I love Game Dev sims. Game Dev Story was one of those games that managed to burn away many hours of my life. It still is one of my favourite games on my iPhone. And for a long time, it was also pretty much the only game of its kind. Thankfully, Game Dev Tycoon came out in 2012. While it managed to be similar to the aforementioned game, it was also a bit more complex and supported mods. I played it a lot back in the day, but it never became an evergreen for me. Thankfully, Mad Games Tycoon has been in Early Access for some time now and I think it’s the right moment to write this little review of it.
Mad Games Tycoon takes a similar, but more complex approach to the topic at hand: You start off in a garage, alone, with your new company and you immediately get to build rooms, Theme Hospital-style. You even get to buy furniture, which has some impact on hiring new employees for your young studio. More talented people only pop up, if your company has enough stars, which in turn are determined by the quality of furniture you have in your office. At the beginning, you won’t have a lot of stars, since you need most of your money in order to finance your first games. While they are cheap to produce at the beginning, you have running costs, like the salaries of your employees and of course the upkeep of your studio.
Producing games is relatively simple at first. You define the name, genre and focus of your game. Each genre has a different focus, so you’ll have to experiment and invest in a quality assurance department in order to find out what’s the perfect mix. The closer you get, the higher the critics score your game and the better your game will sell. Later on, you can even combine some genres, but some combinations work better than others. You also take care of updating your games, which can have a positive impact on sales.
While this certainly sounds easy enough, there are additional things you can take care of. You can decide to develop your engines yourself, which has the added benefit that you can sell said engine to other game producers and get a fraction of the money they make with games that use your engine. This means you’ll also have to invest time and money into research. Buying a licence for a third party engine is an option too, of course, but you’ll be loosing a portion of your profits.
When your games start getting bigger, you’ll need to invest in a quality assurance department and dedicated graphics, music and motion capture studios, in order to improve those areas of your games. This also means you’ll need bigger offices quick and this is where one of my biggest problems with this game can be found: When you get a new office, you’ll need to build all your departments from scratch and reassign your entire workforce. Now, this is manageable the first time around, but it gets tough quickly. In one of my games, I had a workforce of over 100 people and it was impossible to assign them properly in a timely manner. Sure, you have the possibility to arrange them by five different attributes, but that is not enough. The game lacks a filter for unassigned workforce, which makes life harder than it needs to be. Maybe this will be added at some point later in the development.
The latest addition to the game is console development. While it doesn’t look like it’s completely integrated yet, it is pretty awesome to research and develop your own console and push it on the market to let it go up against the NES. You can set the price for your console and developing for it is pretty cheap. Unfortunately, right now I haven’t managed to develop an exclusive title that turned a profit…
While the gameplay is fun and the systems are comprehensive, the presentation still leaves a bit to be desired. Graphics are simple, yet functional and the music is ok for the first couple of hours but soon starts to get on your nerves. Some soundeffects are overused, especially the telephone, which thankfully can be switched off separately. Performance takes a notable hit too when there are more than 100 people working in your studio.
While these are some important complaints I have about the game, I’m also certain that at least some of those things will improve over time. But right now, Mad Games Tycoon is the Game Dev-Sim to go! It’s more complex and more satisfying in almost every way compared to similar games.
You can find Mad Games Tycoon over on Steam.