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Game Development Life Cycle

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  1. Game Development Life Cycle Michael Vaganov

  2. Game Development Life-cycle Time Crunch Time Alpha Prototype Sprint “Green Light” Dramatic Tension Beta Planning Milestones Gold Approval Post-Production Game Pitch Concept Pre-Production Production “The last 90%”

  3. Concept • Alone, or in a group. • Start writing down your game idea. Right now!! Use napkins, pocket notebooks, notepad.exe, anything. • Define the target audience, game play, premise, etc… You (Champion) Game Idea

  4. Concept • Expand your idea into something that sounds good, makes sense, and obviously looks doable • You are selling an adventure. You (Champion) Game Idea Game Pitch (presentation, or elevator speech) Game Design Document Prototype

  5. Game Pitch • sell your game idea to someone with money • You initiate with the publisher. Publisher (Sponsor) You Game Idea Game Pitch / Design Doc / Prototype

  6. Game Pitch • Publisher will try to leave its mark on your idea based on standards & creative input Publisher You Game Idea Game Pitch / Design Doc / Prototype Game Pitch / Design Doc / Prototype

  7. Approval Process IP holders or other 3rd parties • Publisher contacts IP holders or other 3rd parties Publisher Game Pitch / Design Doc / Prototype

  8. Approval Process • Publisher wants your game! • after making a few changes or personal assumptions • And of course, a contract Publisher You Game Idea Game Pitch / Design Doc / Prototype

  9. Planning • Most current game idea and defined featuresetis used to make Technical Design document. Game Idea Technical Design Technical expert Game Pitch / Design Doc / Prototype

  10. Planning:Getting a Feature Set with a Scope Exercise out of Scope in Scope 1: Put features and attributes on post it notes. If you want it in the game, and you think it will take more than 5 minutes to do, put it on a post-it note 2: As a group, decide where the note goes in he diagram above (in or out of scope). Related features should be near each other.

  11. Planning:Technical Design Document • Explains technical scope • Features defined • Foreseeable technical difficulties identified • Time and personnel estimated • Technical work environment defined Technical Design

  12. Planning:Production Plan and Milestones • A Producer acts as a Project Manager • makes a Production Plan • sets Milestones Production Plan & Milestones Game Idea You (Champion) Publisher’s Producer (Sponsor) Game Pitch / Design Doc / Prototype Technical Design Technical expert

  13. Green-Light:Production Plan and Milestones • TDD used as base • Target estimated release date • Major work items, personnel required & dependencies • Milestone: Expectation for project progress (for evaluation) Production Plan & Milestones

  14. Pre-Production The Game Industry • Gather initial resources (employees, software, knowledge, etc.) Game Developer You + publisher + coworkers

  15. Game Development Life-cycle Time Crunch Time Alpha Prototype Sprint Dramatic Tension Beta Milestones Gold Post-Production Pre-Production Production “The last 90%”

  16. Prototype Sprint • Version 0.0, or “the Prototype” • Huge creative engineering effort • Rapid Application Development (RAD) • Sprint (Scrums) • Most often done by one senior programmer • Huge Project Bottleneck… Prototype

  17. Publisher Milestones • Publishers watch their investment • User testing, press, schedule changes Game Developer • Developers manage personal progress • Code reviews, meetings about bugs & features

  18. Iterative Milestones • Prototype • Development • First Playable • “Engineer Builds” • Demo Builds • Alpha • Beta • Release Candidate • Gold Emphasis on High Concept & Stability Initial Planning Iterative Development Deployment Emphasis on Quality & Presentation

  19. Each Milestone Evolves the Game Idea • Individual Milestones are composed of many work items. • Work items (art, code, content) • Created in iterative cycles • Individual workers attempt to implement their individual understanding of The Vision • Collectively, workers collaboratively change the The Vision Game Idea Game Idea Iterative Development Game Idea

  20. Game Production Cycle • Sales & Marketing • Production Management • “Design” • Art • Programming • QA • Customer Support Creative Art Planning Implementation Initial Planning Design Sales & Marketing Production Management Public Programming Private Customer Service QA Deployment Testing Evaluation Evaluative

  21. Game Development Life-cycle Time Crunch Time Alpha Dramatic Tension Beta Gold Post-Production Pre-Production Production “The last 90%”

  22. Crunch Time(AKA “The Death Spiral”) • Unmet project goals • Mandatory Overtime to meet deadlines • High-stress may result in “Burn-out” • Causes • Procrastination • Short-term focus early in the project • Short-sighted production processes Amount of Work to Do Amount of Time to do it

  23. Alpha 3rd parties • Demo is made • Most game functionality, game content, and art present • First major push to polish the game • Last chance for feature creep! Game Demo Software Test Groups Game Design Document Game Content Art Production Plan & Milestones Suggestions

  24. Beta Unexpected Influence Game • ‘Feature Freeze’ implemented • Final stabilization phase • QA grows to test all aspects of the game • “Ship it!” Software Game Content Art Quality Assurance Programming

  25. Gold(final candidate) • Game is nearly bug free • bugs that exist are too rare, unknown, or not cost effective to fix. • KS = Known Shippable • Final (Gold) copy is made, and ready to be released to the public. • Schedule the Post Mortem (Project Review) Game Software Game Content Art Programming

