Greenheart Games’ Game Dev Tycoon shoves you in a 1980s garage with a trusty coding machine and a road map to a 35 year videogame development journey. From these unassuming beginnings, you’ll (hopefully) create some fine games, move into a proper office and maybe even develop some revolutionary game-related tech. Part homage to amusing ‘light’ management titles like Rock Star Ate My Hamster, part covert mission to make everybody dislike games reviewers (even more,) and part whimsical commentary on the industry itself, Game Dev Tycoon is a meta-level approximation of life in games development.
How did the IncGamers team fare on the other side of the creative process? Let’s find out.
Peter Parrish – Aubleek
Eager to pre-empt the rise of indie darlings like Jonathan Blow and thatgamecompany, I named my fledgling developer Aubleek (think about it) and promised myself that I would stay eternally faithful to the values of art and trendy nonsense. My first title was a Western-themed RPG in which you play as a lonely cactus in a desert of solitude. It was not well received. The groundbreaking horror sim Sheet Wearer 1.0 and emotion-laden hospital title Blood Trauma didn’t fare much better either.
Since the industry clearly didn’t “get” my games and the bank seemed not to “get” my artistic entitlement to endless loans, Aubleek had to dip a toe into the murky waters of, urg, the mainstream. The company’s breakthrough hit was a youth-oriented adventure title for the PC called Calculator Cops. It sold 40,000 copies and made a cool $280,000 USD.
High on success, I started sniffing around the console market and put together an ill-advised pitch for the Master V system. Unfortunately, the mature/action ninja extravaganza Shadow Bastard was a commercial disaster, raising just $100,000 USD; an amount that barely covered the specialist engine I’d developed for the game. Apparently, selling out doesn’t always mean selling well.
At this point, the company had pretty much dropped all pretensions towards challenging art (besides the name) and funnelled all funds into a UFO/Strategy title called Generic Void. It was an astonishing success, getting a 9.5 review average from those notoriously tight journalists and raising enough cash for me to move into my own office and hire a couple of underpaid goons to help with coding. Basically, I’d just made XCOM.
In typical greedy game dev fashion I shunted out Generic Void 2, which got slammed for being an unoriginal piece of trash. And rightly so. Little did I know that I needed to specifically research sequels to pull that kind of stunt.
With office upkeep and salaries to pay, it was necessary to sign some oppressive publisher deals and fart out an uninspiring pirate sim called Yarr! and a dodgy RPG knock-off called Ultima Underpants. Returning to our roots, the team put everything into developing the follow-up to Calculator Cops. An improved engine, some excellent dialogue trees and an open world propelled Calculator Squad to international acclaim. We didn’t even have to fly any journalists to Hawaii for them to lavish 9s and 10s on this mighty game. The extensive ad campaign may have helped though.
Able at last to return to the company’s artsy beginnings, Aubleek released the mature virtual pet/action title FuckMate to predictably mixed review scores. Consoles had risen and fallen, technology had ebbed and flowed, but Aubleek had carved out a niche for top-quality school-based adventure titles, XCOM rivals and obscene virtual sex games. With a decent sized office and a regular presence at game events, the company was well positioned to confuse and astonish PC players for many years to come.
Paul Younger – Rush Games
Inspired by the recent IncGamers Podcast #129 and the new IncGamers franchise called Panther Operative, it was time to open Rush Games – which was run by Mr Whippy. Why Mr Whippy? I typed the name in the wrong field when starting the game.
The Panther Operative franchise is “inspired” by Ubisoft’s long running stealth action series, and Rush Games was going to milk it for all its worth covering as many genres as possible. If that was even possible without going bust.
Determined to make the franchise a PC-only title and to completely ignore all new console hardware releases, the reality of business started to sink in. To survive, Mr Whippy made the tough decision to also move into the console market and pay out the horrendous licensing fees.
The Panther franchise started out on the PC with the imaginatively titled Panther Operative which had a rough start costing 38K to make with a post sales profit 14.9K. The debut title sadly only received a 4/10 from reviewers. The sequel, Panther Operative 2 reviewed slightly better with an average of 4.5. Not a great start for Rush Games but the milking needed to continue.
As Mr Whippy became more experienced, Rush Games explored amazing new genres such as an RPG (Panther Operative Adventures), hospital (Panther Operative Hospital), and post apocalyptic (Panther Operative Goes Nuke). You get the idea.
As the years rolled on and Mr Whippy made it from his garage into an office, the Panther Operative franchise moved on to the new Vena Oasis. The good news for Rush Games six years in was the fact there was profit with 1.5 million in the bank.
Like all good franchises it was time to give Panther Operative a break and more on to new ideas. Besides, how could we reboot the franchise without giving it a rest? All good game devs do that, right?
The TES had just been released! The Rush Games team of two developers started on Piss off Mario, a Comedy Adventure. We were on to a good thing: Star Games gave it 8/10 but those bastards at All Games only gave it a 6/10. WTF. How dare they! Rush Games developer Brian Barnes was so traumatised he was sent on vacation by Mr Whippy.
Revitalised after a vacation, a new time travel adventure for the PC was created called Dr Poo. Star Games, Informed Gamer, Game Hero and All Games rated it a 1/10. OK, lesson learned, don’t mess with Dr Who. It only sold 5,911 units.
Time to take some risks and Lick My Love Pump was born, a strategy romance title for adults. All Games gave it the best score of 5/10 with a comment of “Have seen Better”. Oh, really? I don’t think you’ll find another game on the market quite like it.
Following that disastrous experiment, publishers were calling and games such Medieval Pillow Fight were born, and regular attendance at the annual G3 convention helped boost the profile of Rush Games.
Twenty years in and it was time to reboot Panther Operative with Panther Operative: Reborn. There was 23.5 million in the bank. The time was right.
Panther Operative: Reborn was a Zombie action RPG for the PC using the new Game Engine 11. I also decided to hype the game with the press for good measure. Mr Whippy and Rush Games were surely on to a winner.
Sadly, rebooting the franchise did not work as planned, with an average score of 4/10. It was obvious that the world had had enough of Panther Operative and it was time for Mr Whippy to quit the game industry and head to Hollywood to write movie scripts.
First movie to be released? Panther Operative: Blackbook. Yeah, that bombed as well.