A thoughtful and personal exploration of games

Simple and Complex – Game Dev Tycoon

Recently I grabbed a copy of Game Dev Tycoon and was astounded by the game’s natural duality of simple gameplay and complex mechanics. Straight up, that’s a fantastic feat of design.

Game Dev Tycoon is essentially where you build your own game development company starting in your garage, banging out code by yourself. After a fashion, you can upgrade offices, start hiring employees, and making bigger games. Personally, after a couple of runs through the game (all of which were ill-fated), I got a little frustrated. I wanted to know what made this game tick and what tricks I could use to get more out of the game. My curiosity was piqued and so I spent a day or two on the wiki trying to piece things together and clear the cobwebs from my mathematical thought processes. By the way, all that math you wondered about learning in school totally helps here.

When you sit down to design a game, you assign a title, a topic (space, fantasy, sports, etc), a genre (simulation, RPG, casual, etc), and then you just go. There are sliders for allocating time to each primary component of the game at three stages of development, so you can see how time management comes in handy here. Further, the addition of features like a soundtrack or individual controller support increases the cost of development. While you’re doing all this, you need to consider marketing opportunities, staff training and capabilities, research of new technologies and functions, and keeping your products selling well.

As a business simulation, it’s a spectacular game. It teaches what really goes into a game in a simple and straightforward manner while being rather unforgiving the entire time. Due to my research in trying to figure out the mechanics, I discovered that the game isn’t about making a perfect 10 product but making a company that can consistently create well reviewed games and can stick around a good long time. It’s about making a business that stands the test of time, throughout the history of the game industry and maybe longer.

Oh, by the way, you get a quick and dirty history of the game industry as you play, with platforms coming and going in ways that happened in real world history (they call the platforms different things, but you can put two and two together to figure out what they really mean… Govodore 64? mBox? Yeah).

Overall, this game is a wonderful educational experience and pretty darn fun. I’m just one of those weird people who wants to have a successful company in it, so I won’t consider the game beaten until I’ve developed an MMO with multiple successful expansions. It’s an inexpensive game and will be coming out on Steam soon, so check it out!

Until next time!

– Elorfin

P.S. “Replay gaming history. Create best selling games. Research new technologies. Become the leader of the market and gain worldwide fans.” – Game Dev Tycoon tagline


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