Game Dev Tycoon – Let’s Make Games!

Game Dev Tycoon is something I would call a “light simulation”. You are the head of your own Video Game Development Studio and what you do from there is entirely up to you… sort of. You start with four set Gaming Topics, and a very limited number of design options and you make games. At first from your Garage, eventually moving to a humongous Studio/Office. From Zero to Hero, that sort of thing. Along the way you will research new design techniques, making your games even more awesome. You will improve the skills of your workers (and yourself) to specialize in different design areas… Eventually, you might decide to make your own “Super Game”, with a million dollar budget, for your own Console, while your R&D Department will help boost Hype around your new title. It all sounds colorful, doesn’t it? It’s a somewhat bumpy road, but still a pleasant one.

Game Dev Tycoon

Microsoft started off in a Garage, you will too!

Game Dev Tycoon – Design, Make, Sell

Right, where do I start here? I pretty much summed the entire game in the previous paragraph… I suppose that the numero uno point is that Game Dev Tycoon is not an easy game. You see, you would think that making a Werewolf RPG/Simulation game for the PC would be cool, but how you design the game leaves a lot of people with a headache. During your initial game planning you choose a Title, Genre, Topic, Audience and Platform for your new game. Later on you will research more “sizes” for the game. The bigger your game the more time it takes, but the more stuff you can stuff into it.

After you initial planning, and the game development starts, there will be three seperate stages for your Video Game development. During each of these stages you decide how much time (and who) is invested in each of the three areas. Some Genres benefit more from a good Quest/Story, than a complex Engine. Other times you might need a more Advanced AI, rather than Dialogues and Gameplay… The problem is that logic might not always work. In the afore mentioned RPG/Simulation of a Werewolf game you might find yourself adding all the things that might make sense, and investing time where it is most needed (or so you think) but in the end you will get average scores. With Multi-Genre games I at best scored around 7/10. There is no real benefit to making Multi-Genre games, even though you can create some very intriguing Combos.

Game Dev Tycoon

Depending on the game you are developing you will have to adjust the sliders accordingly and choose the options you think are the most important for your game. You do not need all of the features to make a good game.

What is important to note is that the more ambitious you get the more skilled a Crew you need, and you will have to use a steadily improved Engine. Here is the gist. As you develop games you get research points and experience. Experience lets you level up different design areas of your games. Every few levels (or from a combination of a few levels) you unlock new research topics. In order to research a topic you need to invest money and research points. After you researched a new topic fully you will then have to make a new engine to implement it (there are a few exceptions to this). So, if you just made a brand new engine, with all the bestest research novelties you made and after you next game you get something EVEN better, you must make a new Engine from scratch if you want to include the new feature in your future games.

Meanwhile, you and your workers also level-up. Levels mean higher costs… but they do not always reflect skills. Skills have to be trained using both money and Research Points. There are four different types of skills. Among them, Design and Technology allows your workers to specialize, first in broader categories (Design or Technology) and later in specific areas (like Story Writing, Engine or Graphics). These skills influence how many Design and Technology points your game will get. What does that mean? Based on what I saw, depending on the In-Game Year and Game size a specific number of both Design and Technology Points are needed. You cannot keep making games with the same engine, and the end result always has to be “More, Better and Bigger”.

Game Dev Tycoon

As you begin making bigger games you will have to allocate people to perform specific tasks. The more qualified the worker the better the end result. Having a bigger team means everybody will contribute anyway, but the “Team Lead” is very important. However, as you can see above, if you put too much strain on a worker they will get overworked (not sure if that influences their input or energy, but you will most certainly not get an XP bonus once the game is released, for “Good Management”).

The problem is that the transitions from a Small, to a Medium, to a Large, to a Triple A game might be very difficult to adapt to at first. For example, while I managed to chug out very good quality Large games making a Triple A game is very difficult, and I rarely got to an 8/10 with my scores for one (I did get a 9/10 a few times, but it calls for a lot of preperations). Triple A games need highly specialized Workers (with Specializations + High Skill number) and all the top quality research you can muster. You cannot make a Triple A Game on an early 2D engine, or with an unskilled crew. At the same time you must KNOW what makes a good game. So if you had a formula that worked on your previous games you should replicate it here, while adding more features.

This is where R&D eventually kicks in, but they drain money like mad. You can even make your own Console, but that costs an arm and a leg, and then some (if you want to make it proper). Of course, it’s logical that a BIG production need a BIG investment, but these a very risky investments. During my first game attempt I nearly went bankrupt with my R&D and AAA Video Games. They cost me a godawful amount of money and did not offer enough back. R&D deals with “Super Research”. For example, while you can research, on your own 3D Graphics V5 you need an R&D Department to research 3D Graphics V6 and V7. You will also need an R&D Department to host your own “Conference”, research MMOs, etc. The Hardware Department (where you make your own Console) has only really two uses. Firstly, the creation of your Console, secondly the “Upkeep” of your Consoles (customers might send their Consoles back, if they are damaged).

Game Dev Tycoon

Sequels can be released to any of your titles. The better the sequence of sequels the higher the scores, the bigger the hype, the bigger the sales. For some reason whenever I play a new Studio and release Fallout with its numerous Sequels I tend to end up with very high scores (It’s Fallout, of course it deserves the scores!).

