“Write what you know.” It’s an old saying in writing, and it’s why so many films and TV shows are about making films and TV shows. We haven’t really seen much of it in games, though (except in rare cases like the Japan-only Segagaga). Game Dev Story is a self-indulgent title with many references to the ups and downs of the industry, and it has more than a few jokes for the core gamer. That would be irrelevant if the game wasn’t fun.
It’s framed as a standard workplace management sim, with hiring workers, putting them to work on games or contracts, spending money and time to advertise or increase employees’ skills. Making a game progresses like this: first you choose a combination of a genre and a theme (for example, Fantasy RPG or Animal Trivia) and decide what platform to release it for. Each has its own effect on development costs and game success. Then your workers start generating points for the game in four categories: fun, creativity, graphics and sound. At various points in the process, you choose a worker to be in charge of different facets of gameplay, and their skills in that category determine how many points are added to the game’s total. Eventually, the game is released, reviewed and sold.
That’s basically how the whole game goes, but there’s an addictive quality to the quest to make a high-scoring game or sell millions of copies. Eventually you can create your own console, but most of the game is a series of other companies’ eerily-familiar systems. You know what to expect from the Senga Exodus, and you know not to believe the hype about the Infendo Virtual Kid.
All of this makes for a game you can’t stop playing, which is wonderful unless you have to be somewhere, do something or generally get sleep.
Game Dev Story, the initial effort from developer Kairosoft, is $3.99 in the App Store. It’s not a universal app, but includes optional directional pad controls for small screens and traditional touch controls for larger ones.