Monday, June 22, 2009

Game Development Process

I read the article How a Game Gets Made in the free online edition of Game Career Guide magazine some time ago. It's quite a good read for anyone interested in the process, and I believe it's important for me as a programmer to understand what role I will someday fill as a game developer. What follows is a transcription of notes I took while reading to summarize the process; note that not all possible roles are covered and the steps are not listed in sequential order.

  • Preproduction
    This is the phase where core game design decisions are made, game elements are prototyped, and the game story is developed. A basic prototype of the game is developed quickly and shown to the producer who either scraps the game or gives it the go-ahead to move into production.
    • Designers document objects, characters, levels, enemies, NPCs, etc. for the game
    • Artists work on character designs, level concept art, and storyboarding
    • Programmers work on tools, document technical specs, and perform risk assessment
    • Producer determines a production schedule and milestones

  • Production
    This is the phase where the game is fully developed based on preproduction planning and detailed design documents. Some experimentation is allowed as long as it improves the game. The development team follows a "production methodology" to keep track of and divvy up remaining work.
    • Must determine dependencies early to complete child tasks sooner and keep teams independent (max efficiency)
    • Artists get a head start creating/texturing character models and world props (cars, buildings, crates, etc.)
    • Animators generate animations for character models
    • Programmers work on core functionality and data manipulation
    • Level designers create rough sketches of all levels in the game
    • System designer plugs in characters and tweaks animations and gameplay
    • Sound designers work on effects, getting voice actors for character dialog, and music tracks
    • Team meets periodically to review overall progress of the game
    • At 2/3 of production timeline additional staff is brought in for QA testing; most features are implemented so it's time to squash bugs

  • Postproduction
    Postproduction is all about getting the game into the hands of consumers.
    • Final build of the game (the Gold Master Disc) is printed
    • Marketing publicizes the game to popular game websites, magazines, and as TV ads
    • Publisher handles game manual and box manufacturing, and has a distributor set up to deliver the game to retail stores
    • Developers may be tasked with creating donwloadable content (characters, costumes, levels, etc.) to update and extend the game

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