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Interested in knowing how a video game project works ? Read this !

TiralstromTiralstrom 24 PointsMember, Level2
edited September 2015 in Off Topic

Hello everyone and welcome !


Today I was reading some gaming website and realised : Damn... Lots of people have no idea how hard it is to make a game, and how it's made. So I thought : Hey ? Why don't I write an article about this ?


So, I am here today to talk to you about the video game developpement process.

First of all, English is not my native language so, you may notice some grammatical or some vocabulary mistakes, so... sorry.

Second, what you are about to read may not be how every company works, some of them skip some of the steps, others merge them etc...

Third, I haven't play Vermintide yet, but I will try to use their example to describe the process, so I may be wrong on some of them but it's just to make a point. 

So if Fatshark doesn't work like that, I would really love to hear about their way (if they are allowed to talk about it of course :) ! ) 


And last : BEWARE LONG READ AHEAD !


Well now, let's get started !



A video game project is divided into four steps, Concept, Pre-production, Production, and Post-production (seems logical so far !) and I will try to explain them to you as simple as possible. I may overlook some of them like Marketing of Financing etc... But I will stick to the basics.



Part 1 : Concept


This is the first and more important phase of a project. A phase where most games are cancelled.

It's the phase where the game is imagined, even before presenting it to the Publisher. 

At the start of the project there is few people working on it. 

The Lead Project (the big boss)

The Art Director (responsible for all the art stuff, chara, ambiance etc...)

The Lead Programmer (responsible for the programming part of course !)

One or more Producer (responsible for managing all of the team, balancing schedule, fundings etc...)

The Lead QA (responsible for bug fixing, cuz yeah there are bugs even before the game developpement starts !)

And sometimes, Financials, Marketing and other seniors employee.

So these people are now thinking about making a game, yeah that's why they are here after all !


First thing they usually do is writing the “high concept”, which is a small documents containing only a few sentences describing basically the game concept, and the directive line of the game.

For example in Vermintide : “Okay, this a game that take place in the Warhammer Battle Fantasy Universe, where players will be scouring differents level, slaying lots of skavens along the way.”


Once this document is done, they now focus on writing the “Pitch”, which is basically what they are gonna propose to the investors (publisher, and such). It's usually one or two pages containing ideas, that'll make the game successful (fun game, unique game, good graphics etc...). This is a more enhanced version of the “High Concept” and it's supposed to “hook” the investors.

For example in Vermintide it probably looks (or would've look) like this : “This game is a FPS Multiplayer Game on PC, based in the Warhammer Battle Fantasy Universe, where up to four players join hands to purge the evil ratmens invading their lands. Warhammer is a dark and mature fantasy universe with lots of violence, making it perfect for a 4 player coop action game such as Left 4 Dead, were players were to slay thousands of zombies. Mixing L4D with Warhammer is something that was never done before, making the game unique. Cooperative games are rare nowadays, and our game is gonna make the genre come back again ….........” etc.. etc... 


Once this is document is done, the Lead Project is responsible for selling the game to the investors (for big companies like Ubisoft or EA etc...), or the publishers (for smaller companies). If they get the greenlight then onto the next stage. If not, well... back to writing I guess ! 


If they get the “OK”, then the “Core Team” previously described, is now writing the “Document Concept”, which is a document (as the name says) for about 10 to 20 pages containing lots of stuff. Such as “gameplay elements” viewed by the player (FPS, Melee weapons, Ranged weapon, monsters etc...), “unique selling points” (mix between Left 4 Dead and Warhammer universe, fun and gore etc...), background of the game (warhammer universe, the end times etc...), targeted audience (mature), platform (steam ? Pc ? Mac ? Linux ?), and some schedule (how long, what to do, when etc..) and budget (hiring, equipements, devkit, audio and music etc..)


Few ! That makes a lot of things, isn't it ? Well after that : onto part 2 !

Comments

  • TiralstromTiralstrom 24 PointsMember, Level2
    Part 2 : The Pre-production

    “Okay so now we've got the greelight, let's design this shall we ?”
    The teams start expanding a little, and a LOT of writing is done during this phase. 
    Several BIG BIG documents are made. Their names are : 
    The Game Design Document (aka GDD)
    The Technical Design Document  (TDD)
    The Art Production Plan (the Art Bible)
    The Project Plan

    So everyone got their job to do, the Lead Project with the help of some writers, game designers etc.. starts writing the Game Design Document (big, between 100 and 500 pages depending of the game complexity), that will containt all the gameplay elements from the POV of the players.
    Such as : Story, game mecanics, UI, Art & videos, sounds and musics, levels (drawing), puzzle, items etc... 

    The Lead programmer (assisted with senior programmer sometimes) will write the Technical Design Document,  containing all the guidelines and instructions on how to build the game.
    Such as Operating Systems, Langage used, Librairies, organisation, code guidelines, UML Analysis,  Physics and statistics (gravity, speed etc...), AI (determine the complexity), Network etc...

    The Art Director, the concept artists and some other senior artist will write the Art Production Plan, which is basically their Art Bible. Containing : artistic references, drawings, illustrations, paintings, art guidelines, list of assets 2D or 3D, chara design, tasks for the team members etc...

    And the Producer(s), with the financial and marketing will work on writing the Project Plan, which is also the “Human Plan”, who to hire, what are their schedule, what do we buy (desks, computers, devkits, chairs, boards etc...), budget, planning the milestones, loss and profit expected etc...

    Once all of these documents are written, they start working on what we call the “First Playable Prototype”, which is a small demo of 1-2 min, to see how the game feels, and to determine if the project continues or stops, by showing it to the investors. “See what we can make ? And we can even make it in time ! Can we continue please please please?” “Alright go ahead...”
    And here comes the …. !

