Jan 17, 2011

Game Dev Story

I was introduced to computers on an Apple II back in the 6th grade. Consequently, the first computer game (not video game) I ever played was Lemonade Stand on this same platform. It was different from any of the arcade or computer games I had played as it didn't involve reflexes, but rather used the brain instead. On every turn I had to choose how much sugar and lemons and such to buy based on the weather. Ok, I'm not exactly sure anymore how deep that game was as my recent memories are of the graphically enhanced version of the game available on many mobile platforms.

So, enter the critically acclaimed Game Dev Story. Instead of running a simple lemonade stand we are now running a software development company that makes games like Lemonade Stand. In this game you hire employees based on their talents and salary requirements, you choose what platforms to develop games for based on their market share, and you pick what kinds of games to develop as well as what to focus on (quality or quantity, for example) during development. You start off with some funding and away you go building your company. You won't have enough money early on to develop the next StarCraft, but hopefully you can create something that makes a bit of money and then you can build on that. And while I'm at it, let's be clear... this game has nothing, zero, nada to do with creating video games. It's entirely a business simulation.

Game Dev Story relies entirely on a touch screen interface and on screen menus. Graphically the game looks like a sim game with little guys walking around, sitting at their desks, and even making the occasional breakthrough at which time they become 'on fire'. As you develop your game a meter is shown progressing from 0 to 100% and your game will gain values in four categories (fun, graphics, sound, and creativity) as it is developed. Your game will also inherit bugs during the development process after which you'll be able to either ship it or invest a bit more time cleaning the game up. The game has a nice, catchy musical score that plays in the background along with the various bells and whistles needed to alert you when something important happens.

My take on Game Dev Story is much like my take on Angry Birds. There really isn't anything new here... it's an old concept that been polished very well. And in this case, unlike Angry Birds, after developing a few game titles and making a bit of money I was actually bored (perhaps because I've played too much Lemonade Stand). I'm sure the concept of a game about creating games is part of this title's success as it seems at least half of the gamers I know want to create their own games. And for all the kids at home here are a few pearls of wisdom:

If you think you're going to make a fortune writing video games please think again. It's like acting... only a handful of talented and, dare I say, lucky individuals will do that. Most will make less than their business counterparts that write boring software for the insurance industry. Plus, writing games for a living will likely remove that from your hobbies list. If you're truly passionate about game writing and are willing to take the salary cut from doing something everyone else wants to do and some will do for free then go for it. Just be aware of reality.

Conclusion, Game Dev Story is a solid business simulator that will provide some entertainment as well. It might not even be a bad educational tool to help budding game developers understand that you can't just make an Xbox 360 game without getting a license (unless you go XNA, but that's not part of this game). I'm also a bit disappointed with all of the lavish praise poured out upon this title that there's no App2SD so it takes up a lot of space and it doesn't even seem to use my entire screen for the game's display almost as if it's a port from something else prior to the iPhone. 4/5 stars for a game that's good, but not great.


  1. i've been waiting for you guys to review this one. couldn't tell if the hype was really true, or if this would be mor eof the same old. thanks as always for your review, painting the picture i needed to decide.

  2. Just so you know, GDS really is a port from a pre-iPhone platform - GDS was around on Japanese phones in the Symbian era. The porters haven't really done much other than convert it. Still an excellent game, though, and I'll second your caveat on thinking this is how the industry actually works.