Here at Playcon, a few weeks ago, we took a deep dive and explained the inner workings of the novel SIM Racing Industry. Accordingly, this week we’re approaching a more established and pivotal modern industry which also has a local Maltese presence. Without further delay, read on to learn about the basics of Video Game Development in 2023!
To clarify, this article will not serve to teach readers how to develop a video game, but to appreciate how the industry works and some core principles to understand.
Video Game Development – Rewind Time
So, it’s always a good idea to kick things off with a definition, the following is a very simple definition for the concept at hand:
Video game development is the process of developing a video game. A video game is defined as an electronic game that involves interaction with a user interface or input device to generate visual feedback from a display device.Adaptation of Merriam-Webster
Naturally, the history of video game development goes hand-in-hand with the history of video games.
For those unaware, games are produced through the software development process, a sophisticated bit of work which is considered a science by some and an art by others. Since the very first video games in 1960s, video game development and its capacity has matched the technology of the time, with the aim of making the best video games possible, selling like cakes.
Over the past decades, the game industry has constantly innovated every single aspect of the definition we’ve used above – software, user interface, visual feedback and more. What’s more, is that the immense competition in the video game industry has helped drive up the quality of video games – whether it’s competition between publishers like Xbox and PlayStation or between individual studios.
While technically, with the right tools, one could make video games single-handedly – modern day video game development is built with a team approach with multiple roles.
Roles – A Development and Management Team
To understand how video game development works, we’ve listed some of the essential roles paired with their summarized functions.
Firstly, we have the development team that are working daily to create and manage a video game:
- Designer – as you can imagine, this individual designs gameplay, creating rules and structures in the game while working with other team members to ensure a common design – also contributing to writing and general outlook on the video game.
- Artist – through whatever means, the video game artist creates art in 2D and 3D dimensions, working on models, characters, cinematics, user interface – anything related to how the game looks.
- Programmer – while a designer and artist paint the picture, the programmer makes the paint. Specifically, structuring the software program is the backbone of video game development. Bearing this in mind, a number of programmers are needed to create software for in-game physics, AI, UI, gameplay, sound, graphics and more – managing how the game works.
- Level Designer – with the looks and mechanisms in place, the game needs to have a flow to it, with progression which makes the most of the available art and programming. These individuals create levels and challenges, managing how the game flows.
- Sound engineer – similar to the movie industry, professionals are hired to handle voice acting, sound effects and musical scores with a variety of possibilities – managing how the game sounds.
- Tester – as a product with multiple working pieces, frequent testing is essential to ensure consumers get their hands on a finished product of high quality – managing the quality of the game.
Beyond the development team, there’s also higher-up roles responsible for managing the project and ensuring that the game reaches consumers – the management team:
- Producer – internal producer (handles the developent team, schedules, staff and the details of making the game) and external producer (budget maintenance, project manager, communications with public and stakeholders).
- Publisher – regardless of who makes the game, a publisher develops the title to be available to the masses and usually have a role in sponsoring development – the relationship depends on the producer.
Development Process – Two Stages
While the development process may be different depending on the video game development studio, there’s a common approach taken by producers – have a look at our numbered development process which simplifies everything into two periods:
Testing and Development Period
In a process of trial and error, the game is developed with the following stages:
- Pre-alpha – development releases nightly builds.
- Alpha – key gameplay functionality is implemented, and assets are partially finished.
- Beta – game functionality is included and optimised (but may have bugs), game content is finished (but may have some implementation errors), and which is considered nearly complete.
- Release candidate – aka gamma or delta – software is almost ready for final release. No feature development or enhancement of the software is undertaken; tightly scoped bug fixes are the only code you’re allowed to write in this phase, and even then only for the most heinous and debilitating of bugs.
Once arriving at the final product, delivering it to consumers involves the following process:
- RTM – release to manufacturing/release to marketing
- GA – general availability
- Production or live release – aka Gold – a few weeks before its release date, a game receives the “gold” approval from first- party companies like Microsoft, Sony, or Nintendo, meaning that they have approved the game to be published on their consoles
While this may seem like a concise list, video game development typically takes 3-5 years per project. In addition, after release, video game developers are typically at work on additional content or DLC.
Video Game Development – Global & Local Scenes
Thanks to new technologies, the global scene is developing at a fast pace, developing higher quality games at a higher rate.
Also, for those unaware, the local Maltese scene features a number of video game development companies, some of which are renowned internationally.
Here are some local companies in this space:
- 2Fold Games
- 4A Games
- 51/4 Games
- Amazing Geeks
- Anvil Game Studios
- AV Technologies
- Bigpoint Malta
- Codemasters Malta
- Dorado Games
- Draw & Code
- Electric Square
In the coming weeks, we’ll be interviewing local video game development studios to provide insight into the local and global scene! Stay tuned for more!
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