After devoting a ridiculous amount of time to ‘Game Dev Story‘, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at the game from the point of view of an actual game developer. I got hold of Anthony Drummond, who is an up-and-coming developer and a big fan of ‘Game Dev Story’. We had a chance to talk for a bit about the differences between making a game in ‘Game Dev Story’ and the real-life process.
Dick Ward: Before we delve into ‘Game Dev Story’, let’s talk about what you do. Give us a bit of insight into the game you’ve been working on and your role in developing it.
Anthony Drummond: Well, without giving too much away, my colleagues and I are working on a pretty slick sci-fi space shooter of the 3D sort. It’s really big, and by big, I mean everything is big. I kept hearing the motto “Go big, or go home,” so I figured I should make a game with everything big in it. Technically speaking, our engine is capable of rendering full-sized planets, and a full-sized galaxy. I’m currently leading the project, but am also contributing sound/FX/music and game design.
D: Am I right in saying that there’s a demo available? Is there somewhere our readers can check it out?
A: They will need to talk to me on that one. The demo is for investor purposes only at this time.
D: I hear you’ve been playing a lot of ‘Game Dev Story’. Have you been enjoying it? Did you get as horribly addicted as I did?
A: “Horribly addicted” is hardly the phrase I would use to describe it. More like, “freakishly, insatiably, insanely, absurdly, why-God-oh-why, please-let-me-stop-playing-so-I-can-eat-and-sleep-and-perhaps-see-my-girlfriend-this-weekend, I-love-you-more-than-words-can-describe” addicted. Okay, I’m exaggerating. A little. But seriously.
D: Obviously, the game is an incredibly simplified version of game design. But to the casual observer, it seems to capture the basics pretty well. As a developer yourself, how do you feel the game does in representing the process?
A: Oh, if only developing games was as streamlined and easy as it is in ‘Game Dev Story’! In most basic aspects, though, ‘Game Dev Story’ (‘GDS’) does touch on a lot of challenges and throws in a few curveballs to give you the basic feel of running your very own game company. Sadly, the similarities stop there. First, if all of my employees worked as hard and as diligently as ‘Game Dev Story’ employees, I’d be rich already, hands down. I did like the flow of the game, as new systems came out for the developers to tackle, and random power outages and serious @!%&-ups on your employees’ parts would set your game back. But again, I need my teammates to effortlessly get inspired and pump “magic game-making icons” out of their heads so our game can get a move on already!
D: In the game, you can hire people of different roles, train them, and even change their jobs around. Producers, directors and hackers seem to have the highest stats across the board. Do you think this is accurate, or should coders, writers and sound engineers boast higher stats in their specialties?
A: What’s true is that if you specialize in something, you will always have an edge over the employee that has a general knowledge of everything. But the tried and tested truth is that if you don’t know a lot about a little in the game industry, you are less likely to get a job. Pertaining to the professions of ‘GDS’, there are a few similarities and a few differences that exist. One, it helps to be diversified, so I think it’s better to have those special professions within ‘GDS’ as well as IRL (“in real life,” for those folks that lack interweb-savvy), but on the opposite page, your real company couldn’t run without those who have focused knowledge on a singular subject, for instance, a coder. The exception to that is the Hacker; once you are a hacker IRL, you pretty much know everything anyway and therefore are “31337” amongst your peers in any and all walks of life. Whether or not they think of you in the same light stands to question.
D: When you’re deciding on the type of game you’re making, how much thought actually goes into “cuteness,” “realism,” “niche appeal,” and other categories that ‘Game Dev Story’ has you assign?
A: Quite a bit. This process continues throughout the entire development of your game, which ‘GDS’ didn’t quite touch on. It takes an immense amount of thought, planning, and preparation when writing a game design doc that captures the essence of your game’s direction. A lot of newbie game developers overlook these features when making their first game because they don’t think it’s necessary. The only driving force is that they release the game. Truly, that whole “direction” of the game is designed along with the rest of your game. “Where do you want to take your game? What audience is this going to be for?” Questions like this need to be asked when you are designing the game at hand, and in essence, they become part of the theme of your game.
D: When you create a new title in ‘Game Dev Story’, the goal is to make money, which makes the console decision simple. What else do you have to consider when making a real game?
A: For me, the biggest consideration of making a game is just that – wanting to make a game. It’s wanting to share my experiences that I find fun with others. For many companies, it’s not about the experience, but as you said, the market share – making the money. If this is your company’s main driving force, there’s a good chance that you are going to make a poor game, unless you have an excess of money to pour into a title like the AAA companies. Making a game is about a passion for something I love, about a story that players can engage in, and most importantly, sharing an experience that others can relate to.
D: I’m only so familiar with the development process, but I get the feeling that graphics and sound come into play throughout the process rather than at the 40% and 80% mark. Is development actually segmented like this or is it all going on at once?
A: It’s not too far off from the fact. For the first half of a game’s creation period, a lot of the technical work goes into it; functionality, mechanics, the gears that make the game work. Once those core features have been implemented, it moves into a development phase that focuses on pretty graphics and artistic approach. And for general post production of a game, it’s sound and polish, which could admonish itself to almost all the other aspects of a game. Bug fixes are almost always going on throughout the development stage, and at the end, play-testing and debugging is also a major influence. Nobody likes a game that doesn’t work.
D: Is there anything you’d like to see in a ‘Game Dev Story’ sequel? Anything you’d like to get across to people about game development that the game doesn’t cover?
A: For AAA companies, the sequel is about monetizing on a franchise. And throughout game history, you could say this is the case with a vast majority of the games. For a ‘GDS’ sequel, I’d obviously like to see more intuition and creative aspects of making the game. Perhaps mini-games within the game that the player has to beat to move the production forward. The general concept of the game is solid; it has enough that draws in the player and keeps him playing for more, be it fame, or money, etc. Of course, there was a cap in ‘GDS’ that once you reached, your game company is pretty much the best and can only put out #1 hits. But with all things, even that should fade.
D: If you were a staff member in ‘Game Dev Story’, what would your title be and where would you put your stats?
A: My title would be “Design Wizard” and my stats would go into scenario and sound…. because it’s what I do now.