Tom Hooper aka Atomp
When it was first released Game Dev Tycoon saw mention in various gaming news sources for one reason in particular; piracy. The developers had decided that the game would inevitably end up on torrenting services so they uploaded and seeded their own torrent, however there was a slight difference between the pirate and genuine versions. The pirated version was modified in a way that meant that as the player progressed in the game their game development company would struggle and then ultimately fail under the strain of massive and prevalent piracy. This caught the attention of the press because of the entertaining twist of irony in having a pirate’s game experience destroyed by piracy. Obviously the full version was put out illegitimately too, but the point still stood and the story remains an example of creative responses to piracy. The debate around piracy is huge and I won’t attempt to approach it in a game review, however with that said Greenheart Games saw a potential piracy problem and responded in an entertaining manner drew a great deal of positive attention towards their game. The irony meter possibly peaked when posts began appearing in the Steam user forums with individuals complaining of this crippling pirate-copy piracy (of which they were unaware at the time) and asking if there was some form of DRM mechanic in the game… The game itself is pretty much what it says on the tin: it is a tycoon game where the player is tasked with taking a game development company from a small garage to a massive Valve-a-like. I played it a great deal upon its release some time ago and run into many of same little niggling issues that others did, however the devs being good devs have fixed many of these niggling issues in patches.
The game starts you out in the 80s in small garage, just one employee sat behind a desk. From this view you are prompted to design games using a mix of variables. It is necessary to choose your platform, genre and theme to begin with. These can provide differing results in differing combinations, it’s normally a good idea to look back at past game releases when looking for the combinations that will sell well. Creating a space simulation on PC for a mature audience for example may be a good idea, think Elite. It’s also possible to name the game that you’re creating (the same with your company) which can lead to some creatively named homages to old favourites and revered classics. After the type of game is established it is necessary to balance the development of the different areas of the game, for example a simulation game needs little to no story therefore the development time is better reallocated to engine and gameplay. This is done throughout the development process through the balancing of sliders. This fundamental principle is expanded later in the game as individual developers can be assigned to entire sections of development but the fundamental slider dynamic remains consistent. When I played the game initially this process could often feel a little hit and miss as a seemingly logical combination would get uninformatively slammed by critics in what could only be a tip of the hat to score-obsessed nonsensical Metacritic game journalism. This has now been alleviated somewhat as it’s now possible to research a report on each game, assessing the strengths and weaknesses and essentially going someway to explaining why those journalists gave such brutal scores. This is a nice change and I applaud the developers for responding so productively to player feedback.
As the game progresses, so does the in-game world. Gaming platforms we know and love/hate will rise and fall in succession, apart from PC as that is the immortal beast available from the very start of the game and relevant to the very end. Most of the major gaming platforms are included and can be developed for, including handhelds and mobile which introduce interestingly different development options to the other platforms. As the game progresses it’s possible to research new technologies and level your employees and by the end of the game it is very possible to be sitting pretty as a Valve-a-like with a healthy bank balance and possibly the ingame equivalent to Steam, get far enough and you can create your own console. In short there is no lack of content and depth to the game and it is frankly very fun. There’s a great deal of entertainment to be had in creating your game company, deciding what to produce and avoiding many of the pitfalls of the likes of EA, Zynga and King. Looking back at your first successful MMO, or even your first successful game can be rather satisfying after a good run. Greenheart Games are also actively working on modding support, including Steam workshop so there is a great deal of potential for even more gameplay and content in the future thanks to community engagement.
Game Dev Tycoon is currently available on Windows, Mac and Linux from their own web store, Humble (yay), Steam, Desura, Mac Game Store and the Windows Marketplace. Pricing wise the game is £6.05 (approx $9.99) across the board, buying direct I’d imagine provides the developer with the biggest cut however I personally prefer the Humble widget as it keeps my DRM-free library in one place and still provides the developer with a good cut. As far as I’m aware all of the DRM-free options also include a Steam key, so unless you have a significant desire to purchase the game on Steam is makes more sense to buy elsewhere and have the game available DRM-free whilst still reaping the rewards on Steam. There is also a demo available on all three platforms should you feel the desire to give the game a go with no strings attached, which is something I’d heartily recommend for the cost of a ~60MB download. In short Game Dev Tycoon, whilst initially gaining visibility through an interesting and irony laced approach to piracy is a good game in its own right and is easily worth $10.00.
Game Store Page (inc. Humble Widget and Demos):
Piracy Blogpost from Greenheart Games:
Game Dev Tycoon on Steam:
Game Dev Tycoon on Mac Game Store: