FAQ/Walkthrough by ExtremePhobia

Version 1.0, Last Updated 2013-05-27

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Things to Know

Game Dev Tycoon is a pretty standard tycoon style game on the service but there are quite a few systems in place that you need to master in order to get the best high scores possible. Anyone can make a game but it will take skill to make a great game.

Your Goal

In Game Dev Tycoon, after you've gotten good enough at the game to not go bankrupt (at least without taking a big risk), the main goal is to get a high score for your scoreboard. There are a few things that factor into your score such as how many Topics you've researched and how many games you've released but you will get your good scores from just a few different areas.

  • Top Hits: This is the number of games that score at least a 9.0. 1 Million points per game
  • Best Seller: This is a score based on your best selling game. Roughly 2 points per unit sold
  • Cash: This is how much liquid cash you have at the end of the game. Roughly 1 point per $100
  • Good Games: This is the number of games that score at least a 8.0. 100,000 points per game
  • Fans: Roughly 4 points per fan.
  • Custom Consoles: Points for the number of units sold of all of your custom consoles.

The big items are the top two on the list (Top Hits and Best Seller) though all of these are pretty good. Simply put, however, even if you get some $1B, it will still only add about 10 Million points to your score (this is a tall order but doable). However, it is possible to make 40+ games and have 20-30 of them be Top Sellers. And making Top Sellers will raise almost every other stat on this list (they will bring in more fans which will make your future game top hit sell more units and bring more money). Every mechanic in the game feeds into your high score in one form or another and the key to a great high score is a proper strategy.

Review Scores

Hands down, the most important part of your strategy will revolve around your review scores. This will have an effect on fans, sales, and whether your game is a Top Hit so this is the holy grail. How do you get a high review score? It's both more simple and more complex than you might think. The simple part is that your review score is actually just a reflection of the quality of your current game compared to the other games that you've made in the past (with the exception of in the garage where you are trying to reach a certain quality of game to get a hit and leave the "tutorial"). 

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True Score and Review Score ========

The complex part is how this is calculated and how you take advantage of it. First, there are two slightly different scores at play, one that you see and one that you don't. The score that you DO see is clearly the Review Score. The score that you DON'T see is what we'll call the "True Score". The difference between the two is slight for the most part but there are a few key differences. Essentially, the game takes your "True Score" for your game and applies some modifiers to get your Review Score.

One of these modifiers is actually a random number that is generated but this has a slight impact on your Review Score for the most part. This does mean, however, that you can do everything right and still not get a perfect 10. There are other modifiers as well such as the size of your game, how many fans you have, and the number of specialists you have (a special training feature later in the game). These are just some of the things that can change your review score. However, for the most part, once you start the development of a game, these are out of your control except for the random number which can only be altered by reloading the game and trying again.

Most of these modifiers act more as ceilings that prevent you from getting perfect 10's right out of the gate. As stated before, there's little you can do about this and ultimately it's of little consequence because you can still get a 9.75 which is near enough to a perfect score for the most part. You won't be able to get a perfect 10 until you have unlocked Large games and have at least two specialists on your team.

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The Strategy ========

So if you can't change the modifiers for your review score (save for a few major mile stones that you'll be striving for anyway) then the other part of the equation is the True Score. That is something you can definitely change. Your True Score is based on the sum of the Tech and Design points generated during game design minus any bugs and penalties. This score is then compared to your previous True Score high scores. This will give you a rough Review Score before it is checked against any of the modifiers and put against the random number generator.

In other words, while you may not have a whole lot of control over some of the modifiers, you have almost complete control over the True Score that your reviews are based on. You set the first High Scores and you continue to reset them. If you take care and control how you improve your games then there's no reason (with a little practice) that you can't have an 8 or 9+ game every time.

To really maximize your high score, you actually want to be CONSISTENT instead of amazingly good. If you raise your high score too quickly, it will become harder and harder to get a high scoring review time after time. However, if you are consistent and make moderate increases from game to game then you can slowly run up your High Scores over the 30 year period and never struggle to get the points you need. In fact, it is quite possible that your score may end up too high at times and you might want to release the game with bugs to lower the score.

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Figuring out your score ========

First, remember that we want to be consistent. If possible, you want to try not to adjust your sliders and when you get to Medium games, try to not change who is assigned to which category of development. In fact, it will actually not be important who ends up in which category as long as you don't move them because we're striving for consistency and not spikes of greatness. To aid you in this, you can actually use the same genre over and over as long as you never use the same Topic twice in a row. It is quite possible to go through the entire game making nothing but Action games and using nothing but the starting topics (you could make Sports/Action, Military/Action, Sports/Action etc).

