Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Indie Gaming: Game Dev Tycoon

Few games capture your attention from the very beginning. Often a game begins with a lengthy cinematic, or perhaps has a certain complexity which requires the player to invest time in familiarising themselves. Game Dev Tycoon is one of those wonderful games that, while being quite complex under the hood, allows you to jump in and play straight away.

Where it all begins, in your garage

The game itself is a wonderfully crafted simulation of the experiences of a game developer from the 1980s to the present day. Over the course of 35 years (you can play after this, but there are no more "story" elements) you create multiple games and make your name in the industry. How you do this is up to you, choosing the types and genres of games you want to make and attempting to rise through the ranks to become a "AAA" developer.

Developing a game, allocating time

I was immediately impressed by the game, the interface was very intuitive and the art style reminded me of Theme Park & Theme Hospital. It felt so easy to jump right in and begin planning my ascent to the top of the games industry, but at the same time there is quite a lot obscured from your view. My first couple of tries were entirely luck-based, testing the systems and trying to figure out how things worked. Later attempts allowed me to re-use that earlier knowledge.

Game ready, and gaining experience

There's a set procedure for each game you create, you select a topic (ninja, zombie, pirate, etc.), a platform (PC or one of the various deliberately misnamed consoles), a genre (RPG, adventure, action, etc.) and so on throughout the process. Your selections and your choice of the current available technology lead to "design" and "technology" points, which can also be boosted by your skills. If you can figure out how best to design your game and apply your skills, you can gain favourable reviews and a lot of cash. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board to try again.

Not so good scores here...

Sometimes it can seem very easy to leave your initial garage/office behind and move onto new pastures, but the small amount of randomisation can make things more difficult. Your list of topics is random at the start, and certain topics are far better than others. I fared best with "Sci-Fi" and "Medieval", which allowed me to make action, strategy, RPG and adventure games. The "Government" and "Rhythm" categories are a lot more restrictive.

A better office!

As you create your games and get feedback, you acquire Research Points. These allow you to research various topics, and are essential for creating your own game engines to create better games (There is no option to buy other competitors engines, so it's make your own or have nothing!). In the early game I generally feel ahead of the curve on Research, but in the mid-to-late game I found it quite hard to gain enough points to unlock the next levels of technology and game design.

A much better office, with more staff

It's certainly a flawed game, the mechanisms by which success and failure are calculated can seem obtuse and arbitrary at times, and there are a multitude of things about it I would like to change. However, it does remain a massively enjoyable experience and despite its shortcomings I find myself returning to it time and again.

PC gaming development is viable throughout the game, as in real life!

The developers welcome modding too, and there is a small but determined group of modders currently adding content to the game. I have yet to try any of them (I'm not yet done with the game as it stands), but a good modding community can add a lot to almost any game, and especially one like this.
Training options for my staff

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