The development of videogames has several crucial stages, all of which are necessary for the game to turn out well. Each and every person working on the game needs to respect those stages and do their part to the best of their abilities if it is to succeed. However, as obvious as they might seem, what are those stages and what do they look like? That is the exact question we will be trying to answer today. So, strap in and read on!
Before any real work can begin, there needs to be an idea and a vision for a game. Without those, there really isn’t anything to actually start to work on, everything that would be done would be mostly worthless. Once the idea is clear, the planning can begin, one of the most important parts of the development.
Planning set some very important parameters, i.e. the budget, the art style, possible game mechanics, target audience, technologies, platforms, and many more. While these can sometimes be altered during the production, having a good, firm plan helps to avoid delays and other issues.
It is the job of the Game Producer to have the main say in the budget and marketing strategies to make sure that there will be demand for the game. The Concept Artist then needs to create a useful and clear artwork and concepts so that the rest of the team can give the game the desired look, while also setting the mood for the entire game.
All this and much more information is contained in the Game Design Document, which can be described as a guide for the whole team. It greatly helps to keep the team on track and make sure that the isn’t losing anything from the creators’ vision. Also, if the makers of the game need to impress investors, it is this document which can help them get the game funded. Therefore, it is in everyone’s interest to make this that the Game Design Document is as detailed and clear as possible!
After planning comes prototyping. This is the stage during which the mechanics, art, user experience, and generally gameplay can be figured out and tested. Needless to say, a game that doesn’t work can’t be successful, can it? It is important to properly test out every aspect of the game before any more work is done, because if you find a huge problem AFTER the feature has been implemented, it could mean that you lost a lot of time and money on something that isn’t beneficial to the game or that even hurts the game!
Now comes the part where most of the work is done. The development itself in very complex and requires a lot of time and experience to be done really well. That is one of the reasons why there are many people who specialize in particular areas and who spend almost all of their time on such an area. Nevertheless, each game needs to have a good Project Manager (or Game Producer), because that is the person who chooses most team members and who ensure that all teams work well together. It is their job to look at the project from the bigger perspective and see all the risks and opportunities.
Indisputably, the Game Developers are the core of the development process. They write almost every line of the code, the enable new features and they implement all of the assets into what a player may buy and play. Their job may be made easier or harder with either already having a game engine or not. If the studio needs to create their own engine it might make the production notably longer, more complicated and expensive – that’s why, for example, Unreal Engine is so popular; it saves a lot of time and money. Moreover, Game Developers need to be able to create and program everything that was envisioned and set in the pre-production stage (although this can also change on-the-go).
When Game Designers give them characters, Game Developers need to make sure that the they work as intended. Audio Designers attempt to make the sounds of the game fit it style as closely as possible while also giving the characters distinct and memorable voices. Last but not least, we have the Level Designers; these designers create the environment and make sure that the players feel engaged with the game and captivated with gameplay, difficulty, tasks and rewards, and so on.
In the recent years, there has been a small change to the development stage; sometimes, studios release Alpha or Beta version of their game in order to get valuable feedback from the community and to create cashflow before the game is fully ready. While this may work for some projects, it can also be a huge mistake if not carried out properly!
Just before the game hits the shelves (or Steam), it needs to go through a rigorous quality assurance – no one wants their game to be remembered as infested with bugs or straight up not working! This is the part where Early Access and similar initiatives may help greatly, but the developers must use them carefully. Quality assurance can take a long time if the project is huge and should not be overlooked! The Game Testers need to be certain that they have tested everything they possibly could and that they found everything that was there to found (but, let’s be honest, that’s extremely hard to do).
When all the work is carried out and the developers feel confident, it is time for the (probably) most stressful stage: Launch! The game needs to come out on a date when it won’t interfere and won’t be interfered while still making use of Christmas or other convenient time of year. This will greatly influence the initial selling!
After the game is successfully developed and on the market, the work of the game developers doesn’t end. However, it changes slightly. Sometimes they may develop new content such as paid/free DLCs, expansion packs, cosmetic items etc. In many cases, rather than new content they make sure that the game work to the best of their abilities. Maintenance is extremely important, especially if the game is on multiple platforms. Developers need to constantly verify the quality of the game and fix all the bugs they (or the players) find while also making the game more optimized if possible.
And, of course, the game needs to keep selling! That’s what the marketing department is for. These guys make sure that the game is talked about, seen and/or heard, and that it sells as much as possible. To achieve this, they market the game not only during the production (and often during the pre-production) phase, but also long after it, especially if the game is still being developed for (i.e. DLCs).
It may seem that the road from an idea to a finished videogame is long and hard, and it is true. However, is there a better feeling than seeing a project rise from nothing but a vision to something that thousands of people can enjoy and maybe even shape into some even greater? A well developed and executed game can not only earn a lot of money for the studio responsible for it, it might also create amazing stories, memories, and experience for people from all over the world! And that is worth a little bit of sweat, isn’t it?