Video game popularity has exponentially increased over the last 10 years, which means video game development has also grown and advanced as a field of technology. Interest in becoming a video game developer has also gone up as games have become more accessible and gained bigger followings, thanks to the internet as well as the explosion of online streaming.
This popularity has got many people considering what actually goes into building a video game from the ground up and how they can be a part of that process. Here’s an overview of it.
Understanding the Video Game Development Process
Video game development companies are highly specialized, niche versions of custom software development companies (such as BairesDev). This means that the process of designing, developing, testing, and releasing video games is very similar to the Software Development Life Cycle (SDLC).
However, the process of developing a new game can be a bit more chaotic due to pressure from video game studios, bottlenecks in the pipeline, and many other factors. There are still structures and frameworks put in place to keep things running efficiently throughout the development process and to keep projects on track.
The Stages of Video Game Development
Much like the Software Development Life Cycle, there are 7 main steps in the general video game development process.
Before the writers and designers of a video game studio start to work their magic, an idea for the game has to come up. After crafting and finalizing the story, additional factors that are not a part of the traditional Software Development Life Cycle arise, including the type of game the concept will be, the platforms, the characters of the story/game, and whether it will be in 2D or 3D. This phase of ideation can be one of the most difficult as it acts as the backbone of the entire project. The budget, technical requirements, team size, and timeframe are also decided on during this time.
Once idea production and decision-making are complete (for the most part) in the planning phase, it is time to brainstorm how the project will take shape. This is the time for collaboration between artists, writers, custom software developers, engineers, and many other crucial team members to figure out where their part fits in the overall puzzle of the development process.
Studios typically begin prototyping the in-game elements, such as characters and environments, to establish how they will look and work within the game before moving into official production.
This phase is the biggest focus of time and effort during the development process. It is also considered the most challenging phase for many reasons. For example, character models require designing, rendering, and iterating to the exact specifications laid out by the artists. Environments need producing so that they are as immersive as they are dynamic across systems and playstyles.
Dedicated custom software development teams spend countless hours writing thousands upon thousands of lines of code during this phase as well. This can be an incredibly lengthy process that sometimes spans years. Also, it isn’t uncommon in video game development for large segments of the game to be discarded after the game development phase is complete for many different reasons.
Just like in the Software Development Life Cycle, a thorough testing and quality control phase is also required for video game development. This phase requires very extensive testing for bugs and errors.
In addition to the traditional software testing required in this step, many different types of “playtesters” are also required to ensure the game is running as smoothly as possible. Some of these playtesters conduct what are essentially stress tests so that developers can take care of them before the release date. Others play the game in its entirety to see if the game is actually enjoyable and if end-users will want to finish the game.
Once testing is complete, it is time for the most stressful step for video game studios: Alpha and Beta testing. This phase is the first time that exclusive members of the public will get their hands on the video game – and be able to give their opinion on it. Video game studios tend to focus on a predominant amount of marketing efforts during pre-launch as well.
After making tweaks and fixes based on feedback from the testing, the game can finally be officially launched to the public. Before the launch date, developers must manage bug backlogs to ensure that there will not be any catastrophic failures once people start playing and that the game is as polished as possible for release.
7. Post-Launch and Maintenance:
Once a game is in the hands of the public, devs and team members are still at work as it is not uncommon for a video game to be released with a few minor glitches or bugs. It’s nearly impossible for a development team to be able to catch every single issue even after years of work.
Gaming studios often rely on end-users to report bugs within the games directly or to use online forums to report them. This phase also includes regular software updates, game patches, and new features for users to download. Regular maintenance and security updates must are also conducted in perpetuity.
Although similar to the SDLC, the video game development process is uniquely challenging, but also produces some of the most popular pieces of pop culture and household names of the modern age.