Game development requires drastic attention to detail. Good game design demands each aspect of every mechanic sees polish and that the chunks work together. This means that a game about game development should highlight how development and design mash together. Game Dev Studio strives to do just that.
The story follows you, the CEO of your own game development company, through the rise of the gaming industry. An investor has taken an interest in your ideas, and you must make his money back. You’ll do so by hiring employees, and creating new genres to build a name for yourself.
You’ll first create your character. Most interesting here is the Sims-like trait and interest picker. Maybe you want a frantic CEO who finishes work at record time. But, that work will bug-out more often. Interests such as kung-fu or machine learning effect development even more. Then, you can customize skills like Intelligence or Charisma. With these, you can create an intelligent fast-talker with no regard for the bigger picture, a visionary with zero ability to communicate his ideas or a balance of them all. In-game opportunities allow you to level up these skills as well.
What I enjoy most about Studio is the customization missing from Game Dev Tycoon. This even includes the painstaking parts of office management like where is best to put the toilet paper holder.
At any point, you can tear down the walls of your studio and build a brand new one. There are some essentials for employee happiness, like bathrooms and a light source, but the rest is optional. In one office, I chose to be strict and offer little in the way of fun. Teams rapidly finished work, but morale suffered. Yet, once I started making money, my next office included a gaming station and a workout room. My team was more efficient than before, and employees chose to stay in the office longer.
Each building counts as a studio. In the later game, I used my starter workspace to work on smaller, trendier indie titles while my big studio created AAA money-making experiences. Much of Game Dev Studio involves micromanaging the different elements. Thankfully, the game provides some useful tools to do so, even if they're hard to access. Instead of choosing when employees should get raises, they’ll demand more money for their hard work. I can even decide to give raises automatically to bypass this step. As long as I can afford it, employee happiness is easy to manage while I focus on critical details like all of the bugs plaguing my next big hit.
Those details are vital to the success of a title, too. I’ll often pause the game to peek different trends and ensure employees are creating new genres. That’s not to mention choosing which conventions to showcase at or finding a decent publisher.
There’s a lot to handle, and it's overwhelming even with a pause button. The user interface leads to extra confusion over a clear presentation. For example, employee management and game engine upgrades hide under too many menus. The game lacks strong visual cues to represent significant moments like when to release a game or when new research is available. Because of the micromanagement, I forget to announce a game during prime development times or market it too late. While learning menus is an essential aspect in any sim, Game Dev Studio hardly eases the burden. Instead, I’m often remembering to boost employee stats long after their level up or checking out new hardware months after release.
Despite convoluted menus, the rush of hitting discovering a new genre and platform combination kept me going. It’s fun to test out different ideas, such as how a sci-fi simulation on PC compares to a fighting sandbox game on a console. Risky combinations lead to high rewards. One early mix I found saw over a million dollars of profit for my new studio.
I appreciate the different game modes as well. While the story is for traditional players, free play and unique scenarios are there for more exciting playthroughs. Variety is one of Game Dev Studios’ strong suits.
Game Dev Studio succeeds thanks to its depth. With all the different branches to manage, those who plan ahead will go far. That said, the game also rewards players who throw ideas at the wall to see what sticks. There’s something here for everyone involved as long as they can sit through the complex presentation.
TechRaptor covered Game Dev Studio on PC via Steam with a code provided by the publisher.