Your last game when coming out of the Garage is important because this will likely be your first True High Score. When you finish the your games, wait for the counters to count up your Tech and Design Points. Add the two together and keep that in mind. When you make your next game, you'll want to aim for about +12% to +20% above that score. How much higher you aim is actually dependent on the gaps between your previous games so if you start spiking with your games and have add 20% for the past few games, you can't start doing just a 12% increase without hurting the performance of your games. However, if you catch it early enough, it may be worth the slight hit for the next game or two to lower the amount you want to increase.

Keep in mind that when you change the size of your game, people will expect you to make that size of game so you'll take a severe penalty if you try to go back down to a small game after making a medium game for example. In addition, when you make the jump to a larger size game, you'll automatically generate more Design/Tech points because the game development period will increase. You can try and estimate how many points based on the amount of time it takes you (it's relative) or you can just do what you would normally do for a modest increase and you'll likely get that increase proportionally. After that, simply remember your new High Score and continue to add 12%-20% for each successive game.

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Training ========

After you move out of your garage, you'll have your first chance for training. You'll have several options to begin with that improve various skills. As you progress through the game, new training options will appear. The next set of training will happen a couple of years after the G3 conferences start and is hosted by G3. They call them friendly competitions but are really just more training options. Finally, after you move to your final office, you'll get to option to teach classes which don't pay. Instead, you'll gain a drastic increase in skill points.

Be careful when training however because you can over do it. If you train the same skill twice in a short period, your returns on those skills will decrease the second time. Instead, it's better to wait 40 weeks or to make a game in between. That is not to say that you can't train twice in a row, simply that you shouldn't train the same skill twice in a row. Doing so is a waste of time, money, and research points.

Finally, it's important to remember that there is a ceiling to how much you can learn from each style of training. Learning from books (your first training opportunity) caps out at 500 points per skill, the G3 contests cap out at 700 and Teaching has a soft cap at 900 points. The first two options won't increase your skill if you start training with your skill above that cap but teaching will allow this to happen. A soft cap means that while it won't stop you entirely, your returns are drastically reduced so you won't climb as quickly.

SkillNameNameName
Tech and DesignGame Dev GemsGame JamNONE
TechCode IncompleteCode JamProgramming Course
DesignGame Design for PiratesPixel CupGame Design Course
SpeedDon't Repeat YourselfTime TrialsProject Management Course
ResearchMake Me Think!Innovation ChallengeR&D Course

While those are the main skills improved, many of them can slightly improve other skills to a lesser degree and sometimes even unrelated skills (through a small chance).

Walkthrough

If you're already familiar with the game then the preceding information may be all you need to set yourself a new High Score for your scoreboard. However, if you want more precise and direct advice over the course of your game, follow this Walkthrough!

Garage

You'll start out at the beginning of a 30 year jaunt through the Video Games industry. The Garage serves as a sort of tutorial so you can learn the different things you can do. The rules here are slightly different than the rest of the game but for the most part, you'll get a good understanding of how game development works, how to research things, how to make Custom Engines and how to take on contracts. The single biggest difference (especially if you're already familiar with the game) is that your Review Scores are not based on your previous best scores but are set against a pre-existing scale. In other words, your games will slightly improve in quality after each successive game until you hit the preset High Score number and get a big hit. When you get this, you'll make enough money to move out of the Garage and into an office (where the game begins in earnest).

For now, just continuously make games for the PC. It has a lower market share but it has a better bonus for the "Everyone" audience category which is what you use until you research "Target Audience" later. As soon as you finish one, begin another. You want to do this until the Gameling comes out and then switch to making games for Young Audiences for the Gameling until Y8 (when you will make Mature games for the PC again). 

To maximize how well you do with each game, you'll need to adjust the sliders depending on the genre of the game (topic doesn't matter). This is something you'll only really do in the Garage for this walkthrough simply because later, everything is relative so even if you set the sliders incorrectly, it'd be better to leave them messed up so that you are consistent rather than changing them.

The most important part of setting sliders is the percentage of the bottom bar that is taken up for each item (not the sliding bars themselves since they have no actual value). The percentages in the following table are based on percentages of the bottom bar, not the sliders themselves. Plus signs mean that it needs to be atleast that percentage of the bar while minus signs mean that it must be set less than that number.

GenresPhase 1Phase 2Phase 3
Action, Simulation or Strategy40%+, 40%+, 20%-20%-, 40%+, 40%+20%-, 40%+, 40%+
RPG or Adventure*20%-, 40%+, 40%+40%+, 40%+, 20%-40%+, 40%+, 20%-
  • These numbers aren't entirely accurate for Adventure as it is a little more flexible than RPG but the table was designed for simplicity since this is only a small portion of the game.

