Game design is a team effort, which is why all the stages of game development are assigned to smaller teams of professionals from artists to programmers and everyone else in between. If you're interested in a career in the booming gaming industry, understanding the game design stages and what role would fit you best could help you decide your career path. There's also this post that gives further insight into game developer jobs.
8 Stages Of Game Development
Now that you've understood the roles involved in every stage of game development, let's now take a look at the common production stages followed in the gaming industry.
Planning is always the one and always the first step of any game development project, whether your video game is big or small. Without this, the professionals working on the game wouldn't be able to turn the vision into a reality.
How do You Plan a Game Development Project?
If you are the brains of a particular game, you should create a game design document. To create this document, you need to answer the following:
- Is the game single-player or multiplayer?
- What perspective (1st person/3rd person) does the game have?
- What genre is the game? (RPG, adventure, FPS, etc.)
- What structure do you have in mind? By chapter/level?
- What interface (UI, controls, etc.) do you want the game to have? This should also answer the kind of software and other tools required in designing and developing the game.
- Who is your target audience? The answer will reflect your game's difficulty since you would want a kid's game to challenge them but still easy enough to be playable by their age level.
- Make an outline of the story, plot, scenarios you already have in mind. This will be developed further by writers or storytellers you're going to hire.
- Describe the initial characters you have in mind. If you want to include villains/monsters/bosses, add them here.
- Do you already have an idea of the missions/levels? Discuss the gameplay you want for this game.
- Is this a unique game? Or does it compete with an already existing game?
The game development process begins with this document. Planning with an outline could save both time and money since your team has a guide to follow. It also helps identify the type of professionals needed to make this project a success.
What Roles Are there in Game Development?
The game developer is either the person whose idea the game came from or the actual person leading the team members from start-to-finish of the game development process. This job is often used interchangeably with the "game designers." He/she has the final say on everything, ensuring every production stage stays loyal to the original idea and follows the design of the game document closely. Click here to check out the best online Game Development schools.
Other roles include:
Programming is focused on the game's codebase. For big projects, multiple programmers are hired to handle different tasks or to work on each stage of the game.
Artists turn ideas into actual art and visuals. The work of artists begins even during pre-production when the game developers turn concept art into real characters, environments, backgrounds, and so on.
Sound designers or Composers
Works on sound effects to background music. Some game companies do not hire in-house but outsource this role to experts instead.
Quality Assurance, QA, or Game Testers
In indie games or smaller companies, there won't be any QA teams or testers anymore. Testing is often assigned to the programmers instead. However, for big projects, QA teams are continuously testing the game even after launch.
Writes documentation, character scripts during cut scenes, or gameplay mechanics, among other written tasks.
For bigger projects, team leaders or project managers are hired to lead smaller teams.
Proofing a Concept
In the gaming industry, studios require proof of concept to find out if they can afford to develop the game.
- Is the studio capable of building the game?
- Does it have to work on a new game engine?
- How many employees or outsourced freelancers will be needed?
- How long will it take from concept to launch?
- Will the developer fund the entire game or get third-party investors involved?
2. Video Game Development Pre-Production
With the video game production document in hand and roles identified (and hopefully hired), the work now begins.
This stage will focus on cleaning up all the plans, including storyboarding, storytelling, and game mechanics. Artists will make animation sketches of characters, as well as the look and feel of every game level.
Programmers will be identifying technological capabilities and work on early prototyping. By the end of this stage, the game designer should have a schedule to follow.
The majority of the video game development timeline will be spent in this step.
In this stage, characters are made. Sometimes, they are molded or 3D-printed first, before they are electronically rendered and included in the game as animation.
Voice actors begin working with their scripts, while sound engineers and composers write background music and effects from the sound of people stepping on the sand to squeaky car brakes, heavy breathing of characters, and so on.
Level designers work alongside other artists to create unique environments needed for every inch of the game.
This step also focuses on programming the actual game, writing thousands of lines of code to bring the game ideas, animation, music, and all elements above to life.
All gaming studios look at project milestones at the start, middle, and end of the production stage. Team leaders usually see if members of their teams are on top of their respective tasks.
This phase could take months or even years before the studios decide to move on to testing. In fact, some game developers even scrap the entire game concept mid-production and start new from scratch.
In smaller studios, the programming team is responsible for testing the game for bugs, coding errors, software problems, and so on.
Some studios get outsider testers like ordinary gamers to help with quality control. However, most video games are launched only after rigorously being tested for things like boring dialogue, loopholes, errors in level design, features that can be exploited by players, and other buggy parts of the game such as legs getting stuck on a door or overlapping elements.
Developing a video game is one thing, but spreading the word about it is another thing.
When small studios develop games, there's a good chance that only the game developers know about the entire development process. For bigger studios, especially video games within a famous series, fans and the gaming industry would already know that the game would be given a new follow-up.
The level of marketing games need depends on a case-to-case basis. Marketing can be as simple as promoting the game online, or as big-time as getting a spot on gaming conventions.
Both big and small gaming companies send gamers beta copies of the game, so they could try it out first and get feedback. Many games need to undergo this kind of testing to get "a new set of eyes" who have no bias with the game and can see bugs and errors from another perspective.
Additional testing resumes during this phase. As long as many errors exist on the codes or testers continue to see loopholes, the programmers would have to work on the game even during this time.
This stage may probably the most high-level stressful throughout the entire video game development process.
Launch day may take place at the exact day originally scheduled on the project document at pre-planning or could be a totally different time.
Nonetheless, releasing video games to the public may take a lot of time because gaming companies need to make sure the game is bug-free as much as possible.
8. Post Production
Post-production or post-launch involves more errors to correct, bugs to squash, and player feedback to assist. The one good thing about post-launch updates is that more real-life testers are helping to identify these bugs.
During this time, the gaming company would probably be brainstorming ideas about a follow-up, or the next round of updates.
The world of video game development is a very challenging and lucrative business. This is the reason many kids of this generation dream of becoming a part of gaming history as a game designer, tester, scriptwriter, game composer, and other game design professionals who turn ideas into playable games.
Just like any kind of project, gaming companies cannot guarantee that the entire video game development would be problem-free. Even the best game studio may launch longer than planned.
But with a proper plan and the right people working on the game, game development wouldn't be too chaotic.