In Publisher Dream, your task is to build up a game development company from scratch in nine years.
While you have some starting capital and you don’t actually have to worry about programming or drawing anything yourself, you are in charge of the balancing act of deciding which games to create and handling the finances. Effectively, you’re the studio manager.
At the very start, your studio is in a small rented space that can seat only a few people. The room is empty of any decorations or people.
Hiring people is simple. Everyone new starts at level 1, and as they create more games and work on more projects, they gain experience and level up. As they level up, their monthly salary also increases. Each person has three parameters—Design (for a designer position), Logic (for a programming position), and Management (for a manager’s position)—which vary from individual to individual. They also all have a stress meter that increases as they work on a project.
To encourage your staff, you can always change the background music. There are a few choices, each with its own special effect. One increases work output, while another decreases stress levels. In addition, you can also purchase “Fitment,” equipment for your office. Some is added when you manage to rent a bigger space (like the kitty that magically relieves stress!), but other pieces of Fitment, like the arcade system that may increase creativity and the magazine shelf that may increase logic, are purchase-only. They also have a maintenance fee, so they count towards your monthly expenses as well.
Money is earned by making games (obviously). With small games, which are the only ones you can create at first, you can only assign two people (designer and programmer), but with medium and large games, you will need teams of 4-6 people. The problem starts arising when your staff’s stress levels start reaching the red and no one can take on any new projects. However, hiring too much unnecessary staff will obviously increase your monthly expenses, so you can’t binge on that front either.
Medium and large-sized games are unlocked as you complete more games. In addition to needing more people, they also have higher score and attraction parameters, which play into how many games are sold per week and what your Fame and Score for the company are, which in turn also seems to play into what your sales are. Better scores also seem to increase the Energy of your staff, allowing them to create more games.
You can also choose to invest in another company every now and then. These companies create their own games, but their sales and profits count towards yours.
Your pay arrives on a quarterly basis, so you’ll actually have to keep an eye on your monthly expenses and total capital to make sure you have enough to last the next three months. If your money goes into the red, though, never fear! Your parents will bail you out three times with a paltry sum of a hundred thousand.
The games you create can come in a variety of genres that are upgraded as you gain more experience and complete milestones. At first, you can only create puzzle games, educational games, and card games, but later on you can move on to RPGs or FPSes. The higher ranking games are more appealing to the masses and have higher sales and ratings, but they take much more Energy to create.
In addition to milestones, there are also many achievements for you to complete within the 9-year game span. These include reaching a certain number of sales, having a certain amount of experience in each game genre, etc. Completing these achievements gives you a cash bonus as well as a boost in Energy.
I liked the money management portion of Publisher Dream, and juggling the Energy expenditure with what kind of games I wanted to make is fun. The controls are very intuitive—they are almost completely touch screen only. I didn’t appreciate how small some of the buttons are, and some of the actions (like moving left or right in a menu, or bringing up the main menu in the first place) could easily be mapped to buttons, but at least there was no need for extra instructions on what buttons to press.
As far explanations go, Publisher Dream does provide you with the basic information you need, but some information, including what a lot of in-game symbols mean and what all those abbreviations over there mean, are never explained. On the other hand, the most important information, the capital vs. expenses and the sales numbers, are self-explanatory. The game is very playable, but some parts may always remain a bit hazy unless you decide to look them up on the Internet.
In addition, I like the customization with the equipment and how the staff will sometimes go over to use that sofa or play with the kitty, but as your staff numbers and your room size grows, the game may start to lag. This seems to only happen for a specific bracket of staff size, though, because thankfully when I hired even more staff, the lag disappeared and the game started moving much faster than before.
There isn’t much to Publisher Dream other than watching and waiting and managing, but I liked killing time with it on the train. Plus, the autosave happens so often that no matter when you shut the system off (provided, not when it’s saving, of course), you’re always starting from where you left off.
Food for Thought:
1. My favorite piece of Fitment is the Money Tree. I wish it existed in real life.
2. I managed to go bankrupt once because I didn’t realize the pay was on a quarterly basis. This was explained in the information screen of the game, though, so I can’t really complain.