Pixel Perfect

Published on February 7th, 2012 | by Ethan

Game Dev Story: Mixing depth and instant gratification.

Mobile gaming is a strange beast that many companies have been recently capitalizing on. The audience of these games is generally casual gamers, so usually mobile developers show no love for the mainstream audience. This works for the mobile platform because most of the time someone, including gamers, don’t have enough time to actually play a full on game during a train ride or in the waiting room. Although are there games that walk on the thin line of being just short enough yet are deep enough to be addicting for a long period of time. Game Dev Story is just one of those games.

A fantasy where bugs always get fixed.

There is nothing wrong with a game like Fruit Ninja. It’s perfect for a quick one minute time waste to make waiting for your significant other to get out of the bathroom more bearable. Yet after one or two games, I find myself getting bored with it. Fruit Ninja does great at what it does, slicing fruit and tallying points, but it doesn’t go much more beyond that. Obviously, with smart phones becoming more and more prevalent, a majority of the world has found themselves becoming casual game addicts. Angry Birds and Jetpack Joyride are obvious examples of just how much of a hit these games can become. Yet these games all lack a certain amount of depth for gamers.

Turns out there is a game that perfectly balances quick bursts with deep and progressive gameplay. The goal of Game Dev Story is simple. The player is a CEO of a gaming company and he needs to make his company grow to the highest score possible and to have the highest selling game possible. Individual games are completed depending on variable stats on your employees. Their stats affect how many bugs are in the game and the overall quality. Stats can be leveled up by giving employees training or by leveling up.

Unlike real life, having your workers spontaneously burst into flames is an encouraged practice.

When I started playing this game I played it for about 2 hours straight, which to me is a little loony. I usually play any other mobile game for about 10 minutes then I am done until I find myself bored with life again. The depth in Game Dev Story comes from being able to level up your employees, studio and the company’s expertise on certain games, which slowly but surely makes a player’s studio produce better games. I always found myself saying “let’s make just one more game” before turning it off in an attempt to make an improvement over my company’s previous title.

What makes this game perfect for a mobile platform is two things. The save button and the short bursts of making games. During the time waiting for my food order to be prepared, I can create a whole new game, upgrade some staff and move into a new studio. Of course if my food comes sooner than I expected, I can hit the little save button at the bottom, turn my game off immediately and come right back where I left off next time I boot up. Having the ability to save at anytime really makes this game easy to shut down. The save button is always readily accessible and doesn’t ask the player if they are sure they want to save. Yet a player can play as long as they want to and I found myself rarely hitting the save button. Also an auto save feature is in the game to help keep a players progress in the game even if a random phone calls occurs.

A game like this is similar to Farmville or any sim game. It dangles a carrot in front of the player letting them know that they will always be able to improve in the game because “Hey a new level!” or “Sweet, more money! Now I can buy a license to a new console!” Even when the game “ends” at 20 year mark, a new game will carry over some of the stats from the previous game. It never really ends, and there is always room for improvement. Thankfully, unlike Farmville, a player isn’t limited to the amount of actions they preform at a given time. making the amount of gameplay in a single session unlimited.

I hope in the future more mobile games make an effort to include depth into a game, meaning a progressive change in gameplay, not just moving on to the next level. Maybe I am in the minority, because while Game Dev Story didn’t exactly do badly as far as sales goes, it’s nowhere near the mass popularity of Angry Birds or Cut the Rope. Regardless I plan to support developers that make games which walk the line between short bursts of fun and game depth. Surely there are people out there like me as well.

Know any good mobile games that deserve some attention? Tell us about them!


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About the Author

Ethan Having long been an avid gamer, Ethan found his niche in the PC gaming market, while still occasionally dabbling in the medium that got him into gaming, consoles. Usually, he finds time to play his Xbox 360 and occasionally will dust of his Wii for a bit to play with friends and family when he isn’t found locked in his room playing shooters and strategy games. Follow him on Twitter: @ethanhawkes

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