  • TiralstromTiralstrom 24 PointsMember, Level2
    Part 3 : Production

    Finally, this is were the game is finally being made.  It's the longest phase in the developpement process. And it's usually divided between “milestones” (you know, the things we call Alpha Beta etc...) so that the teams stays motivated, and feels like they are making progress.
    But what really are these milestones ? Well continue your reading to find out.
    Lots of people have heard of them, but in the industry it's usually misused, either for a Marketing purpose or … well no, It's pratically always for marketing purpose. 
    “Look ! It's pretty right ? But wait ! It's only Pre-Alpha ! It'll be 10 times prettier when it's out !”
    “Early access alpha release ! But we keep adding some stuff for over 2 or 3 years !” 
     Sure... 
    No, in reality it's not working like that. (And Fatshark … Please Pre-Beta footage ? Why not calling it Alpha like everyone else ! :p )
    So here come the truth !  If I suddenly stop writing, it's probably because some hitman killed me in the meantime, so call the cops so they can find my body.

    Now enough jokes, let's get to it.

    From start to Alpha (or somewhat called Pre-Alpha)

    During this first phase of production, almost everything is created. The game Engine, the User Interface, Sounds and Musics,  most of the 2D Assest (textures), most of the 3D assest (models), most of the Animations, and the levels. It's pretty simple, if the team wants to go the next phase (the Alpha), the game must be playable FROM START TO FINISH. Before that, it's still pre-alpha. 
    “But wait, what do you mean the game should be playable from start to finish ! Don't bullshit us ! The game isn't finished on Pre-alpha GTFO!”
    Wait I never said that the game is finished, I said : “It's playable from the start to the end”.
    Of course the game isn't finished ! Wait for the next part ! Where is everybody going ? … sigh...

    Anyway !

    Alpha

    So, when the game is finally “Playable” from the start to the end, the game enter the Alpha phase. Where it's all about adding all the big stuff into the game. Like implementing characters models so that they are not big purple “placeholder” anymore. Adding texture to the levels, adding sounds, tweaking the AI, adding voices (which are not professional voice actors's at first), adding lights etc... etc... 

    Basically almost everything was created before Alpha, but nothing or almost nothing was “implemented”. That's what alpha is for. Replacing all the “Placeholder” with actual refined assets. 
    The developpers now focus on refining the game. 
    To enter the next phase of developpement, which is called “Beta”, the team must have implemented ALL the assest (models, voices, animation, levels etc..) and must have refined them (for example : Smoothing some lights or textures, having smooth animations, professionnal voice actor, all quest or dialogues completed etc...)

    Once all of this is done, the game enters the “Beta Phase”, and exit the Production Phase
  • TiralstromTiralstrom 24 PointsMember, Level2
    Part 4 : Post-production


    Beta

    Okay, so now we have all the assets inserted in the game, everything is there, what to do now ?
    Oh yeah testing, debugging and stabilizing the game (no crash, servers are stable, stress test etc...). No more adding to the content of the game, the content is locked. That's what beta phase is for. Finding and removing all the major bugs, and as much normal or small bugs as possible. Know something, there is no bug-free game. It's purely impossible. There will always be bugs. A good game however, is a game where all the important one are gone, and should have the least amount of small bugs. When I say small bugs, I mean for example : “The foot of my character goes through the rock on the ground !” it's still a bug, but does it bother the player ? Not really, so why remove it ? It'll only cost money.
    Well there is a lot to talk about bugs and stuff, it's my job actually, but that's not the point of the article today.

    Okay, so. Beta is done when, all majors and critical bugs are gone, 90-100% of normal bugs are gone (when I say normal bug, I mean for example : “When I look at the lightbulb on the wall, the light is blinking instead of staying on”. It's a bug, it's annoying, but not gamebreaking and it will not make the game crash), and most of the small bugs will not be removed.


    Gold

    At the end of Beta, the code is locked. And the team sends the version of the game that we call Gold (or Candidate Master/Release) to the hardware manufacturer (nintendo / sony / microsoft etc...) or the publisher, hoping that it'll be “THE ONE”.
    They are now waiting for the approval of the publisher or manufacturer. I will speak briefly about the TRC (Technical Requierements Checklist) but without going into detail cuz it's illegal to share them entirely. What is this ? Well it's a set of rules established by the manufacturer or digital distribution company (steam). For example : “What happen if you remove the disc from your console ?” Well the game must paused itself, displaying a message that says : “The disc has been removed, replace the disc inside the tray.” 
    So by submitting the Gold Version to the manufacturer, the game developper must wait, while the said manufacturer check if everything on their list of rule is respected.
    Once everything is confirmed working, and respected... Well it's Champagne Time ! Cuz the game is now officially finished... Except if...

    Patches & Upgrades

    Well some companies prepare patches after releasing the game, either to add content to the game or to fix bugs they didn't had time to fix or bugs they found later. But you already know that I guess :) !


    Well here we are... Thank you everybody that had the courage to read this to the end. 
    I hope that you will find this interesting, and that will help you understand the necessary steps to build a game. 
    I'm tired now, I gonna go take a nap … 



    TL;DR : Back to the top and read the whole thing, you dingus ! ... 

    Cheers !
  • AimOnTargetsTVsAimOnTargetsTVs 180 PointsMember, Level4
    Really well done. I enjoyed this & would love to read more of this :)
    Our Server on Discord: https://discord.gg/0ZPZTcCUTVf1dtaA Over 2000 members

    aka Aim aka SoloRobin
  • DwarfuriousDwarfurious 154 PointsMember, Level4
    Hhhhmmmmm... mmhhhmmm....


    So when can we expect the Dwarven Slayer to be added? Two weeks?
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