GAME REVIEW: YouTuber’s Life
YouTube has certainly become a big money earner for people who have the skill and nous to find their niche, hone their technique and grab viewer attention. You can find channels dedicated to a wide range of content, from funny cats to the excellent Ted talks. Indie developer U-Play Online has taken a good look at the kinds of things that go into making a YouTube channel, added a dash of humour and a fun, clean aesthetic, and created a very nice little PC sim/tycoon game.
As you might well imagine with a game based around the video serving behemoth, the goal of the game is to become the biggest and best YouTuber in the world. So big and successful in fact, that you’ll end up living in a lovely space mansion! Yes, tongue is firmly in cheek, and it’s a comfortable fit. After going through the character creator, you will find your created character living with his or her mother, being hounded to study enough between making YouTube videos that only bring in a few dollars, if anything at all. Small beginnings and all that business. It is your task to grow your channel by improving your craft, making the contacts and generating the cash flow that you’ll need to stand out above all the competing channels.
The character creator gives a good range of options for styling your YouTuber in the way that you desire, letting you select gender, hair style and a personality trait, the usual things you might expect to find in any half decent character creator. After you’ve tinkered with who you want to be, the choice then has to be made about what your channel will focus on. Will it be a video-gaming channel, a cooking one, or a music based slice of Youtubular entertainment? At the time of writing, those were the three choices, but as you can see from the screenshot above, more are coming in the future. For my own full playthrough, I opted for a gaming channel. I did dabble with the others afterwards though, and I felt that each, while offering similar gameplay in many ways, was different enough and also tailored to the particular subject matter in a sensible way. I could certainly fancy a fresh playthrough in another category at some point in the future.
The in-game tutorial walks you through the first steps needed to film a YouTube video and get it uploaded. It also introduces you to your equipment and the various other number-based systems that you’ll need to spend your earnings on, upgrade, or tweak the settings of. Take your computer for example. It starts out being a low powered bargain basement hunk of plastic and metal, but once you have the cash, you can hop online via the game’s own little recreation of the internet and shop for upgrade parts. You will also use this shopping system for food, clothes and material to fuel your channel, so new video-games if you are a gaming channel, new music for a music one, and so on. Once you have ordered, after a few in-game hours (about ten seconds or so), a little box will appear in your room which you can then click on to open. You will then have whatever was inside it unpacked and useable somewhere in your room.
The process of making a YouTube video comes in a number of stages. First, you must select the focus, so when running a gaming channel, that means the game to play. Next you must choose the type of video to make, so again with gaming, that might be a First Impressions video, Gameplay footage, a Review, or other kinds that unlock later. Once your Youtuber is playing the game, a card-building mini-game appears, setting you the task of matching cards featuring various reactions to the hints and happenings of the game. Each card costs an amount of Ideas (Lightbulbs), which is a stat that you need to keep replenished by eating and sleeping well before making a video. Each card played boosts a certain attribute that the video will be judged on, such as Script, Performance and Sound. More Lightbulbs means more cards can be played. Thankfully, your maximum capacity for Lightbulbs increases as you level up. If you use the right cards you get a stat boost, those 2 points in Script becoming 3, and so on. You unlock different cards as you level up and must choose which are in your deck; you can’t just use all of them at any time.
The next part of the video-making process is the editing phase. Here, each segment of the video can be seen in the top left. They have little tabs on the edges which, when matched up, will boost the Video-Editing rating. You can also add Effects by dragging them down to the bottom area. These boost stats but cost Rendering points, which are dependent on the power of your in-game computer. You can increase the Rendering points available by upgrading your computer. The higher the ratings you achieve in each category, the better received your video will be, which translates to more views, subscribers and money. Your character can also take courses to boost their abilities, which again, helps boost how well a video is received.
On top of the video making, there is the whole socializing aspect that any decent Sim-style game will bring: chatting with people, going to media events and dealing with PR people who want to give you extra tasks and early access to the newest toys. Once you get to know someone well enough, they can become a Collaborator, working for your channel. This takes place in the usual “choose the right topic and watch a bar grow, choose the wrong one and watch it decrease” way. You need to charm at least a few to end up with some collaborators, but I must admit that I found this part of the game a chore. Once I had made someone a friend, I think I just spammed gifts at them until I had “bought them” enough to become one of my collaborators. I’m not the most social of people at the best of times, but I did find the social aspect of YouTuber’s Life one of the least interesting aspects; it got in the way of making the videos, shopping and raking in the cash. I know that it is an important part of the game however, and also finding success on YouTube in the real-world.
Visually, the game has a nice cartoony style that didn’t really grow old for me. On the audio side, I must admit that I turned the music off after awhile, but the in-game sound-effects are varied and well done. The made up language that the characters talk in is also quite good. I guess what I’m saying is that basically, the game creates a very passable impression of a world full of social media aspiration. A lot of thought has gone into the upgradability of things, the in-game stores and objects all riffing nicely on their real-world inspirations. Anyone wanting to make a review video of Half-Lie II or LORT: Battle for Upper Earth when running their gaming channel will be well served here.
YouTuber’s Life is currently in Steam’s Early Access section which means that it is still undergoing active development. In that time, more polish and features have already been added, including an update that came while I was reviewing it which added a nice interface upgrade, changed the look of the card game, and other improvements here and there. I found the game to be pretty stable and bug free; it didn’t crash on me but occasionally my character’s action list (“Eat, Sleep” etc.) disappeared. On another occasion, one of my AI collaborators sat down and seemed stuck in a loop. Both of these issues vanished after restarting the game, but on the whole, it gave me few problems. A single playthrough, from living in your character’s mother’s house, to ending up in the space mansion, took me about 10 hours, which for a game that costed £10.99 at the time of reviewing, I felt was very decent value. The price is now £19.99 and, while quite an increase, I still feel that YouTuber’s Life is worth considering. Add to that the updates that are adding more content, and the re-playability of trying a differently focused channel, and I must say that I think YouTuber’s Life is a good value proposition.
YouTuber’s Life left Early Access not long after this review, which explains the price bump above. It is available for PC and Mac and is currently £19.99.
G.S Rating: 4.5/5
G.S Reviewer: Casey Douglass