We all play video games, but how many of us actually know what goes into making them?
The research, the time and effort, the legal aspect, the publishing and producing…who among us even has an insight into all that work? The makers of Game Tycoon 2 decided that we needed to know, and developed this gem based off that premise.
You start your indie developing adventure as the Founder/CEO of your own video game company. There are 3 different characters you can play as (they included a girl, yay!), various logos to choose from (the gas sign was my favorite), and a text box to input your company’s name (Refuel, Inc. since I went with the gas thing). After that, you are released into the wild to make it or break it in the gaming industry.
It all begins in your office – the year is 1980 and you’ve struck out on your own to make the greatest video games of all time. You start by hiring programmers, graphic artists, and sound designers at the university. While you’re at the university, you can look around at the newsstand and see what games are most popular at the moment; this will help you to determine what kind of game you should make.
After you’ve hired a full staff of employees and/or freelancers, you can get to work designing your new game. You’ll need to research “cutting edge” technology like keyboard input, text-based graphics, and “beeping” noises to implement into your games, which adds to the realism and serves as a stark reminder as to how far games have come in the past 30+ years. Game designing is easy, but requires effort – miss one step and you’ll have a crappy game that will force you into bankruptcy. You can choose from several different genres, but your choice should be determined by what is popular at the moment, in my opinion; during my playthrough, racing games were the most popular, so I went with that. Then choose what platforms it will be developed for, such as the computer or a home entertainment system. You can then decide what your game will be like – is the game difficult? Is there a compelling story? Does it have exciting gameplay at a decent pace? After that, choose the technology it will feature, such as keyboard or joystick input, pixel graphics, etc. Assign a number of graphic artists, sound designers, and programmers to the game, set how long beta testing will be, and determine the budget for the project, and set the wheels in motion. Congrats – you’ve just began the creation process on your first game!
Unfortunately for aspiring game designers everywhere, the journey to making an amazing game doesn’t end with its conception. The next step is to head on over to the law offices and sign publishing contracts. Umm…exciting? Not quite, but without these contracts, your game can’t make its way to the PC, arcade systems, home console systems, and the like. You can also sign contracts to add licensed characters or properties to make your game more attractive to consumers or buy and sell engines. You’ll find yourself visiting the law offices more than you originally thought – at least, that’s what I found out!
After your game has been completed, it’s time to hit the production offices. You can decide the name of the box set and the number and quality of the items that will go with the game, such as manuals, post cards, and stickers. It’s then time to set production quantities and quality of the box art, manual, and pirating protection. After production has ended, head over to the warehouse where you can release the game now fit for consumption.
Aside from actually producing a game, there are other things available that you can do to make money/pass the time. There is a marketing building, but that doesn’t open until 1995 (because marketing didn’t exist until then…?). The bank is a great place to visit because you can take out loans (5 at a time with a combined limit of $250,000.00), check your personal bank account, make investments, and buy stocks in other companies. There’s a shopping mall where you can visit the video game store and see how your game stacks up against other companies’ titles. You can also buy furniture for your home, but this is kind of a waste of money and I wouldn’t recommend it. Speaking of home, you can also visit your humble abode, but there are no actions to do here.
The controls are easy, just point and click. Left mouse button initiates the action while right click takes you out of a room or building and onto the previous map. The animation and graphics seem a bit dated – almost as if this game was made in the early 2000s. The music is a bit repetitive, but not in an annoying way. It’s got a good design overall – no real complaints, but it’s not revolutionary either. They focused more on the mechanics, which I feel is more important anyway.
One thing I really cannot recommend enough is playing through the tutorials. They are a huge pain in the ass to sit through because they are text-heavy and the “narrator” is speaking in some knock-off Simlish, but without these tutorials you can miss a lot. I played one tutorial level and went straight to the game, only to go bankrupt within 20 minutes. I went back and played the tutorial and learned about all the things I missed, so I really recommend sticking with them, despite how terribly boring they are.
Even though I was terrible and went bankrupt most of the time, I have to say that I really enjoyed Game Tycoon 2 because I learned much about what it takes to make a video game. When thinking about making video games, the easiest thing to think of is video game design, which is why we celebrate super stars Shigeru Miyamoto and Hideo Kojima. But what about the other aspects to video game creation, like production, sales, marketing, and all the legal business? While it’s not fun to think about, it’s certainly just as important – you could have the greatest game in the world, but without marketing, no one will ever hear about it; without contracts, no one will be able to put it on specific platforms; without production, no one will be able to play it. It really gives you an appreciation for all the hard work that goes unseen in this industry. I’m certain it’s even more complicated than Game Tycoon 2 makes it out to be, but the small insight it did give me was totally worth it.
Game Tycoon 2 is still in Early Access and is still working out all the kinks, but even in this stage of development I’m hooked. There are a few spelling errors and some missing text in some key places, but I’m sure they’ll figure that all out before the release date. It’s a challenging learning experience in a subject that we all enjoy that poses as a game – what’s not to like? This title provides hours of entertainment for a good price, and for a game within a game, that’s a great value. Be patient with this title – it’s worth it!