- Developer - Greenheart Games
- Formats - Windows RT, Windows 8
- Device tested - Surface RT
- Price - £6
Game Dev Tycoon
Making games is hard. It's expensive; it takes ages; it's precarious. And after all that hard work, after you've sunk your company's entire annual budget into development costs, some smarmy reviewer, probably from IBTimes UK, slaps a four out of ten round your game and tells customers not to buy it.
With the bank manager on the phone, you realise that rather than make a sprawling, story-driven RPG, you need to play it safe for a while and go with what's popular. A little research bubble tells you that military shooters are in right now: If you fire your writer, you could just about scrape one together.
Six months later, Call of Medal Field hits the shelves and it's a smashing success. You total a million sales in the first week alone and your studio, Despondent Games, is featured on the cover of a magazine. Everyone's happy with you. Your fan count is massive, the publishers love you and you've got more money that Croesus. Maybe we should do this again...
This is Game Dev Tycoon and it's excellent. Charting the career of a game studio as it grows from one man in his house to a AAA goliath, it's not just fun, easy to use and challenging; it's satirical, thought-provoking and hilarious.
In a very basic sense, you get to make your own games, picking a genre, platform and engine then adjusting sliders to focus on graphics, gameplay or story. You can improve them by researching better technology or design between projects and even jump into future markets with things like "Grid", the game's equivalent of Steam. It's enormous - you can take your company in any direction you like. And it mirrors real life. You begin in the eighties producing games for PC and the Commodore 64, before pushing through the NES, SNES and Mega Drive years, the PlayStation and PS2, current-gen and beyond.
You have to micro-manage your team, building their specialities like bug fixing and writing, and court the press, attending "G3" every year and granting interviews. You also have to do marketing and haggle with publishers. Publisher A will ensure your game ships a million copies, but only if you make a sci-fi shooter. Alternatively, do it yourself and risk destitution. What do you want?
It's just great, it's so funny. Once you've lost all your money on making the games you want, it's easy to get drawn into franchise building. That RPG, Windfall, done bombed, so you make Soccer for the GameBoy, then Soccer II, Soccer III, Soccermost and Soccermostest. You start, gradually, to fit all those stereotypes you riled against, and you see how it happens: Despite the stripped down look, you get a real sense of how game development functions as a business, the pressures, the pitfalls.
It's hard, it's unforgiving - when one bad game takes away half your bankroll you begin to understand the stories of Free Radical and THQ. It's easy to make Haze; it's easy to make Homefront.
Apart from its ingenious anti-piracy measures, that's why Game Dev Tycoon is excellent, excellent, excellent. Thanks to Twitter, Edge cover stories and Gaben, the inner workings of game studios are of more public interest now than ever. We've read Masters of Doom, we've seen Indie Game: The Movie - now it's time to play this out. With fans and writers getting savvier about how this industry works, Game Dev Tycoon couldn't have been better timed. It's brilliant, through and through. Get on Greenheart Games and buy it.
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