Game Dev Tycoon – PC
Publisher: Greenheart Games
Developer: Greenheart Games
Release Date: Aug 29, 2013
Genre: Indie, Simulation, Strategy
Reviewed by Grant Chen

Review Score: 3.5 of 5

Game Dev Story came out three years ago, and while it caught headlines in the mobile gaming world, there was never a PC port of it. The enterprising minds over at Greenheart Games decided to take matters into their own hands and developed Game Dev Tycoon, an addictive little game about running a game development studio. While it has a few rough technical edges and it isn’t a particularly deep experience, it’s a fun time waster that gave me a few smiles.

The game starts off at the dawn of PC gaming and takes you through the next 35 years of the game industry. You’re a lone designer and programmer working out of your garage, and you want to create a game. You select a topic (Fantasy, sports, sci-fi, or what have you) and a genre (Action, RPG, simulation, etc), and you’re off. Partway through the development of a game, you’ll be presented with different priorities, such as graphics, sound, or story, and you’ll be asked what proportion of your time you want to spend on each. If you’re working on an RPG, you’ll want to put a lot of effort into dialog, but not so much artificial intelligence.

Once you ship your game, it goes off to the market to earn money. Before long, you’ll have the opportunity to move into a real office building and hire workers, and more of the game reveals itself. You can hire workers, research new topics and genres, build your own game engine, make publishing deals, and loads of other things.

Playing Game Dev Tycoon is an enjoyable experience, but you’ll want to pace yourself. While it’s a PC game, the game it was based on was a mobile game, and it’s not meant to be a thing you sit down with for hours. Game Dev Tycoon is a game where you’ll want to put in a little time while waiting for something else, during lunch breaks, or other short stretches. The core gameplay loop consists of developing a game, waiting for it to finish, and pushing it out to market then developing another game. Most of the game is sitting and watching numbers go up. It’s a good way to unwind, but it’s not something you can do for hours at a time. This would be a much better game if you could say, run it in a small resolution, set it to always be on top, and have it run idly in a corner while you did web browsing, but as it currently is, it either runs in a full screen or a large window, so you can’t do anything but play the game while the game is running.

In spite of its environmental flaws, the game does have a lot of charm. The graphics are simple, but clean, and as your business grows, you get a strong sense of that growth. Moving from a garage to an actual office gives you a real sense that you’re doing better, and once you start seeing whiteboards, rec rooms, greenscreens, and other game development facilities, it feels like a place where things are happening. As you go through the years, you can develop games for parodies of real life publishers and put them on parodies of real life game systems. Unfortunately, you can’t really divert from how history turned out. The parody of the NES is always going to blow the parody of the Sega Master System out of the water, and the parody of the Game Boy is going to sell like hotcakes. Still, it’s fun to re-live that series of events.

The writing is also surprisingly charming. For example, you get to name your games. However, I forgot to do that once, and my number one best selling title for a while ended up going by the name of “Game #17”. After the game came out and review scores came in, one of the review quotes was something along the lines of “A fantastic game, in spite of its title”. Another notable example of the witty writing happens if you’re unfortunate enough to go bankrupt. Your company suffers the “terrible fate” of being purchased by EA. A parody of it, of course, but gamers know what that means.

All in all, Game Dev Tycoon is an enjoyable game, but it really has to be played with the right mindset. Play it over lunch break. Play it while you’re waiting for a friend. Play it when you’re tired, but still want to get some gaming in. It’s ten dollars on Steam, so you can grab it for cheap, and who can say that they already have a game development simulator? It’s a fun concept to play in. Pick it up and have some fun with it.