How can an indie game end up looking so much like something Zynga would spit out?
By Ian Ramsay on May 8, 2013 at 2:10 pm
Greenheart Games’ debut title Game Dev Tycoon has received a lot of press lately, primarily for their inventive and undeniably ironic cracked release where piracy ends up bankrupting your fledgling game start-up. The company, started by brothers Patrick and Daniel Klug has set out with a mission to “develop games that are fun to play instead of mind-numbing money-grabbers”. An honourable endeavour – but how does the actual game fare?
Greenheart’s motto is: “Less social, less ville, more game.” How deftly ironic that the art style looks lifted from the pages of Farmville itself. The same greyed pastel faces on the same size avatars, with the same stiff character animation delivered on the same uninspired isometric maps. It seems in their rush to distance themselves from Zynga, they have come full circle and made their style exactly the same.
The similarities to Zynga don’t cease there. It seems, too, that they have accidentally copied their business strategy of cloning other, more successful games and passing them off as their own. Because as I played through the game I noticed a distinct wave of nostalgia for a game I played three years earlier — Game Dev Story, by Japanese firm Kairosoft.
You see, in the original Game Dev Story, you hire staff with varying ability in design and programming, before setting them to work on building a game. It’s different in the recent Game Dev Tycoon, where you hire staff with varying ability in design and programming, before setting them to work on building a game. Wait… did I just repeat myself?
Okay, well in Kairosoft’s game, you accrue research points to unlock different game genres and train your employees, with the occasional boosts to productivity which – watch out – could also generate more bugs. Whereas in Greenheart’s game, you accrue research points to… and boost… hmm, you do the exact same thing, I guess.
At least the cute naming conventions are original, right? The Sonny Playsystem? Ninvento Game Sphere? Hilarious. But not for a second their own concept.
Game Dev Tycoon does a thorough job of gutting the far more charming, far more original Game Dev Story – hanging the husk of its predecessor in exactly the same fashion as the alien from Men in Black wore the skin of that dead farmer. There is a line where a game is no longer inspired by, and in fact, a carbon copy of its predecessor. Game Dev Tycoon crossed that line, marked it as its own, and then had the cheek to scold people for pirating it.
Indie game development is afforded much more innovation than its commercial counterpart, and it’s a crying shame to see one company cannibalise another’s creative endeavours. Poorly made knock-offs at least have the good graces to be cheaper than their legitimate counterpart — but with Game Dev Tycoon running a cost of $10, and the original game asking but $3 — I struggle to find even one point of difference in this rip-offs favour.
It’s best to leave the game to rate itself.
- Some plagiarised elements still maintain shreds of fun
- Art is uninspired, regurgitated Zynga fare
- Trite, watered down and diluted gameplay
- Lame shoutouts to game development celebrities
- Game Dev Tycoon is bad and the developers should feel bad
The reviewer purchased both copies at their own expense.