Global Game Industry News Blog

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Making a Video Game from Start to Finish: A 100,000,000 Mile Up Perspective

Ok, because I really have respect for the fact that this DigiPen student took the time to write an article which he thought would be useful to others. At the same time, I think rather than calling it a guide for beginners, it needs to be considered a view from outer-space of the game development process.

The trouble with beginners is that they're not really even ready for that view. If anything it abstracts away what is hard about all of it. That what makes you "grow to hate it" or "love it" by the end. All that hard stuff in between.

So, if you want to make a game you need to start by writing a design document? Probably not. What you need to do first is figure out where your skills lie. Are you a good artist? Can you program? Can you make up a fun board game with paper, pen, and scissors? If you cannot do any of these, or not willing to take the time to learn them, then you ought not even start making a document.

The Design Document ends up being a starting description of your game. Designers tend to be the drivers of this document. Those people need to understand how to create games, create relationships between user and the underlying game system. They need to describe those feedback loops, their behaviors, and all of that makes up how the game works. Do not confuse how it works with how it is coded.

The other thing is that typically at a pitch you'll need some sort of prototype of your game. This means that you're already too late to the game if you wait to think about your technical design document and engine until after the fact. Most pitches I've heard include prototype and information on feasibility.

The trouble is, in this beginners guide, a beginner is never actually given an instruction how to figure out which area they might be interested in. Art, design, engineering? Ok, maybe you want to do it all. What must you start to learn to make this possible.

This article actually encourages what I see as "I want to make a game, tell me what to do," email message that I so frequently see on game related email list serves.

Ummm... are you an engineer? Go learn programming languages, and techniques related to game development. Don't expect to find example code for everything you want. Learn how to read documentation and integrate that code. Check out open source engines and libraries.

Are you an artist? Make some concept art for a game, turn that into pixel are and low polygon models. Do some texturing of your models. Learn how to export them what that means for what you've created. Talk to an engineer about how to get those into an engine.

Designer? Make games. Try to tell people about them, explain how they work. Write descriptions of them. Make some levels for an existing game. Learn how to script. Talk to an engineer about what is hard to do. Talk to an artist and get them to make some things that would fit into your games.

Manageability is the key for beginners, not interstellar travel visions.

Game Career Guide - Making a Video Game from Start to Finish: An Overview for Beginners
Game development starts with an idea or inspiration. It's kind of like magic. You think, "Hey, what if there were a game like this, and like that, and with elements of this?"

But building a game is like any other formidable task, like building a cathedral or writing a novel or painting a picture. Building a video game takes passion. It takes dedication. Some might even say it takes obsession. It takes a great deal of your time, energy, and thought. It's never finished. Even when it's technically finished, you find things, new things, little things, that you could correct or change or fix.

It's a very demanding and highly stressful endeavor. If you don't love it completely, with all its misgivings, you'll quickly grow to hate it.
...
The Game Design Document
One of the first things you need is a game design document.
...
The Pitch
When you pitch your game to a publisher, you give the publisher a short presentation that describes your idea, target demographic (the people who will be most interested in the game), and why your idea is the one they should fund, instead of any hundreds of others. It's often helpful to have a demo, a rough and incomplete version of your game, so that you can effectively communicate what your game will be like. In other words, by the time you are ready to pitch an idea to a publisher, you should already have some kind of working game. It doesn't have to be a great big years-long finished product, but it does have to be playable. Publishers aren't interested in ideas alone. They want to see a prototype.
...
The Technical Design Document
One of the first and most basic requirements of any game that has just started production is a technical design document.
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The Engine
Now that the game has been described inside and out, you can start assembling the pieces that were laid out in the technical design document to form the most critical part of your game, the engine.
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Content and Art
In addition to the engine, a video game must have content and art. Ideally, the content of a game -- that is, the levels, characters, music, and art, which includes textures, 3D models, and animations -- will be separate from the game engine, allowing the developers to easily make modifications to them as the needs of the project change.
...
Focus Testing
At some point in production, the game theoretically begins to resemble the vision that the designers had for it. It's at this point that it becomes critically important to start focus testing.
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Launchpad
Now that the game is ready to ship, you're ready to begin your career as an internationally acclaimed rockstar game developer.

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2 Comments:

  • Wow. Yeah.

    In order to make a movie, you need to write a script, shop it around, secure funding, hire a staff, hire a cast, film the movie, and then distribute it. ka-CHING!

    By Blogger Darius Kazemi, at 9/20/2007 09:56:00 PM  

  • Creating a game, even the simplest application takes time and patience, well at least in my case, I want things to work on the first try.


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    By Blogger Pierce, at 1/26/2011 10:53:00 AM  

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