Try to make every good combination of Topics and Genres available to you because this will give you an experience boost. Since you can repeat genres but repeating a topic twice in a row will penalize you, it might be simplest to start with one genre and go through each good topic (this will allow you to keep your sliders the same for the entire genre).

TopicGood Genre 1Good Genre 2Good Genre 3Good Genre 4
SportsActionSimulation  
MilitaryActionSimulationStrategy 
MedievalActionAdventureRPGStrategy
SpaceActionSimulationStrategy 

Once you've tried everything, Research the New Topic Racing and make at least a Racing Simulation game (which will unlock a piece of research for later). Next, Research the Fantasy Topic. Once you have all of these out of the way, you'll have at least two topics that can support each genre (Fantasy is good with Action, RPG, Adventure and Strategy) so you can pick your favorite genre and alternate between the two good topics. RPG is HIGHLY recommended however because it has great ratings with both the PC and the Gameling (the two best platforms) and both Young and Mature audiences (what the Gameling and PC excel in respectively).

While you are doing this, keep an eye on your Research Points counter. You want to research the Custom Game Engine as soon as you have 50 Research Points. When you hit that point, stop making games and do that Research. When you've done that, make your own Custom Game Engine. The only thing you want to put on there for right now is the 2D Graphics v2. Remove anything else that you have. Continue making games and do no further research until you leave your Garage.

Use only the new graphics when developing the game (remove the basic sound feature from the phase 3 development). Simply continue to make games using this engine and eventually one of your games will be a hit. This should launch you right over the $1M mark and likely up over $2M. As soon as you are given the chance, move to your new office to begin the next phase of the game.

Office 1

As soon as you land in your new office, you'll learn how to train your "Manager". Train the Manager in Management so that you can begin to hire staff. Once you've finished your training, starting filling staff. You'll be able to hire four new staff, one at a time. While you are doing this, keep your manager busy doing research, particularly on 3D Graphics v1 and then Medium Games (after you hire your first staff). Also, you should be able to research Target Audience if you can't already and once you can, make sure to research it.

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Hiring Staff ========

To Hire staff, save your game and then click the Hire Staff button at the table. You'll be given a slider and three options. Right now, we're going to go for all balanced people. Right now you don't need any specialists and having well rounded characters will allow you more flexibility. Pick the "Game Demo" option from the list and set it to $80K on the slider. This is the sweet spot and should land the quality of employee you want. Which is to say, not very good.

You want to hire the least skilled and most balanced employee you can. If for some reason you can't get a relatively balanced employee then you can reload from the save. It's not crucial that they really be exact because a small difference can easily be trained away. The key is that it isn't a large difference and that they are unskilled. The only skill that you want to be high for these employees is Research. If your prospects are roughly tied, take the one with the highest research and lowest speed. The reason for this is that Speed directly effects the number of points that employee puts into a game while Research will simply give you more Research Points and more options.

You should have enough money that you can fill the entire table. As you hire each new person, perform the "Staff Welcome" training option. Once your new employees start to be freed up, have each of them perform the Training "Make Me Think!" which will improve their Research skill.

After that, set your staff to make a new Engine with the 3D graphics and whatever other features you can fit. From now on, you'll only ever have the newest 3D Graphics attached to your engines and you will use it for every game you make until you unlock a newer version to research. As soon as you do, research the new 3D graphics version and make a new engine to use it. You can't get new versions of the engine without using the newest version available and gaining experience in its use. The reason for this is that your employees will still not be 100% but the quality of your new engine won't be negatively impacted by this. This allows them to be effective even if a little slow.

Once the engine is complete, create one last small game because even though your staff's bars are likely filled at this point, your staff actually still perform at a lesser quality for their first game. Make any game to get it out of the way. With this game complete, your employees will likely want to go on vacation. If you are somewhere around M6 of the year, try to delay sending them on vacation and have them perform research, training, or contracts until perhaps M9. Otherwise, just send them on vacation. The reason for this is because later on you'll have the G3 conference in month 6 and you always want to be developing a game at that time to get the huge boost of Hype for you game that the G3 conference provides.

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Publishers and Medium Games ========

When they return from their vacation, you can start making your first medium games likely for the Gameling if it is out. You want to make Mature games for the PC until the Gameling comes out, switch to Young games for the Gameling and then switch back to Mature games for the PC around Y8 because these offer the best bonuses. However, you want to get a Publishing Deal first. 

