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Game Production Overview. CGDD 4603. Overview. Based on Chapter 7.1 from Introduction to Game Development by Steve Rabin et al. (you own this) Concept Phase Preproduction Phase (planning) Production Phase (development) Postproduction Marketing

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  • Based on Chapter 7.1 from Introduction to Game Development by Steve Rabin et al. (you own this)
  • Concept Phase
  • Preproduction Phase (planning)
  • Production Phase (development)
  • Postproduction
  • Marketing
  • Note: each project you work on will be different…
meet the producer
Meet the Producer
  • A.k.a. “the Director” or “Project Manager”
  • Manage the development process
    • Work for the publisher
    • Work for the game developers**
  • Typically, they are the first person hired
concept phase
Concept Phase
  • Game concepts:
    • Are typically not the idea of a game designer
    • Are based on some previous IP (Intellectual Property)
    • i.e. - it’s a business decision!!
  • Constraints are given by management
    • Genre
    • Look and feel of characters
    • Mechanics
  • At this point, the producer creates a concept design document
concept document
Concept Document
  • Communicates the vision of the game
    • Story & Character development
    • Small market analysis (of competitors), citing research
    • Must be short! Executive summary to pique interest
  • Written by the producer or a game designer
    • If external, use an NDA (Non-Disclosure Agreement)
    • Includes feedback of previous team (wish list)
  • A working title must be chosen
    • Super important! This is marketing!
    • Final title chosen later
concept document1
Concept Document
  • A game concept should include the following features:
    • Introduction
    • Background (optional)
    • Description
    • Key features
    • Genre
    • Platform(s)
    • Concept art (optional)

Anatomy of a Design Document, by Tim Ryan, Gamasutra, October 19, 1999

what remains
What remains…
  • After a “greenlight” meeting…
    • Preproduction: planning and team building
    • Production: the game is created
    • Postproduction: Debugging**, optimization**, game manual, packaging

** Technically, these should occur throughout all phases

  • The (full-blown) Game Design Document is created
    • Usually developed by a game designer
    • Either internally or externally
  • Team selection
    • Must create a staffing plan
    • Internally – decide which employees will work
    • Externally – a bid package must be created
  • Internal Staffing
    • Must create a job description
      • Duties
      • Salary/pay ranges
    • Use existing employees or hire new ones?
      • Programmers finish at different times
      • Pull from other departments?
      • Hiring new employees takes time
  • External staffing
    • Use your network to find developers
    • Typically want the whole GDD to make a bid
    • NDAs are signed
  • For the bid package, the developer needs:
    • Genre, platform, audience, competition
    • Shipping date
    • Number of levels, characters, assets
    • Demo?
    • Producer collects all questions and creates a common bid package
  • The Development Agreement
    • A contract, usually developed by the publisher
    • States the responsibilities of the developer
      • Create a game that adheres to the design doc
      • Provide assets
      • Provide source
    • States payment within a timeframe of delivery
    • Intellectual Property (and lawsuits)
      • Publisher says it owns the IP
      • Developer says they own patents on the technology
    • Circumstances of termination of contract
  • The Development Agreement
    • Milestones
      • Money is typically dispensed periodically
      • Neither party can just wait around
      • Developers usually submit a clearly-defined deliverable
    • Milestone Approvals
      • Developer must pay the employees
      • Payment not released until milestone is accepted (not delivered)
      • Publisher often has time limit on whether to accept or reject
  • Technical Design Document (TDD)
    • Usually the first milestone
    • How the work will be performed
      • Which technologies will be used
      • Identify technical challenges
      • What equipment is needed
      • Personnel
      • Task list
  • Scheduling
    • Milestones
    • Visual and audio assets (models, cinematics, sounds…)
    • Demo version
    • Market materials
    • Package, manual, strategy guides
    • License approvals, platform approvals
    • Meetings
    • Vacations, holidays, sick time
  • Critical path is in red
  • Slack is in black (amount of time that can be delayed without causing delay to further tasks)

  • Scheduling
    • Start from target date and work backwards
      • Shipping takes time
      • Producing the product takes time
      • Publisher testing takes time
    • The “Golden Spike”
  • Reducing Time
    • The “Mythical Man-Month”
    • Programming takes the longest
    • Programmers shouldn’t make placeholder assets
    • Still problems? Cut features…
  • Note: asking for more time is asking for more $$
  • Budgets
    • Salary of each employee (plus benefits)
    • Equipment, rental
    • Software/license
    • Supplies
    • Travel
  • Have an “executive summary”
  • P&L (Profit and Loss analysis) – a.k.a. ROI
  • One last “Green Light” meeting…
  • Milestones means payments
  • However, nothing to show for the first few months!
    • Start with art. It’s fast.
  • Art lists
    • Includes every art asset
    • Models, textures, cinematics, UI…
    • Must describe
      • File name and descriptive name
      • File type
      • Where it’s used and a brief description
  • Naming conventions
    • The poor programmer! Dashes? Underscores?
    • Decide the convention up-front
    • If the filename is incorrect, reject it!
    • Helps during debugging (printing out filename)
    • Date?
  • Asset tracking
    • Assets must be approved
    • If rejected, why?
    • Need an entire history/log of each asset

