A lot has already been said about the game development process. Even those people who are only superficially familiar with the gaming industry know that creating an entertainment product is far from being fun and amusing in its essence. And even with an ideally (seemingly) prescribed plan, there may be some problems, bottlenecks, incorrect timing and other delights that often appear in game developers’ nightmares.
Obviously, the game design process is not a spontaneous story. Information about the production cycle of a game is usually not exposed: each team customizes it for themselves. But we’re not here to say that we won’t tell you anything either. As a game company, we can shed some light on the key stages of game development, which are the same for all projects. So buckle up and welcome to the beautiful, vibrant, dynamic and slightly crazy world of game making!
Video Game Development: View From the Side and the Inside
If you look from the outside as an ordinary layman who just passed by, the video game development process looks rather innocent. Well, a big deal, a team of some people got together and made a game. Many uninitiated people are still often inclined to criticize developers for being too slow in creating games.
But if we discard non-professionalism, then the gaze opens up a harsh truth. Steps to making a video game are complex and multi-component. Here you will find:
- a lot of preliminary planning and conceptual work, exciting but very long and sucking the lifeblood out of game designers;
- work on design and art that at the same time inspires and shatter the nerves of artists who accept and implement endless edits;
- programming and testing, similar to the fine jewelry work of a glass blower, when mistakes can be corrected only while the glass is still hot;
- creating sounds and music that should give the game its own unique and inimitable voice and make sound designers think hard about how to avoid being similar to others;
- as well as a bunch of other people who connect departments, coordinate, communicate with the customer and so on.
Game development is often equated with game design. We have already managed to tell everyone interested about the incorrectness of this comparison, so let’s briefly recall the essence.
Game designers are the first to enter a project. They deal with the general concept of the game, come up with an idea, vision, plot, characters, and define the target audience. They invent dialogues, victory and defeat conditions, all the gameplay elements and the way they will react to the player’s actions. They write the notorious game design document, which is a guide to action for all other team members.
Game developers are involved in the implementation of ideas written by game designers on paper. They enter the project after the artists have already created the necessary art, and they are busy writing the code to make the product interactive and embed the created art into it. The developers are responsible for ensuring that the main character and the game world are inseparable, and in general they do everything to make the concept work.
The Stages of Game Development
If you squeeze all the stages as much as possible and highlight the most basic, then of course it will be pre-production, where the idea is formed, production, where the idea is embodied, and post-production, where the idea is polished and presented to the players on a marketing tray.
We will expand a little on this rather modest game development life cycle to show you this process in greater detail.
Before you do something, you need to understand what exactly you are going to do. It sounds corny, but many people neglect this stage, believing that all the details will take shape already in the process. A more naive approach to game development couldn’t be imagined.
This stage is the creation of the foundation, the formation of the skeleton, the design of the roots, call it as you wish. The bottom line is that it gives course to the main work. And the more detailed you work it out, the more harmonious, smoother and more problem-free the further development will be.
So what questions should be answered at this extremely important step to making a video game?
- Game budget. A limited budget doesn’t mean lower quality or deliberately bad gameplay. This is just a marker that allows you to roughly estimate the number of features, the level of graphics and the overall “packaging” of the game.
- Game type. Not to be confused with the genre. Here, based on the budget, we define the type of game from several main ones: mini 2D game, casual 2D/3D game, mid-core 3D game or hardcore 3D game.
- Gaming platform. It is necessary to determine for which platform you are going to make the game: mobile devices, PC, console, or maybe you want to create a browser game.
- Game genre. Here the choice is huge: simulation, strategy, sports, adventure, RPG, puzzle, board, and more. The choice of the genre should depend on the scale of the future game. For example, if you have a small budget, then you should not hope for genres such as RPGs or simulations since they require the elaboration and implementation of a huge amount of detail.
- The target audience. This point also has its nuances. If you are making a casual game, then you aim for the largest possible reach of different players. If the game is more narrowly specialized in terms of genre, it is necessary to clearly understand who will be its main consumer.
