EA SCOUT the last line of defense for buying on Steam's Early Access
by Sergio Brinkhuis
previewed on PC
We can all dream
When your level of interest in video games reaches high enough levels to want to write about them, chances are good that you'd love making them too. I can't imagine there being a single video game critic who does not - on occasion - wonder what it would be like being on the other side of that fence. I can tell you one thing for sure, writing is infinitely easier than coding, and playing at being a developer a whole lot less hair raising than actually being one. Fortunately, every now and then someone takes pity on us critics and lets us sample the developer life through a game. MAD Games Tycoon does exactly that.
To make, or to buy
As with any Tycoon game, you start small. As a lone "garage developer", you set out to become one of the great pioneers of gaming. You break ground researching new technologies such as Pixel Graphics, 16bit sound, and Artificial Intelligence. Next, you combine these technologies into a brand spanking new game engine that rivals any engine out there and with that, you can finally start developing games.
It's a slow process with many pitfalls. Keeping up with technology is a considerable undertaking and before long others will start churning out similar engines, or worse, better ones. If you're too far behind the times, your game will come out to unfavourable ratings, hurting sales as a result. You could, of course, purchase existing engines. It saves you from having to develop your own but you are paying royalties on top of the purchase price and these take a huge chunk out of your earnings.
Gameplay doesn’t lie
Success doesn't - just - depend on the engine. Trends in genre and topic affect sales, as does marketing. While you cannot influence trends, you can work miracles with the right marketing or hope that your publisher will do it for you.
Still, no amount of marketing will help you sell a badly produced game. Your starting character has limited skills which will improve over time but he cannot specialise in every aspect of development. Taking on new team members with complementary skills will greatly improve the quality of your games and speed up development as games become more complex. Once you have a few games under your belt and your studio grows, more skilled developers will be knocking on your doors to work for you. You could hire them, or train your existing team.
Simple, but effective.
MAD Games Tycoon is a relatively simple game, but entertaining nonetheless. It doesn't take itself too seriously and it's full of cheese. Publisher names have been warped into chuckle inducing names such as Ibusoft and Pony, and famous developers have received equal treatment. Teaching Clive Bleschinksi how to do graphics is good for a chuckle, even if the real-life Cliff would benefit more from a few lessons in modesty.
The game is currently stable and quite playable. Updates and bug-fixes come regularly, though nothing major needs fixing. Odd bugs such as developers walking through walls to reach a filing cabinet add to the silliness of it all and don't actually break the game. If you're into Tycoon games, and realize it's a budget title, then it's safe to pick this one up.
There are no guarantees - but we'd bet our own money on this one. If you're going to take a chance with yours, odds are good this one will deliver.