Ever wanted to make your own game studio, but realised you’re lacking the talent, know-how and cash to do so? Well, you’re in luck – the mobile hit Game Dev Story is now available on the Nintendo Switch, meaning you can release your own hit games on the big screen at home. Sure, it might not see you raking in the cash that some successful indie developers get these days, but at least it offers a satisfying experience without the hassle of actually being able to make your own games.
First of all you’ll have to hire a team, with different cash investments giving you different options. Invest more cash and you’ll see a better selection of qualified staff, or invest a smaller sum and have less choice – it’s up to the player. Each staff member comes in different roles though, each of which has strengths and weaknesses in specific areas of game design. Fortunately, you can improve their skills through training, which is essential since they’ll often be given specific roles within each project.
The meat and bones of Game Dev Story is found within each game project, with each one customisable in a variety of ways. Firstly, you can assign points to the games core elements, with things like fun, graphics, or innovation focused on. Secondly, you’ll assign a genre and theme to the game – you could make a pirate RPG, a romantic puzzler, or a ninja platformer for example, with different genres and themes unlocking as you progress through the game. Certain themes and genres work better together than others whilst some are more popular too, so working out what works best is part of the experience. Finally, you’ll decide how much cash you want to invest into the project, and then your team gets to work.
Their progress on the project is displayed in-game then with each staff member adding different stat points to it as time passes – the higher the stats of each area of design, the better the game will be when complete. When a project is finished it’ll get reviewed (often badly to begin with) and then it’ll go on sale, with all of the cash earned then being used to invest in both your studio and your next project.
This cycle of creating and releasing new games goes on and on, with the player eventually seeing their studio grow, new and improved staff join the team, new consoles to develop for, and their fan base increasing in time. It’s almost like a waiting game, with the player mainly in charge of simple decisions like what project to work on, how much to spend on advertising or just hiring staff.
It’s always satisfying though, even if you aren’t doing a whole lot. Seeing all the improvements take place and your studio growing to becoming an industry giant is pretty rewarding, even if you are essentially following a gameplay loop that doesn’t demand a whole lot of thought. When those minor decisions you make help form a successful franchise though, it’s hard not to feel proud of your work. It’s just simple satisfying fun.
Whilst Game Dev Story is a pretty easy game, you can run into problems. The most obvious one is running out of cash, which can see you have to completely cancel a project – there’s nothing worse than seeing an unfinished game, especially after investing a lot of money to start it off. Running out of cash doesn’t initiate a fail state though, with the player actually able to take on contract work to get more money. It’s not as fun as releasing a new game, but it ensures that Game Dev Story’s gameplay loop doesn’t reach a premature end thanks to your financial mismanagement.
Game Dev Story was one of those smart phone game that didn’t take skill to succeed but rather time, and it tells a lot here. You’re not getting a deep video game studio simulator, but rather a game that keeps things simple but fun. If you were hoping to go hands on and manage every single aspect of your studio then you’ll be left disappointed, but if you’re happy to deal with minor decisions and let the game do the work for you, you’ll quickly find yourself addicted to the gameplay cycle.
Once you hit the big time though, there’s not a whole lot to keep you invested. Sure, you could keep bringing out new projects and getting those awards, but finding major success saw the game hits its natural conclusion for me. It’ll take a few hours to get that far, but Game Dev Story doesn’t offer an experience you’ll be hooked to for a long time. It’s also got some noticeable issues, mostly with the in-game text – I noticed a lot of sentences broke off midway and went onto the next line, which is readable but looks weird in-game.
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), iOS, Android