Clearly documented answers to these questions actually provide an established standard for all team members to build on as they work. After this package of information is approved, we move on to the next one, which verifies more detailed specifics of the game itself:
- Intended gameplay. Formation of a vision of what the process of interaction between the player and the game world will be.
- Game mechanics. These are the rules that implement the player’s interaction with the game, taking into account its specifics and limitations. Achievements, constraints, modifiers, rewards and more are thought out here.
- Characters. Most games have a main character who is a digital avatar of the players and moves with them throughout the game’s storyline. Some of the simplest games don’t have characters.
- Plot. Usually, the plot appears as the scale and complexity of the game increases. Casual games often don’t need it much. But if you have a large project, this should be given special attention.
- Monetization. The game is made not only to entertain the players, but also to make a profit. Big projects for PC are purchased by players for money, so they often do not need additional monetization options. And mobile or online games are usually monetized either through in-app purchases or through advertising.
All this information allows forming a general concept of the future game: it is already beginning to emerge and acquire specific features. If everything is accepted, then the game designers start creating the game design document. It organizes all the details of the game and adds new ones from the start screen and gameplay features to the final notification and UX/UI design elements. This is an official document, which is approved by customers and which is a key reference for the further work of all teams.
Before embarking on direct production, the developers create a so-called prototype of the game. Please note that this is still a pre-production stage. The prototype is a rough model of the game without art and details, which makes it possible to appreciate and feel the gameplay. The main point of the prototype is to test the idea in practice and, reducing the risks, continue the development of the project. Ignoring prototyping is a big mistake: you actually keep working by touch without realizing how well the interaction with the player, the mechanics and functionality of the game are thought out.
When all this huge work has been done, you can start production. Not earlier.
Moving on to one of the most active and dynamic game development phases, you should be armed with a complete understanding of what product you want to get. If you responsibly approach the previous stage described by us, then no serious problems will arise here.
Production takes place in three major steps:
- Graphics and design. 2D/3D artists are involved in the creation of characters, assets, visual effects, environments and interface elements. Level designers work out the structure of the levels and the main obstacles on the way of the player. Maximum clarity and compliance with the game style are provided by comprehensive information from the game design document.
- Programming. Even though programmers have already gotten into the game during prototyping, their main work begins here. They create a playable product backbone that provides interaction with the gamer, based on an existing engine or a custom one developed from scratch.
- Sound design. Sound engineers or sound designers create the audio design for the game. This work includes sound effects, voice-overs and music, all of which are often dynamic and change depending on the player’s actions and what is happening in the game.
Production is one of the longest game development steps due to the fact that the team will in any case implement a large number of clarifications, adjustments and edits. There will be a lot of trial and error before arriving at the perfect visual and technical representation of the game.
Teamwork is key to success in this phase. Performing tasks in isolation from each other and the lack of communication lead to a large number of errors and the need to constantly redo, rewrite or redraw something. Therefore, at Kevuru Games, we have built the most transparent communication scheme for working on the game to ensure instant feedback from any team member involved in the project. All our procedures are thought out and standardized so that we can always accurately estimate the required budget and time frame for the completion of work.
Quality assurance is often included in the production phase, but it is so important that it makes sense to talk about it separately.
Let us go straight to one very common misconception. The game development timeline is always very tense and responsible, and each client prioritizes its stages in different ways. Time is running out and you want to launch the game as soon as possible so that it starts to pay off. Therefore, the testing stage is often skipped or implemented very superficially. And after the appearance of the game in stores it is too late to do anything – you have already submitted it to the players for consideration.
The players are ruthless. In the abundance of games now flooding the market, they are devilishly selective, picky and attentive to the little things. They are high-fed by supply exceeding demand, and their verdict will be as harsh as possible. A game that has received a good kick for errors, bugs, crashes and problems with monetization aspects will automatically fall into the category of unsuccessful ones and can no longer be removed from there by any fixes and re-launches. You have one try, and it shouldn’t be wasted.
Now you can see that testing stands out from other phases of game development in that it keeps the game from failure. Nothing new is being created here, but everything is put on the line. Testers check the accessibility of all areas of the game, the correct display of elements from different sides, the correct implementation of various functions, etc.