Courtesy DassaultSystémes

  • Asset Delivery Formats
    • For animation, does your engine support:
      • IKs?
      • How many bones?
      • Hierarchical meshes?
      • Baked meshes?
    • What else?
      • Texture formats
      • Audio formats
    • My recommendation: create “stick man” assets and test animation before serious modeling
  • Team Dynamics
    • Programmers are “cold”
    • Artists are “warm”
    • Each need to understand what the others do
    • Worsens with distance (book says differently)
    • Lots of jealousy within groups
    • This isn’t just in the game industry…
  • Other potential problems:
    • Personnel Issues (the slackers)
    • Design Problems (game should be fun ASAP)
    • Money Problems (publishers delay payments)
    • Technical Glitches (especially in new technology)
    • Change Requests (aka “feature creep”)
      • Expect this
      • Usually causes delay in schedule and more $$
      • Amend the contract
    • Schedule Delays (because of all of the above)
  • Audio
    • Usually done in parallel with art
    • Sound list of every sound in the game (for every action)
    • Music (genre, mood, length, looping)
    • Text (as separate files)
    • Voice overs
      • written as a radio script
      • Usually with the Screen Actors Guild (a union)
      • May have to audition

  • Audio
    • Sound Effects
      • Original or sound effects library
      • Must be approved and in the correct format
    • Music
      • Low budget? Hire a freelance musician
      • Hire an established popular artist (royalties)
      • Hire an entire orchestra!
  • First playable demo:
    • Must have the major “hype” elements
    • Show to each executive individually
    • Show to the licensor of the IP
    • Show to the platform holders (Nintendo, Microsoft)
    • Show to the entire team and get feedback
    • This is not the time to take it easy…
  • Alternatively, iterate on a prototype
  • Production can be broken down into:
    • Early production: the phase up to the demo
    • Mid-production:
      • assets and levels being added
      • Delays here are hard to recover from
      • New ideas/features begin to emerge
    • Late production:
      • All assets completed, but not coding
      • QA is testing
      • Marketing is ramping up – title change!
  • In late production:
    • Marketing needs screenshots
      • Hi-res
      • Shots that aren’t possible in-game (several assets)
      • “Pretty” developers
    • E3 demo (whether you like it or not)
      • Hard deadline (make sure it’s in the schedule)
      • Demos take time and will likely never ship
    • Magazines with demos (submit early)
    • Red flags at this point? Uh oh…
post production
  • Post-production: all features and assets have been implemented
    • Artists long gone
    • QA is in full swing
    • Developers still working
    • Audio engineer still working
    • People begin to transition to the next project
      • Performance reviews happen here
  • Localization
    • It is not just the translation of language (“bring it!”)
    • It’s more the translation of a culture
      • Animated blood not allowed in some countries
      • Swastikas frowned upon in Germany
      • Need an artful writer for each culture
      • Different languages use differentspace
    • Try for a “sim-ship”
  • Other things:
    • ESRB rating – may have to downgrade violence
    • Box & Docs
      • ESRB rating, developer logo?, in-game snapshot(s), platforms, description, features, hardware reqs
      • Have multiple comps and let team/focus group decide
      • Critical! Bad box == no $$
      • Instruction manual: paper, or plastic?
    • Strategy guide is extra revenue
      • Done by game designer
  • QA
    • Testers clearly describe how to recreate the bug and why it’s a problem
    • Submit a ticket using bug-tracking software
      • DevTrack, TRAC, Mantis, TestTrack
      • Bugs can be new, open, and closed
      • Bugs have priority
    • Test against the GDD and TDD
  • QA folks are people too!
    • Usually an entry level job (less $$)
    • Test the same level, over and over and over…
    • Viewed as an adversarial?
    • Frustration from bug reports:
      • WNF – Will Not Fix
      • CNR – Cannot Replicate
      • WAD – Works As Designed
      • NAB – Not A Bug
  • Operations
    • Console games are produced by the platform
    • PC games by the publisher
    • How many should you produce?
    • Printed materials take longer than DVDs
      • Registration card
      • Poster
      • Insert
    • DVD manufactures crunch to hit Christmas sales as well!
  • OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturer)
  • The Post-Mortem
    • Finally!
    • What went right
    • What went wrong
    • What we can learn from the experience