Publishing is a little bit tricky because you don't really get a whole lot of options compared to the number of options there could possibly be. What this means is that it's very possible for all of the publishing deals to end up being things like a Military RPG for the Gameling (which is an aweful combination).

The only way around this is to save your game, check the publishing deals and the reload the save until you get good combinations. The goal is to get as good a combination as possible. Try to get one that is Gameplay or Any Platform and then a good Topic/Genre combo. You also want to get as high in royalties as you can. You might be nervous because these can frequently come with the requirement of getting an 8+ for your reviews but even if you don't the fee for failure is well worth the money you'll make in return. $100K as fee is well worth the difference between 8% and 13% when the games are selling as many as 5M copies. That 5% difference could literally be millions of dollars.

You want to continue making medium games with publisher deals until you have 100k+ fans (probably anywhere from 3-5 hit games). Once you hit 100k+ fans then you can start making your games without a publisher. Do this until you hit at least 250k+ fans. When you get to that point, you can start making Large Games and self-publishing (allowing you to skip past the Publishing Deal stage). You may want to wait until you move to the larger office which will give you more employees but it is possible to make large games even with your smaller team. This is a matter of comfort and skill that you need to decide on yourself. You'll move to the next office after you've got $16M in the bank, four employees, and pass Y13 though it may not happen right away. If not, you are still very capable of making boat loads of money and good games at this stage so don't worry, it'll happen when you're ready.

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Your Rhythm ========

Make your medium game and then remember that you want to continue to add 12%-20% on to that score for each successive game. The best way to go about this is to make the first game without any feature (things that pop up on the right side of the sliders) except for the 3D graphics. In between each game, train your employees in Research and then whichever of the two main skills (Design and Tech) that is lowest before making your next game.

You won't be able to train your employees past 500 points in any given skill using the first set of training (Book training) so if one of your skills tops out, train a different skill. Just make sure that you don't train the same skill twice without making a game in between because your returns diminish drastically which wastes both money and (more importantly) time. A couple of years after the G3 conference starts up (likely triggered once one of your employees hits around 500 in Design or Tech), the G3 conference will start competitions. This is just a fancy way of saying you've got new training opportunities. These are similarly capped at 700 skills points after which you won't develop any more. You'll have to wait until you move to the larger office to unlock the last level of training.

Keep doing this until you can upgrade your graphics. Once you can, do it so that you can start working to the next level of graphics. When you have employees that aren't busy, have them research something new (avoid topics if you can as they aren't particularly important) or do contracts. As soon as you can research Marketing, do so.

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Hype ========

The first tool in your Hype campaign is Marketing. Try to use the smaller marketing at first until you have enough fans for it to really be worth it. I would start with the Magazine and Demo combo since you should have enough money for this. You can even use that while you are using Publishing Deals.

After you make your first few self-published Medium games, you can start with the small campaigns and finally you can do the large campaigns when you are close to starting Large games. In marketing, timing is everything and the two best times to invest in marketing are a little past halfway through development and when there's only about 10% left to go.

The second chance at hype is by far the best both in terms of how much hype you can generate and how much you get for your money. The G3 conference will offer you a chance, once a year, to increase hype for any game you have in development. This can easily jump your hype up several hundred points. You can use this in conjunction with your marketing campaign.

The biggest thing to keep in mind is that once G3 starts being held, it will be held the same time every year at the end of M6 W1 so you want to make sure you are developing a game at that point. As for the booth size, you want to go with small until you hit about 100k fans. After that, use the Medium booth until about 250-350k fanse. After that, start with the Large booths for most of the rest of the game. Towards the end, you'll have various opportunities for increasing Hype through your Hardware and R&D Labs but they are generally a waste of time unless you are making/made a console.

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Pop-Up Opportunities ========

Over the course of the game, you'll be given several chances where you get your choice of two options. For the most part trust your gut (and certainly don't trust the Nigerians). Whenever you are given the chance to upgrade your office in some way, do so. This will usually improve the output of your office or the cost of maintaining your office. Your employees will ask about sponsoring a women's group and hosting a competition, both of which you should approve of. Do not agree to the hackers deals and, again, stay away from the Nigerians.

Office 2

This is the final Office level and will give you two more employee slots (for a total of 6 employees and one manager). You'll have to have $16M in cash, four employees, and pass Y13. It may not happen immediately and you may have to wait a little bit but that's ok, Just keep making awesome games until it comes. You may be required to also have one of your employees hit the training cap of 700 points for a skill before you can move.

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Hiring More Staff ========

This time, it will be different. You're going to spend far more (1M+) and you'll want to hire two specialists, one for Tech and one for Design. The number 1 priority is definitely to top 700 points in their respective specialty and if you can't manage that either reload the game or get as close as possible. The reason for this is that you can now open up your R&D Lab and Hardware Labs once you meet the requirements and one of the requirements is a staff person for each of those skills with over 700 points.

