Reviewed On: PC
Developer: Eggcode Games
Publisher: Eggcode Games
Review code supplied free of charge by the publisher.
Dominating the videogame industry is surprisingly easy. Had I know, this I would surely have entered into the field at a young age and been a mult-billionaire by this point, swimming in cash acquired from willing suckers in lucrative free-to-play games. About a dozen hours into my time with Mad Games Tycoon I’ve acquired the largest building possible, which houses two development teams, each supported by their very own PR departments, mo-cap studios, roomful of testers to tweak the balance and check for bugs, sizable areas dedicated purely to graphics and bunches of sound engineers. On top of that I have in-house production that also lets me publish games from other developers as well as my own, a server room to support my numerous MMOs and training areas so that my staff can be the best possible. Also, there’s some kickin’ sound systems strewn about the place. Yup, domination is good.
Mad Games Tycoon isn’t the first game to attempt to go all meta by focusing on the mad world of videogame development. Previous entries I’ve reviewed include Game Dev Tycoon and Game Tycoon 2, and while they’ve had their moments neither have offered much in the way of actual depth, although Game Dev Tycoon is worth a look. Mad Games Tycoon, however, aims to give players a lot more choice in how they want to grow their business.
You start with a tiny office barely fit for an overweight ant that you’ll make even more cramped by dividing it into rooms, each with their own purpose. Of course at first all you’ll really need is a space for developing games and maybe your very own engine, which can then be licensed to other companies who’ll give you a share of the profits. For that, though, you’ll need a research team who can spend their days working on new technology to add to the engine so that….wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. But then that’s also incredibly easy to do in Mad Games Tycoon; there’s quite a lot of choices and it’s so very easy to slip into expanding too quickly, so let’s just go back a bit before the bank account reads zero, which would be a terrifying mirror of my own life.
Developing a game is a relatively straightforward process; you click on the development room that will take the lead on the project and choose to make a new game from the menu, or you can also opt to create an add-on for MMOs or a sequel or just an update that fixes bugs or brings in some new content. You’ll be asked to name your game, pick out its target audience, select a genre and sub-genre, name the topic and sub-topic and even slap on a license if you’ve purchased any. Working on the same genres and topics pays off as you’ll become more likely to create great titles, gaining experience in their creation. After that there’s some other options to run through, such as picking what platforms you want to develop the game for and which engine you’ll be using, whether its one of your own or one that you’ve purchased. Engines are always optimized for certain genres, so unless you’ve built a pile of them then you may have to stick to one genre or license engines from other companies. The engine used will give you a list of features to pick from to incorporate, such as split-screen multiplayer, advanced rendering techniques and more, but the amount you can choose is limited by the size of the game you’ve chosen to develop. Then you arrive at the more interesting decisions which revolve around two screens of sliders. On the first you can determine what aspects of the game you’ll be focusing on, adjusting the top slider to balance out gameplay and graphics, for example, or another for story or length. The next screen lets you balance how much time will be spent on graphics, audio and the technology side of things, which is a bit of a confusing one since audio, graphics and gameplay would all fall under that banner. To get the highest review scores and the best sales possible you’ll need to figure out exactly what each genre demands, before then patiently tweaking the sliders with every new release to get it just right. The game doesn’t leave you entirely blind, though; qoutes from reviews, fan letters and a few other things will provide you with some indicators. Still, these are vague and so you’re left with a fair amount of methodical iteration to be done before nailing the magic formula, and occasionally the lack of feedback can leave you annoyed. In my case I struggled for ages to find out exactly why everything but the gameplay was getting the highest ratings, despite focusing heavily on that element. Turns out it was a mixture of things and figuring them out wasn’t exactly intuitive. Finally once the game is finished being developed you’ll need to find a publisher who’ll take a share of the profits. The review scores will come in, followed by the sales and you’ll find out if you made a smash hit or a horrible flop.
