Positive word-of mouth for Game Dev Story spread quickly on gaming websites, blogs, message boards and podcasts. Based on purpose alone, that shouldn’t be a surprise. Game Dev Story is the ultimate gaming-enthusiast game. It’s a game about running every aspect of a video game company. Want to hire a pro producer? You can do that. Think you need booth babes for the upcoming Gamedex game convention? You can do that. Want to develop on that hot new PlayStatus 2 but don’t have the capital to buy a licensing agreement? You’ll have to deal with that, too.
Having dropped way too many hours into this game in a short amount of time, I know for sure why this game has built up such a buzz for itself. It’s the game for game enthusiasts. It’s a game about the games you play, the stories you read about on websites and blogs and the discussions you have on message boards. When I picked this up, I could not put it down. If you’re just looking for a fun ‘Tycoon’ style game to play, this is right up your alley, too.
Before I dive too deep into specifics and hyperbole, let’s take a step back and talk about what Game Dev Story is. This game is a simulator in the same vein as something like the ‘Tycoon’ series. You start out as an owner of a small game development studio and it’s your job to manage it. In case you were wondering, I named my company GameBoat, in reference to the upcoming Kinect peripheral. You’ll probably start the game by hiring staff and making a cheap PC game, but after that, it’s all up to you.
There are a lot of different factors for you to manage. You’re responsible for deciding what platforms to develop for, what types of games to make, how polished they are when you release them and many more. The great thing about all of these factors is that they’re clearly explained, easy to understand and easy to manage. From a gameplay mechanics standpoint, it’s awesome. I quickly understood how all of the factors at play worked and it wasn’t long before I got into a rhythm with the game. My first game, a ninja puzzle game, sold horribly, but I was able to improve my performance with every game release after that.
From a user-interface perspective, the game stumbles a bit. It was clearly not originally developed for the iPhone, as the game doesn’t fit the whole screen or take full advantage of the iPhone’s touch screen interface. With the default control settings, it can be hard to hit some of the buttons because they’re so small. I switched to the control pad method in the options, which works better, but still not ideal for this type of game. While I’m complaining, I should also mention that the music tends to get annoying very quickly. Luckily, this game lets you listen to your own music in the background.
From here on in, there’s nothing but love for Game Dev Story from me. What I love most about this game are the little details throughout that a game enthusiast will really appreciate. For instance, if you want to release a launch game for a new platform to take advantage of the new audience and limited competition, you’ll have to bite the huge licensing cost and usually sacrifice the overall quality of your game to get it out on time. As someone who has unfortunately bought crappy launch games in the past with my brand new systems, it’s funny to see this from the other side of the fence. When you release a game, you get reviews from different publications, which will affect the hype and sales of your product. If they trash your game, your game won’t sell. It’s a neat touch that this portion of the game is done in Famitsu/EGM four-person review style.
Throughout the process of running your studio, you’ll experience so many different things along the way, such as displaying your work at game conventions, attending award shows, moving into bigger offices, attending press conferences where new consoles are announced (which closely mirror real life console history) and fire people who aren’t performing well. I may not work at a game development studio, but I feel like this game captures everything I would want to manage if I did.
Though the game stops counting your score after 20 years, you can always continue your current game after that, or start anew and play the game in a completely different way. Do you want to make games only for the Virtual Kid? You could, for as long as the system lasts (spoilers: it doesn’t last long). You could make games only targeted towards senior citizens. You could create a company that only makes dating simulators. You could even try and sustain a game company that only releases bug-filled nightmares that review poorly. These types of stories that you can create with this game seem endless.
Game Dev Story is my new iPhone cocaine. It’s taking me forever to write this review because I’m constantly stopping to play. This is a must-buy for anyone that would regularly read a blog like mine, listen to a gaming podcast or participate in a gaming message board. If you’re just looking for a cool simulation game, Game Dev Story works on that level as well. Instead of thinking of a more creative way to end this, I have to get back to GameBoat and wrap up development on the sequel to my hit fantasy card game, “Okaymon”.