/10

Game Dev Story
Developer: Kairosoft
Available on: Android phones and iPhone/iPad
Now on iTunes App Store: $0.99 (75 percent off sale)
and on Android Market: $2.51 (50 percent off sale)

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2 Responses to Review: Game Dev Story

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blogkitten

February 20th, 2011 at 7:20 pm

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Anthony McGill

February 20th, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Thanks for the link =)

I’m sure the tips will come in handy. Now I’ll be pulled in once again! Some of these posters have insane scores!

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