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10 tips for playing Game Dev Story on iPhone like a pro

Psst! Want some tips for Game Dev Story on iPhone? You’ve come to the right place. Especially if you’re fretting about how to get a Hardware Engineer…

We worried that it was only us who were obsessed by the cute Japanese game, which puts you in charge of your own games developer. However, it seems there are plenty of others bitten by the bug.

Game Dev Story cracked the Top 30 in the UK App Store Paid Games chart this weekend – an impressive achievement for a £2.39 game. Meanwhile, search for it on Twitter, and you’ll find plenty of tweets from players testifying to its time-sucking addictive qualities.

Team Recombu has gone beyond the call of duty (and, indeed, Call of Duty) to offer up ten tips to help you take the virtual games industry by storm. Read on!

1. Start slowly to get a foothold. As tempting as creating your own games is when first playing Game Dev Story, Contract projects are essential in the early stages to build up enough cash to make your masterpieces, well, masterpieces. Choose carefully though – it’s easy to overreach yourself with Contract jobs and end up missing the deadline. Sometimes, two jobs on offer will offer similar fees, but one will be easier to fulfil than the other.

2. Be canny with console licences. Making games for PC doesn’t pay off in Game Dev Story – you’ll need to make them for the various consoles that launch during the game. However, each one requires a licence, which costs extra moolah. Judging which consoles to develop for essentially requires a bit of historical knowledge about the real-life games industry, for consoles and handhelds that sold well and poorly. A short-cut? The IES, GameKid and DM from ‘Intendro’ are all good bets, as is the PlayStatus and its sequels from ‘Sonny’.

3. Mix and match your genres. When creating your own game, you have to pick a genre and ‘type’ – e.g. Racing, RPG and Shooter are genres, and Pirate, Pop Star and Golf are types. Some common sense applies here, especially in the early stages where your choices are limited by what’s available, and by your budget. Each genre and type has a popularity rating – A, B or C – but it’s not as simple as whacking two As together (Music Lawyer game, anybody?). Think about what genres and types go well together in the real world, and then see what your budget can afford.

4. Sequels are useful, but be sensible. Once you’re a half-decent developer, you’ll start making games good enough for the ‘Hall of Fame’ – something judged by your review scores. A Hall of Fame game lets you make a sequel, which is good, because sequels get a head start with the amount of Playability, Creativity, Graphics and Sound points. However, don’t go sequel-mad – your fans get bored if you make too many of the same genre games in a row, and start deserting you. One tactic that we found worked well was to have two successful franchises on the go at once – a Music Fitness game and a Shooter Spy game for example – alternating them to keep the interest up.

5. Watch the calendar. For two reasons. Firstly, you have to pay your staff salaries at the end of March (Month 3) of every year, and in the earlier stages, it’s easy to forget this, splash out on starting a new game, and be left in the red. If it gets to Month 2 and starting a new project would clean you out, take on a couple of Contract jobs instead and kickstart the new game once the salaries are paid. The second reason for watching the calendar is hinted at in the in-game manual – games spike in sales around Christmas (Month 12), so as you get used to your development times, you might want to time your projects to have something new out around then.

6. Levelling up and training your staff is key. As you play, you’ll earn Research points (represented by a floppy disk), which among other uses, can ‘level up’ your staff. This is important – get your initial team up to the maximum of Level 5 in their chosen jobs as quickly as you can (ideally, you’ll have a writer, a coder, a designer and a sound engineer). However, don’t neglect the ability to train them too, with strolls, reading and movies in the early stages, although later on you’ll be able to pack them off to museums, meditation and trips. Training also unlocks new genres and game types for use.

7. Every so often, go out of house. For every game that your studio creates, you’ll be prompted three times for specific tasks – writing the scenario, jazzing up the graphics and doing the sound. Strange though it may seem, you won’t simply want to pick your writer, designer and sound engineer every time, as they’ll start complaining of being jaded. Every three games, go out of house to one of the external people touting their talents. It’ll cost you money, but will leave your own employees raring to go the next time you kick off a project.

8. Your staff aren’t stuck in their jobs. Every so often, a travelling salesman appears, and one of the items that he sells is a ‘Career Change Manual’. Funds allowing, you’ll want to buy lots of these, as they’re another important part of the game. When staff reach Level 5 in one job, you can change them to another and start levelling them up again. A Writer can become a Designer, a Coder can become a Sound Engineer and so on. Over time, changing jobs builds up their skill points, but it also opens up new jobs. Two big ones are Producer and Director, who both have much beefier abilities covering multiple tasks.

9. How to get a Hardware Engineer. This is one of the questions being asked most frequently online, because even when you’ve progressed far enough into the game to be hiring staff from Hollywood, hardware engineers are rarer than hen’s teeth. Why do you need one? Why, to launch your own console, which besides being a big source of new dosh, also means you can take pride in making – for example – the Dreamcast II that Sega never did. So how to get a hardware engineer? Simple: use the level up and change job features to make one of your staff Level 5 in everything: Coder, Writer, Designer, Sound Engineer, Director and Producer. You’ll now be able to change their job to a hardware engineer and start making your own console.

10. Play on beyond 20 years. Game Dev Story officially ‘ends’ after 20 years, but actually you can play on beyond that. Why would you want to? Firstly to keep building up your levels in game genres and types – something that’s carried over when you start a new game of Game Dev Story, to give you an advantage next time. Also, whenever you reach Level 2 in a genre, you get two points to add to your studio’s abilities – something that happens again at Level 5. Again, building this up beyond 20 years gives you a headstart in future careers. However, there’s another reason to play on beyond the official end of Game Dev Story – new staff appear (we currently employ a monkey and a robot) as well as new consoles, including one shaped like a… well, we won’t spoil the surprise.

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