Sometimes the testers are divided into different groups to ensure that different aspects of the game are tested. For example, stress testers do their best to test whether a game will work if it exceeds all of its possible functionality. Other testers implement a 100% playthrough with all the achievements and prizes to make sure everything is working correctly. Still, others test the game for the fun factor: is it too easy or too difficult to keep the player going until the end of the game session.
When testers have identified problems, the game goes back several stages and again falls into the hands of programmers or artists who implement the edits. This cycle can continue many times until the testers give the go-ahead to launch the game. You can consider them as the last stronghold or guardians protecting the line beyond which the game goes into freewheeling.
The process of making a video game may sometimes not include this stage. But if we are talking about a large PC or a console project, then pre-launch activities are absolutely necessary. Here we are talking about marketing, that is, notifying people in advance that a new game project is being launched.
The activities can be different: commercials with gameplay elements, articles and reviews, screenshots from the game, etc. Also, sometimes exclusive previews of the game are organized at game conferences or thematic meetings.
The scale of the advertising campaign is usually proportional to the scale of the game. There is no point in spending huge budgets on mobile game advertising. But the AAA project definitely needs it. Sometimes the cost of such activities can exceed the budget for the development of the entire game. This should always be taken into account, and it is imperative to allocate funds for potential promotion.
The promotion campaign is over, the most important step is left – the release of the game. Until this moment, the team can still implement some minor edits and additions. This usually concerns the visual range: improving the quality of textures, improving animation, and honing models. Even seemingly small details are important to make the game even more colorful, fun and immersive. Sometimes the polishing of the game is incredibly delayed due to perfectionism, which leads to unimaginable overtime that keep the already zombie-like developers in their tentacles until the moment when the game goes to gold and finally flies to print.
Launching a game is providing it to game stores. Then players will be able to buy it or download it for free, depending on which platform it is released for and on what terms.
But even when the game is out into the world, the video game designing process doesn’t end there.
So, the main work is over, the basic game design process steps are completed. Your game has delighted the players (we are sure of this), the investment has paid off, the development team is happy that their efforts were not in vain. What lies ahead is the so-called maintenance activity. It includes:
- Correction of minor bugs. Such bugs are not indicative of the incompetence of the testers. They can be specific to particular hardware or operating systems and are often not critical. After players indicate them in the comments to the game or on the forums, the developer fixes them and updates the game.
- Creation of patches and updates. Such elements can be released, for example, to optimize the game even better, add new downloadable content to it, increase the number of levels and chapters, add a multiplayer mode, etc. The so-called Day One patches are released simultaneously with the release of the game and fix bugs that the developers noticed immediately after the game went gold.
Adding new content keeps players engaged and brings them back to the game even when it’s over. In a competitive gaming environment, this is an essential activity so that the game remains afloat as long as possible and does not dissolve among its counterparts. Therefore, the process of making a video game in modern realities is impossible without this stage.
Our Game Development Experience
That’s all folks. We have looked at the game development process step by step and saw all the diversity, storminess and creative fervor of this process. It’s not enough to get a technically flawless game. It is necessary to light a spark of life in it so that players can see this radiance, feel it and reach out to it. This is what we are doing at Kevuru Games.
Refined and clear workflows allow us to easily face and deal with any challenges, obstacles and constraints. Our video game development stages are like stairs that we move on without hesitation and stumbling. But that’s not all: our passion for games gives us the opportunity to put our soul into every project, to give it a unique charm, and to make it stand out from others. Observing the success of our projects is the best reward for our team, which maintains our fervor and only increases the enthusiasm and desire to create and develop for the benefit of the gaming industry further.
We will make your game special. If you have an idea, but you cannot clearly state it – contact us and we will formulate it together. If you already have sketches and clear thoughts regarding the mechanics and the plot – engage us and we will figure out how to implement it in the coolest way. Write to us if you have a finished project full of errors and bugs – we will polish it, clean it up and prepare it for launch.
We have an individual approach to each project: we form a special team that works only on it, and concentrate as much as possible on the implementation of the client’s goals. This gives us the right to guarantee a high result and release a game that we and the client are proud of.