Double Buffered

A Programmer’s View of Game Design, Development, and Culture

11 Vital Lessons To Learn From Game Dev Story

Posted by Ben Zeigler on October 26, 2010

Something like 50% of my twitter follows and coworkers spent most of last week playing Game Dev Story, myself included. Basically, it’s a stat-based simulation game for the iPhone, but instead of being about sports or whatever it’s about making video games. It perfectly hits the balance between a parody and a legitimately interesting game, and if you’re reading this blog you’re guaranteed to enjoy it. Anyway, I picked up some Incredibly Valid advice from my 5 hours or so of playing Game  Dev Story that I would like to share with you all:

  • Spending half a million to get a C-list celebrity to show up at your tradeshow booth is a strangely alluring prospect that I fell for repeatedly. Despite the fun it provides your marketing team you’re way better off getting a simple booth for $100k and spending the rest on development.
  • Masked luchadors, bears, and Middle Eastern monarchs are best qualified to be the stars of your development team.
  • A generally good strategy is to try out low budget genre and theme combinations until you find one that works and gain some experience with the elements. Then, spend some real money on a high quality game in the same genre, that really won’t make much of a profit. Lastly, drive that franchise into the ground with cheap sequels that are guaranteed to sell. Repeat.
  • When the programmer with no artistic skill proposes his AWESOME plan to improve the art of your game, he will fail miserably, costing you hundreds of thousands of dollars and adding dozens of horrible bugs.
  • Artists, designers, and sound guys are useful and all but if you REALLY want to make a hall of fame-level game you need to cross train them as Hardware Engineers and Hackers. Truth.
  • Building a series of Golf-themed Audio Novels is not the route to financial success.
  • However, creating a Game Development Simulation is nearly guaranteed to succeed (Hopefully the players of said simulation learn the same lesson).
  • A development license and basic engine for the Microx 480 costs $50 million, while developing a modern console system from scratch only costs $40 million (Note: completely false in the real world, and the only major factual error in the game).
  • Marketing your game to 41 year olds is a waste of time and money. Soon enough they’ll be too old to buy any games at all. You’re better off getting hordes of school children to love your games: they’ll grow up and keep buying them.
  • Giving your staff energy drinks improves all aspects of game development.
  • You can spend millions of dollars and your best talent on a project that is guaranteed to succeed. But, sometimes your asset backups are destroyed by a freak accident, a competitor releases a massively hyped game in the same genre a week before you, and you’re forced to rush a fatally buggy game out the door just to meet payroll and keep your employees off the street, killing your reputation in the process.

Other than issues related to platform (given that it comes from the Japanese gamedev community this might say something about regional biases), Game Dev Story is actually pretty educational. Next time some random fanboy gamer suggests that companies should really just start making GOOD games, make them play Game Dev Story and see if it changes their perspective. Sometimes making yet another Othello Puzzle game for the Intendro DM really is your only option, and your lead scenario writer is just going to have to suck it up.

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7 Responses to “11 Vital Lessons To Learn From Game Dev Story”

  1. Noah Kantrowitz said

    /me does the happy dance of assetmaster not being his problem anymore!

  2. Darius K. said

    Other truths:

    Sometimes when a developer goes on a programming binge, instead of contributing a lot to the game, they instead add about 20 bugs.

    When a developer tells you they have a great idea to improve some part of the game they have no business improving… let ‘em. But also don’t give them any support whatsoever. This will increase the bug count, which is a great way of training your staff.

    Ninja Action games are expensive to make, but always sell.

    If Shigeru Miyamoto applies for a job at your company, HIRE HIM AT ANY COST.

  3. Does the game include prototyping? Because there’s another great lesson I learned from Mark Cerny: never use ANYTHING from the prototype in the final product. Not art, not music, and especially not code. Throw it all away and restart from scratch. Otherwise the corners you cut on the quick-and-dirty prototype will come back to bite you in the ass when trying ship the real thing.

    • Darius K. said

      There’s no prototyping in Game Dev Story. I wonder, since the game is clearly based on the traditional Japanese model of game development… is there a strong culture of prototyping in Japan?

  4. [...] 11 Vital Lessons To Learn From Game Dev Story « Double Buffered "Building a series of Golf-themed Audio Novels is not the route to financial success." These are all true. (tags: gamedevstory games ) [...]

  5. Loredena said

    <blockquote cite="Marketing your game to 41 year olds is a waste of time and money. Soon enough they’ll be too old to buy any games at all.

    this explains why I've stopped reading any of the gaming magazines, even though at 45 I'm still buying (and playing!) games (I've spent way more hours than I care to admit to playing Civ 5 since launch, for instance). I also have more discretionary income to spend on these games than I did when I first played Adventure! at 16.

  6. Tony said

    Theres a lot of great lessons to be learned from this game.

    I reviewed it too, but took a different angle on all of the business lessons it can teach you: http://www.thoughtdoodle.com/2010/11/game-dev-story-5-business-rules-taught-by-a-video-game/

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