Game Dev Tycoon caught my attention for two reasons.

Reason 1: It recently captured the media spotlight for its Inception-like, piracy-within-piracy approach to dealing with those who choose to illegally download the game instead of pay the relatively meagre $7.99 price tag.

In Game Dev Tycoon, you control a small game development studio. From humble beginnings you must build up your studio, and release progressively more ambitious games. Being the simulator it is, it replicates the various challenges you would face if you were to start your own game development studio – one of them being piracy. Here’s the kicker though: the developers uploaded their own modified version of the game to torrent websites. The difference is that in this version of the game, piracy is a far bigger problem than in the version available for purchase.

The irony, of course, is that thousands of gamers who had illegally downloaded the game were complaining on message boards about how difficult the game was because of virtual piracy.

Reason 2: The second bit of controversy that surrounded the release of Game Dev Tycoon, is its obvious resemblance to Game Dev Story. Game Dev Story is easily my favourite iOS game released to date, so on one hand I remained fiercely loyal to the original developers, Kairosoft, and scoffed at the alleged plagiarism. On the other hand, though, I was pretty excited about the prospect of a game similar to Game Dev Story, that might just improve on some of its shortcomings.

So , to satisfy my curiosity, I parted with the R75 required to get the legitimate version of the game.

You start your career in Game Dev Tycoon as an amateur developer working out of his bedroom in the 1980s. At first, you are limited to developing games for the G65, which is a Nintendo 64 [Commodore 64? – Ed.] equivalent, and PC. Your options in terms of game engines, genres, systems etc, are limited at first, but as you progress and conduct research, things start opening up. You begin to unlock new genres and platforms as you progress and your team becomes more robust.

In total, there are 51 game “topics”, five genres, and a whole bunch of different platforms, genres and engines to choose from. Each game is a specific combination of these variables. With every game you develop, you are also able to allocate resources differently, which means you can select how much time and resources are spent on specific variables, like sound design and graphics. Just how you choose and balance all these different variables will affect how well your game turns out, and therefore how well it sells, and how much cash you have to work on your next game.

If you’ve played Game Dev Story, and you’re reading my description, then you already know how similar Game Dev Tycoon is to it. In fact, the developer Greenheart Games is very open about the fact that Game Dev Tycoon is directly inspired by Game Dev story.

In their own words: “Game Dev Tycoon was inspired by Game Dev Story, which was the first ‘tycoon’ game we enjoyed playing on the iPhone; however, from the start, we wished the game would work and look differently. We wanted a game development simulation which would be less random, more about your choices and a little more realistic.”

And that’s actually a pretty good description of the game. If you have played Game Dev Story, and like the idea of a very similar experience on PC, then Game Dev Tycoon is worth checking out. If the fact that Greenheart Games openly copied Game Dev Story does not sit well with you, then stay clear, because there is no getting around this. If you haven’t played either game, but like the idea of running your own development studio, then you should probably go with Game Dev Story, because morals and stuff.

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