Game Dev Story
I love (almost!) everything about this game. I have a pile of AAA titles on every platform in my backlog right now, and all I've wanted to do, since the second I bought it, is play Game Dev Story on my iPhone.
At its heart it's a Simulation RPG that has you managing a game development studio and it starts you off with 2 employees and enough capital to get your first project going. Your task is to manage your team through developing as many hit games as you can, or you can choose to do some contract work to build up even more money and earn research points.
These 2 choices provide a nice little risk/reward dynamic throughout the rest of the game; the money and research points you earn from doing contract work is nice, especially early on, but do too many jobs without making a game and your fanbase will start to shrink.
When you decide to start working on your first game you're presented with 8 sliders that represent the focus of your games' development, the higher you slide them, the more points they use and you only have X number of points to spend. These sliders really provide a fantastic amount of flexibility for controlling which direction your many games will take, and let you develop a wide variety of different games. Will it be an incredibly innovative fantasy online game that breaks all known sales records? Or a ninja Action RPG? You can make an adorable adventure game with cute little woodland animals that's aimed at kids on the latest handheld device if you want, or a highly realistic war-themed shooter aimed at an older demographic on another, newer and more powerful platform.
You can also unlock a large variety of new Genres and game Types as you progress, such as the Shooter genre or Puzzle game type for example. And you can also earn more points to spend on the game focus screen resulting in higher quality games overall.
Picking a good combination of Genre and Game Type will net you a productivity bonus from your excited workers and may even earn you a sponsorship from the console maker, which has a massive impact on hype and therefore sales.
You can spend research points to directly level up your employees, which increases some or all of their 4 employee parameters; Program, Scenario, Graphics and Sound. And each of those are interrelated to the 4 game parameters of Fun, Creativity, Graphics and Audio, increasing all of which leads to better games.
Or you can spend some of your cash and send your employees to a variety of different training courses that increase their parameters and, depending on which training course you choose and for whom, will sometimes result in a super parameter boost.
Investing in your loyal employees will give you long-term benefits, but each improvement comes with an increased salary too, be sure you can afford it because having to cancel a project is a hard lesson learned for any team. You can also earn additional points to spend on the game focus screen by making a good variety of successful games, you might even earn enough points to get that Polish meter all the way up to the top someday.
If you call on the same worker to do the same job too many times they'll start to burn out and their productivity will drop significantly. So, you always have the option of farming out the writing, graphics and/or the audio work that gets done in your games, the more you spend, the better the return.
Managing your money is something you'll need to start concerning yourself with early on too, games have been canceled and studios shut down due to poor management. New platforms are released periodically as you progress and you must buy a license and pay to develop games on each one you'd like, and can afford, to develop games for.
This is where the humor in Game Dev Story starts to shine through, my personal favorite is Senga's Uranus. And if you pay attention to real-world game developers, you'll appreciate some of the employee names.
You must also learn to use Boosts, and it's good to purchase and start using them early because they are essential for any self-respecting dev company later in the game. Are your employees getting sleepy and losing steam? Buy them a Dead Bull energy drink to boost your entire team's productivity when they need it most.
I found myself wishing I could call in the Salesman at my convenience instead of waiting for his annual visit, but I chalked that up to learning the rhythms of the game. And one thing that I thought was a little extreme are the brutally punishing power outages and equipment failures. They're completely random and can ultimately cause your whole project to tank to the point of no return. I had one equipment failure hit when my game was 99% done and it took over 80 points off my Fun rating (did I mention that's utterly devastating?) and a painfully large chunk out of the other stats, it completely crippled what would've otherwise been a fantastic and successful game, and stunted my growth for the rest of the game. Annoying but forgivable.
From the first second of gameplay you'll grow your fledgling studio and your fanbase to soaring new heights as you begin living the dream with the ultimate goal of winning the $1,000,000 grand prize at the Global Game Awards and go on to become the greatest video game development company IN THE WORLD!
Kairosoft has created a very well-made, charming and compelling RPG here that's surprisingly hard to put down. I'm glad I bought it and I would recommend it to anyone that's even slightly interested in the game development industry. Well worth the $3.99 price tag, I've already sunk as many hours into this game as I do any AAA title on any platform. I'm surprised I was able to put it down long enough to write about it.