Game Dev Story Reader Review
Jabbing my finger on the Game Dev Story icon was like transporting myself back in time to the moment Little Computer People finished booting, after 5 minutes of flashing coloured lines and electronic squealing. A glimpse back to a moment in time where a bundle of pixels offered charm far beyond a highly textured Unreal Engine3 meat mountain of badass. If you are similarly dismayed at the array of brown average that sits on the shelf these days, why not use these little charming minions in your palm to change the shape of the gaming landscape to your desires?
This is the simple appeal of Game Dev Story. You, the budding Kotick, are in charge of a two person game development company in little more than a shed. With a limited budget, the aim is to propel yourself from indie developer to a lavish 8 man team in plush offices, banging out yearly sequels to rake in the millions. Your path is up to you, deciding whether to embark on the War Shooter themed “FaceBang 4” to rake in the cash from your growing fanbase, or whether a more niche Miniskirt Simulation “Pap-shot Galore” is more desirable to your critical direction. Half the joy of the game is banging together amusing combinations of the two word “genre pots” for your dismayed dev team to beaver away on. “Come on guys, lets make our new Formula 1 Fantasy-RPG, Eternal Rubber Burn Quest 2010, a real killer app!”
Once your team has a direction, away they beaver through the various development stages, adding Fun, Creativity, Graphics and Sound to the product. Your teams skills, energy, product apathy deeming how many vital icons ping from their PC into the array of attribute pots, all accompanied by a rather endearing “one palm mashing on keyboard” animation. Development finishes, debugging ensues and finally the product is unleashed on what appears to be the Famitsu review panel before being shunted onto the general public. Of course your first efforts are a bit more Fighters Uncaged rather than Street Fighter 4, but as you start to amass money and fans, you ability to expand increases. You can start to cast your HR net as far as your budget allows, bringing in new specialist team members. There is a genuine sense of excitement when new Director Steve Jobson, clad in nothing but a pair of tight green pants, bangs out 35 fun and creativity icons when your previous best was a mere 17. Its just numbers, but numbers that warm the heart because everything your company does really matters!
Obviously the game needs variety to keep you on your toes and the game is happy to spring E3-esque conferences on you, power failures, moments of chance where one of your dev team can gamble to boost a product’s attribute, fan demographic shifts and, of course, the ever moving shift of hardware as the years progress. The capital required to keep up with technology can really put a “oh please don’t let me end up just making PC games!” strain on the heart, perhaps shifting your company’s ethic from quality productions to quick and cheap efforts as you try to claw in cash as rapidly as possible to afford a development licence. As you progress throughout the game, however, you can eventually train your team into such a position where you can become your very own Sega and release your own 8bit BluRay powered “FailBox3000” (complete with 10 year product cycle if you desire).
The game lasts 20 financial years and the fun comes in rebooting at the end of this period and beginning over, except with your experience gained in game development carried over like a New Game+. Its at this point that you effectively become a power gamer, quite quickly you are shifting 10 million titles and sequels, spanking money on lunar advertising and training courses for your minions and aiming for a coveted 40/40 from the reviewers. Sadly the game loses a bit of its hook at this point as there is very little risk of failure with funds and revenue practically guaranteed as you go through the motions to hit those final personal achievements, especially without any form of EA/Activision backlash mechanic in place.
However, the sheer charm of your first playthrough, and genuine heartwarming sensations from every aspect of the game creation, means that you won’t look back harshly on your short time with Game Dev Story. This is where the key pleasure in the title lies, the knowing nods to “A new console has been released, a 3D one, I’m not sure that this will do so well”, the random events of chance and plays on familiar industry names are just the sort of thing that push our jaded motion controlled buttons. In fact you will look back on your time and wonder how an entire weekend has disappeared with you walking around looking like the recent Windows Phone 7 advert. I know from experience that lampposts of Manchester have grown to fear my presence thanks to this game. All said and done, in the knowledge that I haven’t picked up a controller for a good many months, this is the first game in a good long time that I have had that “must-keep-playing” sensation with. If that doesn’t encourage you, then I don’t know what will.