I worked for a game developer once. The pay was rubbish, the hours ridiculously unsociable and the management team populated by two-faced scoundrels.
On the surface, then, playing Game Dev Story – a game about making games – ranks just below Super Tax Inspector and Janitor Gaiden on my 'bad game concept' list.
And yet here we are with one of the most addictive smartphone games of any year.
Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to build your humble four-person development studio into a hit factory to rival EA or Activision.
As you hire staff, set the focus of your next game project, take on contract work to pay the bills and decide how to advertise your masterpiece, events amusingly mirror real life. Starting from the mid-eighties, you’ll witness the launch of familiar-looking (though just about copyright infringement-dodging) consoles and handhelds, each of which you can choose to support or ignore.
As such, you can make an informed decision if you know your gaming history. You’ll know to back Nintendo’s early output, for example, regardless of the high license cost. Of course, a hit is a hit, and you can change the course of history if you release enough 'console sellers'.
The key to Game Dev Story’s success is that it brushes over the boring bits of game development (all 99.9% of it) and focuses on pure fun. Improving your game’s sound is a simple matter of setting your audio whiz on it, or even applying a magic (albeit costly) boost item.
This is filtered beautifully through the game's 8-bit isometric art style and an intuitive (if slightly cramped) menu system. Results are immediately and clearly displayed, with your team’s progress reflected through a stream of easy-to-decipher emoticons that sprout from their heads.
As this might suggest, it can be a little too easy to come up with a winning formula. It’s quite possible to get a dream team of guaranteed hit-makers together by the half way point in your 20-year career, which can make the second half (covering the 3D PlayStation era onwards) a bit of a damp squib.
Still, the constant rewards on offer – positive review scores, award ceremonies and those beguiling live sales charts – ensure that you’ll spend countless hours in the game’s company (and in your game company).
Hence Game Dev Story is about as true to the actual game development process as Super Mario Bros is to plumbing, and that's why it’s such brilliant fun.
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