Once you have them over 700 points, train the Design person to be a Design specialist and the Tech person to be a Tech Specialist. Once the Design Specialist is trained, you should shortly be able to open up the R&D Lab. Open it up if you can afford it. Once it is opened, you'll be able to research a variety of topics including Hardware which, along with a Tech Specialist, is required to open your Hardware Lab.

Once you have your staff trained as specialists, continue to train them as you would your other staff. Increase your Research skill and then whatever skill they are weakest in.

Finally, when you hire these two people, you'll end up with two employees whose vacations are different from the rest of your staff so you'll want to try and line those up with your other employees as soon as you can.

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R&D Lab ========

The R&D Lab has some interesting Research options that aren't otherwise available to you. These include more intense research such as researching internet opportunities. You can increase or decrease how much money you spend on in your Lab but if you can afford it, you want to spend as much as possible. Since you're up against the clock trying to get as much done by the end of the game, you want to research these items as quickly as possible. However, when not researching anything, feel free to drop the budget to zero because the Research Points you get for use by your staff are negligible compared to the amount of money spent.

If you've been particularly diligent about improving your graphics skills and have been using the 3D Graphics v5 for a while then you may already have access to 3D Graphics v6 for research in the lab. If not, keep improving your graphics until you've reached at least level with 3D Graphics v5. This will unlock the graphics for research in the lab. This is your top priority once you have it so if you have it already, start researching it so you can get it into your next game.

After graphics, research Internet Opportunities which will unlock Project: Grid and MMO research. Do Project: Grid first which will give you additional income and increase the market share of your start platform, the PC. If you've had the chance to make Large games and have had a particularly successful game (9.5+) then you may have already unlocked AAA Games research. If you did, at this point you can research that and then finally MMO.

The last big research is Engine Licensing. To get this unlocked for research, you must first make 10 Custom Games Engines. You can make them with nothing but graphics engines to speed the process up if you like. Creating small junk engines shouldn't take too much time or money and the ability to license your Engines will bring in additional revenue. However, it's not great money so it's really up to you.

When you've researched MMOs and Licensing Game Engines, you'll have to then research support for them using your normal employees. Once those have been researched, it can be included in your next Custom Game Engine (MMO Support and Software Development Kit). Including those in your engine allows you to use it for MMOs and license it out for money.

Finally, research Hardware. This isn't as high a priority because Consoles are costly and you do want to have AT LEAST 3D Graphics v6 (and ideally v7) before you make a console. The rest of the options aren't really necessary. In particular, holding your own Convention would replace the G3 convention but the return isn't really much improved. It'll cost you aroung $7.5 Million to research it (nearly 4x more than the G3 convention) but I've never noticed any difference in returns at all. It may only be worth it if you have both an MMO and a Console on the market.

The second useless option is the AAA Special Marketing Campaign. It's not entirely useless as it does increase your Hype somewhat but if you run it for the entirety of your AAA game development, it'll cost you about $30M which is no small chunk of change. If you participate in the G3 conference with a Large Booth and a Large Marketing Campaign then it will run you under $4M for probably over 600 Hype (at that point) where as running your own convention and special marketing will cost you $37M and gain you little more Hype.

End Game

This is where things really open up for you. Once you've gotten your employees set up, you're free to do as you see fit. You'll have the basics down and it's really a matter of using what resources you have to maximize your final score. Your ultimate goal if at all possible (though it's very hard to do) is make a AAA size MMO game and get 9.5-10 Review score. If you are going to invest in that kind of game then go whole hog and make doubly sure that you get your High Scores in order. Even if you might run the risk of increase +30% over your last score, it'll be well worth it. MMO games stay on the market until you pull them off (click on their chart on the screen).

You can also develop Expansion packs for your MMO which increases the longevity of the game and drastically increases your revenue. After 2 or 3 successful Expansion packs (make sure that they are at least 40 weeks apart from each other and the release of the main game), you'll probably have too much money coming in to know what to do with it. If you can manage that then you are a true master of the game.

Otherwise, do the best you can do. The real challenge here really comes down to consistently delivering a solid game time after time which is what you've been practicing to do. Remember that even if you save, if your company goes under at any point then you can actually restart from the beginning of this level. This will generally set you back to about Y15 which will allow you to try the last half of the game over again.

Good Luck!

(As of this writing, I've manage a High Score of ~74M points using this strategy)

Copyright

Copyright ExtremePhobia (Brandon Fusco) 2013, all rights reserved.

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