‘Game Dev Tycoon’: A timeless simulator that justifies the hours invested

 

GDT 2

With Curtain Call, we asked our team what some of their most memorable and satisfactory finales were in the realm of gaming, and these entries are the result. Please note that they may include a bevy of spoilers concerning the endings in question and the plots they pertain to. You’ve been warned!

As much as it can, Game Dev Tycoon puts you in the driver’s seat of making video games for a living. As you grow in fame and capital, you move to bigger offices, hire employees, and eventually develop your own console, if you so choose. Along the way, you are tasked with making the next big video game on the newest and best consoles. Everything costs money, however, and the risks don’t always pay off.

That’s part of what I love so much about this game. The game ‘ends’ after 35 years, but there’s no limit on how long you can continue playing for. In the early days, you have the option of developing for the PC or the G64 (the Commodore 64 in the game’s world); and as time goes on, you can pay to develop for more advanced consoles. There are a few nods to real world events, such as the events leading to the creation of the PlayStation, which is a nice touch. Prior knowledge of ‘winners’ of console wars can also be used to your advantage.

It’s also really easy to get a big head about your little start-up. I remember one time in particular, I had just made a hit game, and decided to pour every dime I had into marketing and developing my next title. I ended up rushing out an over-hyped, barely improved sequel, and when sales didn’t pan out, my studio had to fold. It’s a very nice risk/reward system, wherein what you think will make a great game doesn’t always turn out that way.

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You can train your employees so they do better work, thereby improving your games. But there are a few not so subtle nods to certain “rockstar” programmers, such as ‘Marcus Person’; an obvious allusion to Markus ‘Notch’ Persson, the creator of the smash hit Minecraft. When employees reach a certain level of skill with either Technology or Design, they can be ‘promoted’ to do a certain component even better. This would allow you to design a ‘dream team’ of your own to make the best games.

What I really like about the development process is that they broke it into three “phases”, with each phase focusing on a certain aspect of the development cycle. In each of these phases, you would assign an employee to work on one of three different components, and scale each of those components on priority; a higher priority made that component stand out more. You weighed these decisions against the genre and topic of each game; an RPG would focus more on world design, for example, whereas a casual game wouldn’t have much in the way of dialogue.

I especially love the ability to put action to the ‘if that happened to me’ scenarios. For example, I had a bug pop up in an older game I had developed, and was given the option to patch it, or ignore it. Patching it cost me an employee’s time, and a couple hundred grand, but I gained more fans for it. Ignoring it would have saved me the time and the money, but the fans lost would have been gone forever. It’s a nice nod to the real world situations where developers might not always jump on the grenade when push comes to shove.

I remember another time when, at the start of the game, I had the ability to make a ‘City Sim’, essentially making Sim City. However, the technological boundaries really held me back, and the game flopped big time. But then, after years had gone by, and 2D graphics had advanced to a better point, and my studio was making better games, I revisited the ‘City Sim’ idea, and crushed it. Just goes to show that just because it didn’t work once, doesn’t mean it’s dead forever. Sometimes you just need to give it some time.

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