In 2012, Greenheart Games released game developer simulator Game Dev Tycoon ($4.99) for PC players. Billed as somewhat of a basic strategy/simulation title, Tycoon earned a strong player following and has been a favorite indie title on PC for quite some time. Five years later and a mobile version of Tycoon is finally on iOS, where it naturally fits and is an awesome addition to the genre.
For mobile gamers that haven’t played Game Dev Tycoon on another platform, it plays similar to the 2011 Kairosoft title Game Dev Story (which actually inspired Tycoon). Players start out in a garage in the early days of the video game revolutionary creating simple games for the PC and basic platforms. As the game progresses, new consoles get released in the universe that closely mirror the console release timeline of the real world. With each new console comes new opportunity to make new games.
As one might expect, the making of the games is where all the gameplay and strategy truly is. The basic premise involves choosing a platform, a genre, and a thematic category for the game. After those are chosen game develop is broken up into three discrete phases, which each phase offering players the opportunity to add on features to the game and allocate resources to categories such as Story-writing, Graphics, and Sound. While a game’s success depends on a lot of elements, having a successful genre-theme category for the chosen platform is a good indicator for predicting popularity and a lot of the fun is exploring new combinations.
Game Dev Tycoon takes the basic premises described above and pile on a ton of strategic elements that really make the game a joy to play from a strategic and time management standpoint. Every element of game development can be classified as needing Design Points or Technology Points. You raise the likelihood of developing those points by assigning programmers that are specializing in one or the other (or both!). Programmers can be trained to develop their Design or Technology skills and can begin to specialize in specific criteria for software development or learn new special skills to use while making a game. Eventually players can unlock the ability to open R&D labs for even more customization.
Outside of improving individual employees, there’s a huge other portion of Game Dev Tycoon that focuses on developing new tools for game development. Each individual aspect of development has its own experience/level that can be developed. As the studio becomes more experienced, new development tools, such as better graphics or multi-genre games are available to be researched (and MMOs and Game Shops later in the game). Once researched, these tools can be used in development after creating new game engines that incorporate the latest advancements.
Everything I’ve discussed so far takes time, research points (which are gained when making games and engines) and money. Near the beginning of the game, money is the greatest bottleneck while towards the end fo the game it’s time and research points that are high in demand. A lot of the fun of Tycoon involves balancing making games, with training, with research while making sure there’s enough money to keep the lights going until the next big hit. There’s also a very strong appeal to wanting to “make just one more game” or to keep researching new tools and making new engines just to experiment with how new features impact sales.
In terms of how Game Dev Tycoon performs on iOS, quite simply it plays as if it’s designed for the mobile platform. The bite-sized timeline of making new games and researching new technologies works well in a portable setting. The visuals also looked great and I had no issues with the basic control scheme in its transition to touch. Probably the biggest “issue” I encountered was I never wanted to play it in bite-sized portions, so if the game hooks you in as it did with me, make sure you allocate enough time for play.
Quite simply, I’m a huge fan of Game Dev Tycoon and I love that we can finally play this title on iOS. It’s the perfect sort of game for mobile devices and there’s so much to do here in terms of developing personnel, researching items, and making games that there’s loads of replayability for quite a long time. An oldie, but a goodie, all players owe it to themselves to check out this great port.