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This article was published on February 10, 2011

App Store Classics: Game Dev Story, a game about making games.

App Store Classics: Game Dev Story, a game about making games.
Ian Chattam
Story by

Ian Chattam

Ian Chattam is a sound designer of some fifteen years for TV and film, a musician, dad and all round Mac monkey based in the UK. He gets ver Ian Chattam is a sound designer of some fifteen years for TV and film, a musician, dad and all round Mac monkey based in the UK. He gets very excited about new technology especially if it’s audio related. He spends most of his free time fiddling with his iPhone, looking for new and exciting ways to spend money in the app store. You can find him on Twitter via @SackofSoul.

Ever wondered what it’d be like to run your own game development house? Me neither, but don’t let that stop you getting involved with Game Dev Story (iTunes link), a little gem of a game from Japanese developers Kairosoft, currently on sale in the app store for $0.99.

The concept is straightforward – grow your development house from a tiny team of four staff churning out cheap and cheerful PC games to a revered coding powerhouse in swanky offices crafting masterpieces for the latest consoles.

At first you’ll probably be going over budget left right and centre, trying to figure out which game types work best and therefore shift more units, but once you get into the swing of it you can concentrate on hiring and training the best staff and purchasing licences to develop console games, resulting in better made and better selling games with higher profit margins.

It’s not just a question of hiring and firing, coming up with game ideas and watching your staff working their buns off though. Through the use of ‘boosts’ which are periodically made available to purchase as the game progresses (not in-app purchases I hasten to add), you can choose one of your coders to work on enhancing one specific aspect of the game. This pushes up the overall quality of the game you’re making and results in better reviews and sales, adding a further strategic element as you choose the right moment and category in which to use your boosts. At certain points within the development cycle you also get the chance to work on the graphics and sound specifically, either using one of your own staff or hiring in a freelancer, and this too gives you the opportunity to increase the overall quality of your virtual product.

When you make your first million seller it’s a satisfying moment but there’s no time to rest on your laurels. There are always new consoles appearing on the market, contract jobs to take on, new staff to hire and new game types to discover. If you leave too much of a gap between development cycles you start losing fans and therefore a few sales, but think carefully about what kind of games you make – my pirate simulation was a right turkey.

It’s all great fun, but it’s fair to say there are a few things here which need to be addressed by the time Game Dev Story 2 arrives in the app store. I know it’s a tall order on a phone but I couldn’t help thinking how nice it would be if I could play the games my team had made. Even a comedy cut sequence showing some aspects of the latest game would have been good. There are also some hugely expensive advertising options within this game that offer no feedback other than some numbers increasing on a stat page. If I’m sponsoring a racing team I’d like to see my company logo on the side of a formula one car at least!

Finally, the game is perhaps a bit on the easy side. I’m sure if developing a multi million selling game was this straightforward we’d all be at it. Well, maybe not, but it’s easy to make enough money that you don’t have to worry too much about how you spend it, and this negatively impacts the strategy element.

All things considered however, Game Dev Story is great fun. It’s a good natured game and from the cute graphics and retro sound to the amusing titles you can give your creations, it’s a rewarding experience which works perfectly whether in short bursts or longer play sessions. Did I mention that it’s currently only $0.99 on the app store?

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