As you grow bigger, though, your range of options will increase. Buying a larger premises will likely be one of your early decisions as that gives you the space needed to dabble in the other types of room available to you. Graphical studios can be populated with talented staff whose sole job is to make your games look prettier, although sadly there’s no option to get them to draw up some bullshots to advertise games. Real missed opportunity for some added realism there. Likewise the music room is tasked with making games sound better, including professional voice acting and orchestral scores. You can also create a quality assurance department who not only look for bugs and remove them but also improve the gameplay, balance everything out and help with level design. What these departments can actually do is limited by what research you’ve conducted though, so a lot of your early career will be spent decided whether to focus your research team on investigating new topics, new genres, new engine technology or other things. Research does tend to be a little too quick and cheap however, so the decision doesn’t feel as important as it could be. I never felt like picking my next avenue of research was a major moment that could shape the direction of my company.
There are a host of small things that bug me about the game, in fact Some of them are just obvious missing features that could be added in later, such as not being able to create add-ons or DLC for anything other than MMOs, or how there’s a lack of detail when examining other company’s games to publish. Then there’s other stuff, like a tutorial which really needs fleshed out and a user interface that can sometimes make things a little more awkward than they need be, such as managing a lot of staff. Speaking of staff they have a strange habit of teleporting around the building, removing the need for any sort of planning when it comes to designing your company’s layout. Why go to the bother of constructing a staff room right in the middle of your multiple development studios when it can go absolutely anywhere? The interface does tend to become rather cluttered as well, especially once you get a bigger building with lots going on. Feedback can sometimes be a problem, too like how it’s a bit unclear as to what skills your staff need for the mocap studio. Graphics and programming? Office work?
There’s also the very same issue that plagues many tycoon style games: a lack of any real ending. There’s no objective as such other than to become successful, and that means the game doesn’t so much as come to a close as it does fizzle out slowly. Once you’ve exhausted all the research opportunities there’s little left to do, and there’s a very good chance that along the way you’ll have done everything possible, too, hurting the desire for another runthrough. Before that you may also find yourself in a position where you can essentially do no wrong. With a good staff pumping out games you’ll very rarely see low scores or fail to recoup your investment, and that can make things too easy, plus with a full bank account you can simply set the marketing team to constantly repeat marketing campaigns until a games hype is maxed out. Of course you can always attempt to counter these problems by ramping up the difficulty, but there will still be a pivotal moment where you go from a struggling company to a dominant force. At that point it’s best to make a few goals for yourself, like producing a kickass MMO or earning multiple awards at the end of an in-game year.
All of these problems are very much the result of Mad Games Tycoon being a small indie title, and are thus understandable. The good news is that none of them should stop you from enjoying the act of building up a business. Compared to other Tycoon videogame development titles this one has a lot more options open to you, and a bit more depth to boot. Take developing a console, for example; instead if spending your early time researching new technology for engines or maybe different genres you could instead focus on getting a console or hand-held onto the market. Or you could start out by building a distribution room and warehouse in order to make a profit from the work of other companies, constantly keeping an eye on stock to ensure you have enough to fulfill orders. With a trip to the menu you can choose what’s in the packaging, be it just the manual or something more lavish, like a t-shirt or a deck of cards or a load of things. You could perhaps focus more on taking on contract work, creating games on-demand that come with guaranteed sums of money if you meet the target review scores. And don’t forget your fans, because without a well-staffed customer service department you’ll lose them over time which will hurt sales.
On the harder settings you’ll need to really start making good use of your training rooms to improve staff and pay attention to each person’s specialities in order to secure those high review scores and big sales. Indeed, it can be quite a challenge on the tougher difficulty levels to get yourself established, which can often lead to visiting the bank for a loan that will either the monetary foundation you need or a horrible death grip.
In short I rather like Mad Games Tycoon. It looks a lot like a game from the Playstation 1 era and doesn’t sound much better either, yet the gameplay can easily suck you in. While playing it for review I easily whacked in six hours without actually noticing, which is rare for me these days. It’s easily one of the best offerings in the sub-genre of videogame development, although hardcore strategy fans probably won’t find enough to keep them engrossed for too long. Still, if you love a bit of business management and videogames, which I’m assuming you do since you’re reading this, then there’s a lot of joy to be found within Mad Games Tycoon. If there’s one true flaw it’s that it seems impossible to pump out almost exactly the same game year after year and earn heaps of money from it. Maybe Mad Games Tycoon isn’t very realistic after all.Follow @wolfsgamingblog