Let’s take a short step back. In order for bigger games to sell you need one of two things. Fans or a Publisher. Publishers offer you a cut for your game they will sell. They offer you contracts, with certain “limitations”, but if you do your job well you can swim around in millions of dollars (one game a I released to a publisher made over 600 million for him, and I got the 10% cut from that, much better than if I sold it on my own).

Fans are generated through the sale of good games. But Fans can also gather when you sell a game to a publisher, because the publisher always sells waaaaay more games than you (thus, more fans join you). So during your humbler beginnings you might prefer to focus on Publishing deals, rather than self-publish, because the benefits might be much higher. The more fans the better, since Fans seem to generate Hype on their own, and you will have a certain level of guaranteed Sales thanks to them. In other words, the more Fans the better, but it will take time to get enough of them.

What is your End-Game? Once you have a team of Veteran Designers and Tech Specialists you could give MMOs a go. MMOs can be HIGHLY profitable, but they drag with them a big risk. Here is why; when you first release an MMO it will come at a high cost (a Triple A MMO will cost you a bare minimum of 40 million dollars to start). Once it is complete it will continue to make money, but at the same time some of your revenue will be eaten by maintenance costs. The longer your MMO exists the higher its costs. In order for an MMO to keep making money you need to make expansions. As I found out rather brutaly you can dig your own grave by gambling away all your money on an Average MMO only to realise it did not bring about enough money to cover its development costs. However, the more Expansions you release the higher the income benchmark. So, first you could be making Millions, then Tens of Millions, then Hundreds of Millions… The problem is that the costs also increase at this rate, so if you neglect your duty of releasing new expansions you could suddenly find that you lose over 100 million dollars a week, after your third or fourth expansion. Another problem is that it is hard to add something to an MMO, in terms of content. I tried Multi-Genres but that only works to a certain degree. Eventually you will have to close shop and start a new MMO, but if you played your cards right you will have a bank account filled with cash.

Game Dev Tycoon

At the end of the long road you could have a Studio like this one, with a Hardware Lab and R&D working to provide you with the best possible products/research. You can also see my MMO “FEAR Combat” slowly starting to run out of steam. I will have to either can it or make an expansion quickly. This is literally a few weeks after the game “ended”, so you can continue the game after the deadline, but it will no longer count toward your final score.

Then there are the Custom Consoles. Yes, you can create your own Console, and then make games for it. I managed to dominate the market a few times with my Consoles, but sadly the game is rather “limited” when it comes to your Console. You will not get any money for licenses, while the number of possible features is impressive you cannot replicate a Kinect, or make a “Next Gen” Console of the future, with holographic images. In general, you make a console, then you have to make sure you make the games for the console, so that it keeps selling. This can be just as expensive as maintaining a quality MMO, but at least you have a few angles to go with (or you can combine all of them).

At the end of the game all your achievements will be added up and you will be given a score. Some people on the Forums can achieve truly insane scores. I prefered just to keep my Studio afloat, and maybe score a few major “Game Sales”, where I knew I released a handful of epic AAA Games.

With all its complexity and possible angles of advance into Video Game Development, Game Dev Tycoon suffers from a lack of “complexity”. There are still many areas unexplored or that could be further developed. AI, for one, is an area that is rather neglected. Some Development areas are rather ambiguous, and it’s hard to tell what is the difference between a Reactive and Dynamic World (if I got those names right) or what exactly should you do with smaller game projects, where you cannot stuff in all the features that would make a logical sense. Sometimes you will yearn to have more Studios, or out-sourcing, to do some of the development, or that you simply had more Genres to choose from. Mind you, in general the game is good, but after my third play-through I feel that there could be more.

Thankfully, as far as I have heard, there will be some new content in August, so we will have more options and events. While the game in its current state will last you a while you can expect more in the coming months.

 Conclusion

Game Dev Tycoon has decent gameplay and re-playability, at least for myself. It suffers from a lack of feedback so that you could improve your games. On the other hand the Feedback given is sometimes sufficient when you especially under or over-perform in certain areas. Finding the “Golden Formula” will take time however, and you may choose to take the easy route and find the answers on the Game Dev Tycoon Wiki. Even without these tips you can do mildly well (as I found out) but it will take a few attempts before you reach ever higher every time.

While in its current form the game might last you only a few full playthroughs the promise of an “Expansion” in August could prove instrumental in making this game even more re-playable. Becuase of this Game Devy Tycoon scores a 7.5. It’s an above-“ok” game, with potential to be much more. I still recommend it, if you need a few hours/days worth of a distraction, but it’s not a “Golden” game just yet.

I can honestly say that this is a very solid first release for Greenheart Games, and I hope more will follow in the future.

 Note from the Author: Now, I read many times that Game Dev Tycoon is very similar to Game Dev Story, which was for the Android. While this might be the case I cannot state the same as I never tried Game Dev Story.

Rating:7.5/10
Pros:"Light" yet challenging
More Content on the way
Works on PC, Linux and Mac
Cons:Not enough feedback (yet)
Limited Money Management options
Could be much more (might be present in future updates)
Game producer's website:Greenheart Games
Official website:Game Dev Tycoon
Game available at:

Alex “WriterX” Bielski

About The Author

Aleksander "WriterX" Bielski
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Student of Psychology, he was identified as a Nut-Job even before he started the course. Having done some small work as a Modder for a number of titles, and worked as a Game Designer part-time, Alex now writes in third person. As Co-Owner and Editor of AlterGamer.com he aims high, while being armed only with a sling. In the future, he hopes to become a fully qualified Newspaper Editor, and purchase Google.

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