So, you’re a gamer who spends hours upon hours playing your favorite games every week. Your day only feels complete if you’ve managed to snatch away a few minutes to fight your way out of an ambush, learn a new magic skill like developing gaming software, plant a new crop, or reach the next level.
Your happy place is some fantasy world in which you’re able to ride a dragon or tame a mythical beast. You feel at your most relaxed when you’ve spent time expanding your base, honing your shooting skills, or exploring a new area on a map.
You love everything about your favorite games, and your life just wouldn’t be the same without them…but do you know anything about how games go from not existing to being a part of your everyday life? Game software developers, much like casino software developers and anyone who has to create a world or a portal from scratch, have to consider every single part of what they want to build long before the building begins.
From concept to completion, developing gaming software and a whole world populated with characters and locations is an enormous job. Understanding a little bit more about everything that goes into a build like this can only increase your appreciation for games and developers, so let’s take a look at “how the sausage is made”.
The Three Stages of Gaming Software Development
More often than not, gaming software development is divided into three states: pre-production, production, and post-production.
The start of it all! In pre-production, the team will nail down what the game is all about and what steps they’ll take to make it. The team will answer the following questions:
- Will the game be for PC, console, phone, or all three?
- Who will the target audience be?
- Is there competition for this market and this kind of game?
- What does the game revolve around?
- Monetization – will it be free to play, will there be ads, will it be subscription-based, etc?
- Development schedule
- What resources will the development require?
This can take anywhere from a week to a full year depending on the game and its complexities. The team is usually still very small at this stage: producer, concept artist, and programmer. The team will publish their Game Design Document which keeps track of characters, storyline, mechanics, world and level designs, art, and monetization. This will be updated throughout all production stages. Prototyping also takes place at this stage: beginning to build worlds and levels (here’s where developers come in) to see if your plans are practical or not.
This is the longest stage and can last anywhere from one year to four, again depending on the game’s complexities. Ideas are refined, rules are created code is written, and more:
- Further prototyping takes place.
- The first playable version is created.
- A vertical slice version is created: a playable sample used to pitch to studios.
- The pre-alpha stage is reached, in which most content is ready.
- The alpha stage is reached, in which the first fully playable start-to-finish version is ready.
- The beta stage is reached, in which the alpha version is refined and any fixes are added.
- Last but not least, the gold-master stage is reached: completion.
The following team members are all involved in the production stage (a much longer list than pre-production). The project manager is present to ensure the whole process runs as smoothly as possible and stays on schedule. They are usually the communication go-between for the developers and the executives.
There are developers such as game and level designers, artists and modelers, animators and FX artists, audio engineers, sound designers and composers, voice-over artists, and at the very end, game testers. Programmers are part of the team to engineer all the software that will be the basis for the game world. Their job is essential and they have a heavy workload.
- You can either choose an existing game engine or create a new one specifically for that game.
- Using code to script all the functions of the game including events and interactions.
- Creating all the physics in the world, like gravity.
- Creating and adjusting all the 3D graphic renders.
- Creating the “AI” that will operate the NPCs.
- Adding sound, music, and voiceovers.
- Creating and implementing all the game logic.
- Creating the interface that the user will interact with when they play.
- Writing code that will enable users to play with different mice or joysticks etc.
- Porting their code between different platforms.
- Figuring out memory requirements and algorithmic requirements.
- Fixing bugs.
Post Production of Gaming Software
This is everything that happens after the game has been completed and shipped. More of that, bugs that might appear or have been missed are fixed, patches are created as needed, and bonus content such as downloadables is created.
The team may meet for a post-mortem to see what worked well and what could have been improved upon, which is a learning experience before their next project.
You know a little bit more about how games and the gaming software that supports them are created, don’t you love your games that little bit more?