I was looking up creative anti-piracy measures the other day and I came across this game called Game Dev Story (look it up if you’re wondering how they handled pirated copies), where you control a small game design studio and guide them into success. With a concept like that, how could I resist?

So I looked it up on the Play Store and I’ve been hooked on it ever since. It has simple gameplay, adorable 16 bit graphics and an equally cute retro soundtrack. That said, I’ve since found out that this is a port of a game that dates back to 1997, so that’s not actually that surprising anymore.

gamedevstory2Making a game isn’t that hard. You hire a team of coders, writers, designers and sound engineers and then set them off on a project. You dictate the genre and theme, and set direction goals like realism, cuteness and simplicity, but otherwise they’ll handle the rest.

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The trick is finding the right combination and getting a good team together. A Fantasy RPG works really well, but my Action Golf game (which I named Violent Golf) failed to make the charts.

It’s simple and instantly gratifying. You could steer through an entire project or two in the time you spend sitting on the pooper and as the game pauses during moments where you have to make a decision, it’s quite playable while commuting.

The depth lies in trying to balance your spending and your studio direction. Training your team improves their skills but tires them out and costs money that could be spent on advertising or hiring mascots and booth babes at the annual gaming convention. Making the same type of game over and over will increase your experience in that genre but also bore your fans.

So really, you could be a Blizzard and spend a lot of time and money polishing a game, or make quirky unique games that might not sell well, or be a certain studio that just quickly churns out sequel after sequel of a popular title.

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Later on in the game, you can even enter the hardware market and design your own gaming console.

gamedevstory1And here spawns a problem with the game: the outdated menu driven interface that doesn’t let you know what you’re doing. It’s clunky, but more importantly it doesn’t have pop up text boxes that explain anything. There is a bare bones tutorial prompt sequence, and after that you have to rely on a 30 page manual that doesn’t explain everything.

For examples, you need a hardware engineer to design a console but I had no idea how to get one. I had to look it up on the Internet to figure out that you can only career change a team member into one if he or she is max leveled at producer and director classes, which in turn require you to level up the designer, sound engineer, coder and writer classes. It is not hinted at anywhere in the game at all! But now that you’ve read this, you know, so benefit from my loss.

Aside from that I do believe it’s an incredibly fun and addictive game. I’m on my second playthrough and it’s still as exciting to watch your reviews come up for a newly released title.

As an in-game reviewer says: “I’d recommend a buy.”

Game Dev Story is available on iTunes App Store and Google Play Store.

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Drew used to be a professional videogame reviewer, then he took an adulthood arrow to the knee. Now he is a content strategist, helping brands tell their stories without resorting to overused videogame memes.