I think they game would have worked out better in the long run (by that I mean playing beyond year 35) if it focused on competing with the industry, rather than competing with your best score.
A player who knows how the game works (either by guessing how it works based on experimenting, or reading up on the review mechanisms online) will intentionally only increase his game score by 10-15% each time he makes a new game, even if he had the capability to make a much bigger increase if he wanted to. By making small incremental game score increases, he will be getting 9+ reviews most of the time and will be able to put out many more 9+ games than if he, for example, made one big 40% increase in game score. If he made such a big leap in quality, he’d reach the point where he cannot increase his game score by the necessary 10-15% to get 9+ reviews much sooner, which means he’d make less 9+ games than if he only made 10-15% game score increases each time.
Instead, if the player was, for example, compared to how other competitors in the industry are doing (with them getting higher game scores as the time and technology progresses), the player wouldn’t have to intentionally release games that are below his potential. It would also get rid of the confusion when a player releases a game that’s equally as good as his previous 9+ game, but only ends up getting 7-8 reviews for game of the same quality. This logic that “if a game doesn’t improve upon the previous best game, it will get lower scores” only should work, for example, for games within the same genre or genre combination. It shouldn’t be applied to all types of games. Real life example scenario: if a new RPG game made by the same company wouldn’t improve upon their previous RPG game, it would make sense that reviewers wouldn’t rate it as high; but if the same company released a Sports game, it would make little sense for reviewers to compare it to the company’s previous best game, which was an RPG game, and rate it lower because the Sports game “didn’t improve upon the RPG game”.
I also find many other flaws in the game. I don’t like that the game doesn’t penalize the player for releasing games over and over:
a) for the same console,
b) with the same genre (for example, RPG) but different topic,
c) with the same topic, but different genre,
d) with the same audience group,
e) simply swapping between 2 topics over and over to bypass the penalty for releasing the same topic/genre combo.
I don’t like that majority of consoles are simply not a good option early on in the game either because of bad genre combinations or lack of popularity (or both). For example, TES only has good combination with Casual games, which aren’t even available by the time TES releases. Or many, many consoles that are never popular so it makes little sense to release games for them.
I think reviewers should give more insight into what the player is doing wrong if their review score isn’t close to 10. It’s really hard to figure out the mechanics of review system simply by playing the game. Especially because of the fact that the game never really tells you that you’re supposed to increase your game score by 10-15% each time to have a chance of getting 9+ scores. A player would release a game with very good balance and scratch his head because he only gets 7s, simply because his game score was about the same as the previous best game. The player would then try to change the balance of the game, only to find out it never fixes the issue (and maybe even lowers his reviews even more). A simple remark by the reviewer “the game has good balance but doesn’t bring anything new compared to its predecessors” would give the player a hint that he doesn’t need to work on game’s balance, but instead add new features or improve number of design/tech points to “bring something new” and get 9+ scores again.
I don’t really like how MMOs work in this game. I could never make them as profitable as simply releasing normal games over and over. I only found them kinda useful for getting a bigger fanbase, while trying to make the MMO game not lose too much money. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense to me that maintenance costs always increase over time. The maintenance costs should only increase at the beginning, when the playerbase is still growing, just like in real life. I used to play a lot of MMOs and the playerbase always decreases over time, which should make the maintenance costs decrease over time as well, especially considering that a company gets more experienced in maintaining an MMO over time, so the maintenance costs should decrease over time even if the playerbase stays the same. Also, playerbase shouldn’t ever be equal to total number of copies sold, as most players won’t play an MMO for a very long period of time (without any expansion packs, at least). Overall, maintenance should be a function of how long the game is on the market and how many active players the game has (not total number of copies sold). Maintenance should probably increase after an expansion is released, since a new expansion brings new short-term problems for the maintenance team, and of course it brings more playerbase so the maintenance costs should be higher.
Fanbase should decrease if a company doesn’t release new games often enough. I sometimes spend 1-2 years grinding off research points or training staff, and haven’t noticed losing fanbase because of that. It makes no sense. Also, fanbase should probably increase slower if, for example, a company that has been know for releasing RPG games decides to make a completely different genre. If a company has never released any good games of a specific genre, it should take the company a few games of that genre until it would bring fanbase increases in the same range as releasing good games for already established genres. Also, releasing for the same age group within short periods of time should lower fanbase increases, while releasing for different age groups shouldn’t have that penalty. An analogy would be trying to fish in the same lake over and over. The number of fish would decrease if you fished there too often, without waiting for new fish (new players) to spawn.
Overall, this game could have been much more than it is. I would love if my actions had more impact on the market and history. For example: if I kept releasing games for Sony, it would negatively impact how competitors’ consoles are doing, like making them develop new consoles slower, or having lower marketshare on their new consoles, or even completely going bancrupt. I don’t really feel connected if the history follows a linear path every time, no matter what I do. It’s like my actions don’t matter in the game’s world.
Edit: And forgot about one more thing that really is underdeveloped in the game: sequels. The game doesn’t care if a sequel is the same or different genre/topic as the original, it doesn’t care if the original was good or bad, it doesn’t care if the sequel is better or worse, it doesn’t care if a sequel came 2 or 20 years after the original (if it came 2 years after, it should bring more hype than if it came 20 years after). All it cares is checking if the engine is newer (would making the same engine with the same features over and over count as a new engine?), giving player more game score if it is, and if the sequel came out sooner than 40 weeks before the original, giving player a game score penalty if it did. It makes no sense to me that the game doesn’t penalize the sequel if it’s drastically different genre/topic/age group than the original. In real world it would bring controversy if a new God of War game was a Sports game instead of Action game.
And I also don’t like how some genres are really hard to balance design/tech for, like Action games. It’s much easier to balance out genres that require more design than it is to balance genres that require more tech. And figuring out what the correct balance is, is very hard or impossible without using the comprehensive guide made from raw data extracted from the game itself.