[Interview] Talking Game Dev Tycoon with Patrick Klug

Introducing: Patrick Klug Interview

In the meta sense, Game Dev Tycoon has lived up to its name. Starting from humble beginnings on the Windows Store, this simulation staple made its way to PC, Android, and iOS. Now, we’re welcoming this game to Nintendo Switch – with cross-platform saving, to boot.

This take on the “Tycoon” craze is the brainchild of brothers and co-developers Daniel and Patrick Klug. We had the chance to speak with Patrick about Game Dev Tycoon’s history, the transition to Switch, and about Greenheart Games’ new project, Tavern Keeper.

You’ve faithfully kept in contact with the community, even since the early days of your Windows Store release. How has the audience base changed between 2012 and 2020?

We felt a responsibility to treat each player with the same respect, regardless of when and where they bought and played our game. We try our best to bring the same updates to each platform and to allow even eight-year-old save files to run well on newer versions. It hasn’t always been easy, but it’s part of our DNA by now. The community itself has ebbed and flowed over the years, but we are incredibly lucky to have a number of followers who are interested in what we do, some all the way back from the earliest days; others have joined just recently.

Take us back to the planning stages – what was it like operating as a duo as opposed to a bigger team?

I must admit that I was naïve to think that we could naturally evolve from a duo to a bigger team, and it has probably been my biggest challenge as a manager, post-Game Dev Tycoon. Running a team between five and fifteen people, across the globe, all working remotely, has been a monumental learning curve. A lot of project management techniques break down when you have everyone in different time zones and have so many different fields of expertise (art, animation, narrative design, coding, audio, game design etc.,) each with their own workflow and challenges.

We often joked that we were playing Game Dev Tycoon in real life, and – just as many players struggle in Level 2 where they hire a team and develop bigger games – we struggled, too. We are just lucky that our ongoing success with Game Dev Tycoon has helped us steer clear from bankruptcy thus far, and allowed us to spend the necessary time to build a world-class team! Of course, our next game – Tavern Keeper – is the ultimate result and proof of all this, and while we can’t know how well it will do commercially, we are incredibly proud of what we are making.

With all the blood, sweat, and tears that went into this game, it’s sad to know that pirates would inevitably torrent it on release. But you pulled a fast one on them with a “special” cracked version. How did that idea come about?

We try to ‘think a little’ about every step of our development process, no matter how mundane it may be, so when it came to making the final build for the game, we talked about what – if anything – we could do about the certainty of piracy. A brainstorming technique we’re fond of is to consider extreme positions, even if it’s just to find a box to think inside of. In this case, the extreme position was, “If piracy is inevitable, why don’t we just pirate it ourselves?” We had nothing to lose, and the rest is history.

It took several years for you to bring this game to mobile – and here we are, gearing up for the Switch release. Why did you turn your attention to the Nintendo Switch, as opposed to other consoles?

The Nintendo Switch is just a wonderfully innovative and beloved console, and because the mobile game was already optimized for touch controls, we felt the Switch – with both touch and controller input – was the perfect choice. It also seemed to have a player base which might enjoy our game, and we are just as excited to see the game come to the platform.

What were the challenges of adapting gameplay smoothly to the Switch?

It takes time to really understand the player-flow on a new console. Thinking about which buttons we use and how we show hints on how to play the game was probably the most effort. We wanted the game to play well regardless of whether you use touch, Joy-Con controllers, or both, so that took a little while to get just right.

In your own podcast, you once said that you went into gaming versus software because you thought you could release a title, and move onto a new project – but that’s not quite how it worked out, until recently. How is your next game, Tavern Keeper, different from Game Dev Tycoon?

Ha, thanks for the reminder! Yes, it certainly did not quite work out that way. Even though a lot of the Game Dev Tycoon development work is handled by our partners at Rarebyte (who ported the game to mobile and Switch,) we still sit in the middle to coordinate everything, and the cross-platform feature required some development work from our end, too. Having a popular game to think about while developing a new one certainly adds a lot of overhead, but it’s a good problem to have. Without the ongoing income from Game Dev Tycoon, Tavern Keeper simply couldn’t exist.

Speaking of which, is 2020 also going to be the year of Tavern Keeper Beta?

Sadly not, no. My family and friends keep asking me when it will come out, and I’ve said “maybe next year” so many times that everyone just chuckles now. We knew that a 2020 Beta was shaky a while ago, as we decided to add some new features which delayed the project further, but we all thought that those particular features would be well worth the delay. This year, we’ve also been plagued by issues with the game engine and tools we use on a near-daily basis, which causes a lot of stress, lost time, and uncertainty. In a couple of months, we’ll be in a better position to judge where we are at. After working on Tavern Keeper for six years, everyone on the team is keen to finish our creation and finally put it into the hands of players.

And finally, what is next for Game Dev Tycoon? With cross-saving now integrated, are you turning your attention fully to the next title?

Tavern Keeper requires and deserves our full attention for now, but we’d certainly love to do a sequel to Game Dev Tycoon at some point in the future!

Thank you to Patrick Klug for taking the time to speak with us! Game Dev Tycoon hits the Switch on October 8th.