It is a lot of gamers’ dream to make their own video game development company and release all kinds of different titles that would score well with both critics and fans alike. I remember when I was younger I had scrapbooks full to the brim with ‘genius’ game ideas (and sometimes just titles that sounded cool), with a plethora of level designs and gameplay mechanics devised that were SURE to capture the imaginations of gamers worldwide… when I was talented enough to actually develop my own video games, that is.
Alas, that moment never came, and I instead have to settle for a virtual rendition of the dream of crafting my own video games. Enter Game Dev Tycoon, the super-addictive game development simulation title that has now made its way to the Nintendo Switch following a successful run on PC and mobiles.
Game Dev Tycoon takes you through thirty-five years of video game history, starting off with its own representation of the Commodore 64 and PC and leading up to modern consoles. There aren’t any official representations of hardware on show here, but there’ll be a few names and consoles that won’t be hard to differentiate from the inspiration thanks to some very similar names and appearances. Whilst you start off developing for these platforms from your garage, you’ll eventually build up a reputation (and a big enough bank balance) to see you work your way towards bigger office spaces with a whole team of staff helping you develop your next big release.
Developing games is a pretty straight forward process, with the player having to choose the topic and genre before starting development. You unlock more different topics and genres as you progress through the game – genres include the likes of action, RPG, simulation and so on, whilst topics are a lot more diverse and include things such as aliens, cooking, cyberpunk, extreme sports, fantasy, music, sci-fi, superheroes… you get the point. Just know that there are a LOT of different possibilities when it comes to defining what exactly your game is, with some combinations working a lot better together than others.
Once you’ve established the concept of your game and given it a name, development begins. From here, you’ll alter sliders to decide what aspects of the game you should focus on during development, whether that’s the gameplay, level design, the narrative, and so forth. Again, the importance of each of these comes down to the type of game your developing, so a lot of experimentation will take place before you nail the formula. Fortunately, once you’ve worked out what works best, the game notes it for future reference – it ensures that your best ideas can be built upon for future releases and that you avoid putting together any duds.
Once your game is complete, you’ll get your review scores in. Again, this is where the combination you’ve put together feels most significant, with critics often pointing out game combos that don’t work well or those that are perfect together. How successful your development process was will be significant too, especially if you didn’t eliminate any bugs before releasing your game into the wild. From there, your game will head out for sale and, depending on how good it is, will either make you plenty of cash or end up a complete flop and will possibly help your company go bankrupt.
That’s the basic gameplay loop for actually developing your titles, and believe me, it’s a lot more addictive and fun than I’ve made it sound there. There’s this real thrill that comes from experimenting with all of the different combinations you can put together, whilst waiting to see what the critics think and how well it will sell can be incredibly tense. I remember being thrilled when I saw my first 10/10 scores creep in and it resulted in an amazing selling game – it wasn’t only satisfying from a personal perspective, but it also helped me expand my studio to a new office, purchase the licences to develop on new platforms, and hire staff to help with development.
Of course, there’s more to Game Dev Tycoon than simply putting out a myriad of different releases. You’re able to generate reports following each title you launch for example, which helps you gauge how the audience responded to your release and the strengths and weaknesses it had. This market research helps you make better titles in the future and also allows you to learn more about what gamers want, making it imperative to your studio’s success with future releases.
You can also take on odd jobs at other companies in order to earn extra cash, develop your own in-game engines to make better titles, or even learn how to market games for gamers of varied ages. There’s a whole lot to think about in Game Dev Tycoon when it comes to releasing the perfect game, but you have to earn the ability to establish it into your development cycle. It’s adds a neat element of progression to the game where you have to balance out both your own in-house development and cycle of game releases in order to make sure you have both enough cash and talent to stay afloat.
There really is a whole lot going on in Game Dev Tycoon and managing everything competently isn’t always easy. There’ll be times when you’ll have to juggle game development with marketing, all whilst ensuring you’re releasing titles on the most popular consoles, attending events to promote your games, deciding whether or not to trust shady sources with new information, keeping your staff happy and well rested… seriously, there’s a lot you have to consider and I don’t know how indie developers manage it in the real world. Thankfully, the simple setup of Game Dev Tycoon and the intuitive UI make everything easy to handle, even on the Nintendo Switch where you don’t have a mouse and keyboard to flick between different options with ease. Everything controls nicely and the menus are all easy to navigate, whilst the inclusion of touch screen controls when playing on the console’s handheld mode makes everything a million times simpler too.
It all comes together to make for a really enjoyable experience and one that feels in touch with the changes and developments that the gaming industry has gone through over the last thirty-five years. It’s great to feel like a part of all of that and keeping up with the ever-evolving tech, whilst nothing quite competes with establishing your own gaming franchise either. Admittedly, it is guilty of growing a little repetitive in places (especially since it all takes place from the comfort of the offices you set up), but there’s a good balance of depth and accessibility in place to ensure that it remains addictive. You can certainly expect to lose a LOT of hours as you build an empire that could rival EA or Activision…
Game Dev Tycoon offers an addictive and enjoyable taste of what game development feels like, with plenty of thrills to be had as you establish your own (hopefully successful) studio. There’s a whole lot of depth to be found in how you build your games thanks to the experimentation you can dive into when mixing up different genres and topics, whilst actually managing your studio and bringing improvements to the team adds a rewarding sense of progression too.
It really is a lot of fun, even if it can be guilty of getting a little repetitive at times. With its balance of accessibility and depth though, there are enough mechanics to play around with in Game Dev Tycoon to keep both simulation veterans and those new to the genre happy as they build their own repertoire of ‘amazing’ game releases.
Developer: Greenheart Games
Publisher: Greenheart Games
Platform(s): Nintendo Switch (Reviewed), PC