  26. Post-Production • Game has been released • Monitor public use of the game • Patches developed for problems not caught during Beta • Updates or sequels are planned based on demand, and evolved Game Developer & Publisher Public Game Game Idea

  27. Sometimes it works like that anyway… What about… Leadership? Technical ability? Team funding? Office Politics? Legal/ethical issues? Poor Marketing? Creative slumps? Schedule miscalculations? Quality management? Technical complications? Market complications? Feature Creep? Competition? 3rd party issues? …

  28. The Game Industry Your game! You and your team’s blood and sweat and tears! Right there!!

  29. Appendix • Job Type Specifics

  30. Production Workflow:Production Management Art • Manage teams • Communicate and handle the changing Production Plan • Schedule slips, new ROI considerations, personnel changes, etc Expectation Production Management Programming Production Plan & Milestones Quality Assurance Unexpected Influence Design Sales & Marketing

  31. Production Jobs:Production Management(& Business Development) • Executive Producer • oversees multiple projects (the big boss) • Producer • establish policy, manage schedule, handle contracts, handle budgeting, staff support, reporting to upper management, interface dev team, interface with press, lead the team, communicate and ensure communication • Associate Producer & Assistant Producer • assist producer • Assistant Producer is more junior • Business Development • acquire IP licenses • handle legal issues (terms of service, licensing, etc.)

  32. Production Workflow: Programming Game Design Doc • Work based on an ever-changing Game Design. • QA finds technical flaws (Late production, Alpha, Beta) • Bugs usually added to bug database Programming Quality Assurance Game Idea Software (the game, infrastructure, and game making tools) Unexpected Influence

  33. Production Jobs: Programming • Technical Director • technical design, oversee implementation, set tools, hardware, and code standards • Lead Programmer • supervises programming team • Engine Programmer • program core game engine • Graphics Programmer • program graphics code • Networking Programmer • database, client/server, network protocol issues • AI Programmer • make game intelligent

  34. Production Jobs:Differences between… • Normal worker • Lead • Manager • Director Goal Goal

  35. Production Jobs: Programming (continued…) • Physics Programmer • program collision and particle systems • Tools Programmer • program tools for internal production • Audio Programmer • program sound into game • Interface Programmer • program graphical user interface • QA Programmer • program to assist QA (cheat codes, automated test tools) • Associate (junior) Programmer • assigned junior programming tasks

  36. Production Workflow: Design • Keepers of the Game Idea and GDD • Game Idea changes (hopefully few) should be documented • Develop non-code, non-art content • Story, dialog, scripts, maps, characters, items, game balance, ... • Content and design flaws found by QA Design Game Idea Quality Assurance Unexpected Influence Game Design Doc Game Content (story, characters, levels, items, enemies, etc…)

  37. Production Jobs: Design • Creative Director • direct creative vision and art style • Design Director • support design team, guide design process, document design process • Lead Designer • supervise design team, assemble documentation, high-level level design • Interface Designer • layout content, navigation, usability features • Level Designer • building the game world, story, scripting, dialogue

  38. Production Workflow: Art • Artists and designers often work collaboratively • QA finds technical flaws in game art • Pitch Materials Art Quality Assurance Art Content (concept art, character art, models, textures, icons, sound, etc…) Design Sales & Marketing

  39. Production Jobs: Art • Art Director • oversee art team, set art process • Lead Artist • supervises art team • Concept Artist • draw game environment, props, characters, storyboards, etc. • Technical Artist • interfacing art with game code, scripting game content • Modeler • create 3D models with tools like Maya, 3D Studio Max, etc. • Texture Artist • skin 3D models • Animator • animate 3D models

  40. Production Jobs: Art (Sound) • Audio Director • manage audio department, interface with audio programmer • Composer • creates musical score • Sound Designer • create sound effects, ambient sound, collects and edits sound (foley sounds) • Voiceover Artist (Voice Actor) • provide voice for characters

  41. Production Workflow: QA Programming Software • Test the quality of products and give feedback • QA also determines the state of production significantly Quality Assurance Game Content Production Design Art Art Content

  42. Production Jobs:Quality Assurance • Testing Manager • responsible for several projects, lead testers, manages testing budget, interacts with management • Lead Tester • works as tester while supervising testing team, manages data entry, determines bugs importance, and summarizes status to managers • Compatibility Tester • tests the game on multiple platforms, localization testing • Playability Tester • play early release, offer suggestions, communicate heavily • Alpha/Beta Tester • play the product before release, submit bugs, offer suggestions (game balance, altered, functionality, etc)

  43. Production Workflow:Sales & Marketing • Contracts for distribution • Game advertising, promotional material • ‘buzz’ or ‘hype’ • Track sales with producers during Post-Production. Contracts Game Demo Advertising & Promotional Materials Sales & Marketing Art Buzz / Hype Game Content

  44. Production Jobs:Sales & Marketing • Promotion • organize contests, trials, giveaways, and promotional merchandise • Sales • acquire shelf space, try to bundle with hardware • Advertising • create advertising for TV, radio, magazines, newspapers, the internet, etc. • Public Relations • organize previews, reviews, interviews, articles, stories, etc.

  45. Post-Production Jobs:Customer Support • Customer Service • help solve customer specific issues • Community Management • organize and manage newsletters, track modding groups, fan sites, and hackers • Maintenance Programmers • Build patches, port the game to different platforms