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Sim Me: Game Dev Story on iPhone

I think you will spend 209 seconds reading this post

There are times where life gets very meta – like when you’re watching yourself watch TV on TV, for instance, or when you’re playing a game about developing games while you’re at work developing games. I think Lewis Black said it best: “”And I believe that the brain is so smart that when it watches you watch yourself watch you watch yourself do something you’re not supposed to be fucking doing it says you are so stupid I will kill you.

But where Mr. Black is the eternal pessimist, I continue to be a beacon of positivity. Cue  Game Dev Story (iTunes) by Kairosoft: another in a line of repeated task games, similar to EA’s fantastic Lemonade Tycoon (also for iPhone) game. In this one, instead of building a lemonade empire, you’re building a game studio from the ground up.

The game’s centered around your small development studio, and its efforts to build the world’s greatest games. The game’s backdrop happens over the course of 20 years, through which consoles will come and go, technologies will rise and fall and your studio’s popularity will wax and wane depending on whether you’re pumping out products that can meet the market demand. In a lot of interesting and quirky nods, the game replays a bit of the old 16-bit era battles, the transition from cartridge-based consoles to CD-based to DVD and BD-ROM-based consoles and beyond, as well as the handheld wars. Through it all your task is to continue to pump out hit after hit to enhance your studio’s profile and win the Game of the Year award.

There are a lot of good ideas in the game, including ones that will be familiar to anyone who’s worked in a game studio – employees will randomly come up to you and propose new methods to enhance your game, and sometimes they’ll fail spectacularly, increasing development time and pushing back your release date. Other employees will be jack-of-all-trades at best, or dilettantes at worst, requiring you to do some hefty hiring to reel in the big fish.

However, at its limits, the game suffers a bit from its difficulty curve. Balanced in the beginning, your studio will be able to pump out games of enough quality to keep the lights on (pending you not doing anything really stupid), but as the game rolls on and your employees become more skilled, it becomes almost impossible to put out a bad game. I got so bored with the game that I began attempting to lose by putting out horrible-sounding games and combinations (somehow “Table Poncho” was a combination of game type I was able to make. I think “Table” is the type and “Poncho” is the genre. I think), and having the press laud my Table Poncho game as the hottest thing since my Final Fantasy clone, appropriately titled First Fantasy 4, was a bit disappointing. It began to feel like the game was running away from me, and as I sat upon my ridiculous piles of money (my games had grossed well over a few hundred million dollars at this point), I didn’t see a reason to continue. Ultimately you still want to see some risk in these games at the highest levels.

Still, it remains, for a 16-bit-looking game, a very entertaining simulation of what it’s like to work in the game industry, and, if nothing else, it’ll let you get your amazing Reversi Online RPG out to the masses faster than it would take to acquire real-life funding. I definitely spent more than an afternoon with it, and I was compelled to jump back to the beginning to try my hand at a new studio immediately. This title was on sale for $0.99 as recently as last week, but has jumped back up to $3.99. If you’re the type that never spends money on software in the App Store, look at EA’s free alternative “Lemonade Tycoon”.

Also, I should say, I’m a sucker for games like this, so if anyone’s got any favorites of this type, let me know in the comments.

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  1. Chris Dempsey
    January 4th, 2011 at 20:29 | #1

    Yeah, I’ve spent many a lonely hour at work playing this game on the Android. It’s pretty amazing. It even made my Top 10 Games of the Year list I made for Giant Bomb. Hey remember when I said I’d never play games on my phone like it was a serious contender to the DS and PSP? Yep, crow tastes good. 🙁

  2. January 4th, 2011 at 20:35 | #2

    I kinda felt the same way when the platform first emerged, mostly because it seemed like playing games on a platform without buttons wasn’t viable.

    But my main problem with the iPhone as a gaming platform is when my DS used to run out of battery, I would be bummed out but I’d move on with my life. When my iPhone runs out of battery I’m kind of stranded.

    Gimmie a link to your top 10 list?

  3. Chris Dempsey
    January 4th, 2011 at 22:26 | #3


    I didn’t really go in depth too much, just “hey I really liked these games this year.”

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