So last week or so I was desperately in need of a way to procrastinate, and the internet was being surprisingly unhelpful. As a result of this, and a long series of very random thoughts and decisions that made sense at the time, I bought the first iPhone game I have bought in a long time. Its called Game Dev story, but if like most people you looked at the picture before reading this you already figured that out.
On paper, this sounds like a terrible idea for a game: Make a game company, handle the resources of said company, train your employees, make games (or do contracts) , attend game expos, raise your fan base, accept awards, and then…make more games.
And when you first start it doesn’t seem like much either. The only control you are given is a menu with a few options. There is no combat, you can’t move around, you can just sit, and watch your employees program.
So why can’t I stop playing it? Because the game is ridiculously deep. See what makes the game interesting from my perspective is I have taken classes on the history of game development. I know about the crash in the game market, and how Nintendo managed to drag us back out by being awesome. This knowledge is shockingly helpful here. The game starts just before/during the crash, with the NES coming out in the second year. If you save up to develop for that instead of selling for what is the equivalent of the Atari, you will make far more money. As well, the “Game Boy” (they all have clever names, with the game boy being the “Game Kid”, very subtle) is on the market forever, so if you can get a licence for it you have an easy source of income. Its successor, the “Virtual Kid” is a total failure and will eat your money, just like the virtual boy in real life. If you know the history, the game is much easier and far more fun.
When actually developing a game, you pick a genre (shooter, rpg, trivia, exc. There are a lot of them actually), and type (ninja, animal, historical, exc. Again, there are quite a few). Matching these is important, as a good match makes for a better game. You then pick a direction (focusing on quality, or speed, or both if you have the money) and set to work. Once again, you need to use your own sense here. It wont tell you what matches what until you try it, so you have to think about it. A shooter involving robots will be popular, a shooter involving animals is less so. Your fan base also determines for you what will be popular, if you are mostly popular with the younger crowd, animal games and the like are more popular.
The game requires a shocking level of knowledge of people and the game industry. The game ends roughly around the time the Wii comes out, but you can keep playing after that or start again. Aside from developing games, you need to keep up a presence in the industry to boost your sales. Once a year (which comes by way too fast), you go to “Gamedex” which I suppose is like E3, or PAX or others. You can hire booth babes, people in costumes, or celebrities to stand with you…but its usually too expensive and not worth it.
You can also level up your employees to get them to produce better games, or even take up different jobs! This is both a blessing and a curse: with each level up, their salary goes up as well. I have an employee at the moment who is single-handedly costing me five million a year. I don’t know why I need anyone else with him around.
Over all, this is a game only for a very specific kind of person, like me. As far as I know this game is only available for the iPhone. The same company has another game called Hot Spring Story which sounds like it could be a lot of fun.
When I bought it, it was on sale for 99 cents. Apparently it is usually around four dollars, and at the moment is available for 1.99. Totally worth it.