Review: Game Dev. Story
There’s definitely some sort of trippy meta-layer to being a game developer who develops a game about game development, but Kairosoft has pulled it off well with Game Dev. Story on the iPhone and iPod Touch.
In this mobile sim RPG made for the video game industry enthusiast, you’ll have the choice to develop for systems as they are released, with derivative names like Intendro IES and Game Kid, and the Senga Exodus and Play Gear. You’ll hire a staff (and pay their salaries), level up their skills, and take outside contracts to make more money. These contracts range from working on ringtones (which utilizes your sound production skills) to designing a pinball machine video or mascot costume (using your graphics skills).
Your focus is game development, of course. You buy a license to develop on the systems you choose, and pick the genre of game and type of characters, each of which has a popularity rating and a development cost attached. If the final sum fits within your budget and you’re comfortable spending the amount, you can start development.
Game development begins by choosing someone on your staff or hiring an outside contractor to write the scenario proposal. During development the game will progress through the alpha and beta versions, and at these points you have to choose someone to work on the graphics and sound, the outcome depending on the skill level of the person doing the work.
Contracts and games are worked on automatically, as your staff sits at their computers, getting up to walk around or help each other, with symbols for graphics, creativity, sound, and fun popping up over their heads. They go home and come back as weeks tick by. When they reach the required numbers the work will be complete and your company will either be paid by the hiring company or the game will become ready for release. You can also purchase ads on different media (radio, magazine, TV, releasing a demo, and more) to build hype and fame and gain fans - timing it with your release is key. After the release you can choose to take a new contract or work on a new game, with your sales tallied until your last game is taken off the market.
As your company progresses it will receive fan letters praising or denouncing the quality of your games, invites to the Global Game Awards, the opportunity to rent a booth at the Gamedex trade show (booth babes or animal costumes cost more), and be mentioned in magazines, all of which will boost your company’s standing around the world.
For example, here is a description of my personal scenario:
Nearly six years after start-up Ingenious Inc. formed, the company went from being a nobody company in a small six-person office to a Top 10 games developer with over $1 million in capital. Even after a poor debut with games like “Ninja Attack!” and “Robot Attack!” which saw only 41,000 and 64,000 units sold respectively, Ingenious Inc. hit its stride with “Puzzimals” and its sequel, “Puzzimals 2”, growing their nationwide fan base, getting magazine write-ups and even fan letters. But it was their pirate RPG “Sails of Booty” that broke them into the top 10, with 196,116 units sold - sales that were boosted by magazine ads, online ads, radio ads, and a game demo. The game was only topped by the well-publicized sim RPG “Animal Street”, which was so popular it received a write-up in Game Guy magazine.
The game is clearly meant for people who are involved with or fans of the video game industry: it spares no jokes, no matter how obvious a parallel—characters have names such as Dee Coder, Newb Ownerton, John Gameson, Sigeto Minamoto, and Ann Deroid,. The graphics look very much like something you’d see on in old PC or Apple game (yes, even before they were called Macs), and the sound is made up of jovial digitized bit music that is fun at first but can become annoying in long bursts.
Still, there’s something addictive about the game. With each contract and each game made, I found myself wanting to see what would happen. Weeks and years passed quickly in Game Dev. Story while mere hours passed in the real world, and before I knew it I had created a slew of games and was able to track their stats and continue to make better ones by leveling up genres I’d already worked on. New systems continued to be unveiled and the money kept coming in. I was on a quest to see whether my next project would be bigger and more popular than the last, on a financial roll only suspended when I ran out of time to play.
At its launch price of $3.99 in the App Store I would say Game Dev. Story is worth its length, and when you finish your company’s 20-year run you can always start a new one using the tricks you learned from the last - just like businesses do today. I can see this game expanding to Facebook or the DS, though I doubt its widespread appeal to non-industry-following players, especially with such a drab title. One of its strengths is that it is not a continuous world like Farmville. When you close the game the world pauses. After all, you’re running a business not a farm, and if there’s no one around to manage it the whole company will run itself into the ground.