The process of video game development can be broken down in a lot of different ways. Naturally different kinds of games can be approached in different ways. And even within separate categories, developers can follow a variety of processes in order to make their way toward satisfying end products.
To cover the entirety of game development in a single post is not possible. In somewhat broad terms though, it really all comes down to a general process, and the development models that exist within that process.
The process of game development is actually not so difficult to imagine, even if it’s something you don’t have experience in. Generally, it starts with the visuals: basic artistic renderings, more sophisticated design, and ultimately 3D modeling of graphics and visuals (which essentially expands into animation, programming, and testing). Of course, these are complex processes, but they’re relatively easy to outline.
Those visual design processes essentially produce the digital material needed in a video game of any kind. From there, the actual game development takes place. This part of the process involves the use of a development engine (such as Unity 3D, Unreal Engine, or even HTML5), and basically amounts to the actual programming of a functional game. Additional design in the form of graphic rendering and animation follows, and from there it’s simply a matter of testing, adjusting, and refining the product.
This only describes the general process of designing and developing games though. But today, designers also adhere to different game development models to essentially guide these processes for efficient and effective results.
Before we get to the models themselves, let’s look at some of the factors that go into choosing one or the other.
As you’ll quickly discover if you begin researching this topic in-depth, some models involve more steps and more focus on details than others. To some extent, the choice of a model in this regard can simply reflect how detail-oriented a designer is, or how structured he or she wants the development project to be. However, it can also be the case that a more complex game project does best with a certain model, while a simpler design can work well with another.
You may come to recognize for instance that the so-called Spiral Model (which we’ll discuss a little bit more below) involves various testing and prototyping steps, whereas an option like the Waterfall Model (again, explained in more depth below) is more about outlining a broad order of steps. The complexity of a game development project will help dictate which of these models might be the best fit.
Organizational structure factors into choosing a model as well, given that a more complex structure involves more levels of approval for different steps in the development process. Pairing a complex business structure with one of the more involved models, therefore, can lead to a relatively inefficient process, whereas a simpler structure will involve quicker (and fewer) approvals, and is thus better suited to handle any sort of model.
We actually have an example in this regard of a major company opting somewhat mysteriously to break off game development as a separate — and simpler — business entity. Just a few years ago, Sony created a new company in the form of Sony Interactive Entertainment LLC. This company was designed to handle research, game development, and publishing, and at the time the news had gaming world analysts scratching their heads.
It is difficult to state definitively what Sony was aiming for with this move, but one factor is that an LLC does offer a simplified company structure that in turn could allow for more flexibility in the use of development models. In a related industry, a piece on business structures for new app businesses, notes that opting for an LLC has numerous benefits relating to structural simplicity — particularly when multiple owners and/or shareholders are at hand.
With this kind of structure, a company can establish a simplified natural hierarchy for approving different steps within even more complex development models. Other businesses with more convoluted structural setups, however, may have to stick to simpler models.
On a simpler note, time can also be an important factor! Needless to say, more complex development processes tend to be more time-consuming. Thus, if there is an urgency to get a game to market, one of the simpler processes will be more appropriate. If time is less of a factor, developers have more flexibility in choosing a model based on personal preference.
There are many different types of development models, and we won’t list every last one of them here. But the following are a few that are used often and which can be quite helpful.
The Spiral Model involves four primary steps: determining objectives, identifying and addressing risks, development and testing, and planning of the next iteration of the design. It is known as a “spiral” because these four steps are meant to be performed in sequence once, twice, and then again as many times as it takes to finalize development. Reviews are meant to be conducted between each run through the circle, effectively making for assessments of prototypes, until a last, more in-depth development cycle is completed.
Game development’s Agile Model is based on Agile principles in general project development. These basically involve breaking the development down into different smaller features or projects to bring about quicker progress toward an operational version. The other aspect of Agile Models however is that development is ongoing, such that once a product is released, more versions of it follow (presumably with slightly better design). As you might imagine, this model is appropriate mostly for things like mobile games or games relying heavily on DLC.
The Waterfall Model is another interesting option and one that is sometimes framed as a counter to Agile development. It is far less dynamic, but a great deal simpler, effectively representing a linear approach to development. Each step in the process is fully completed before the next is begun, such that analysis and conception lead to design, then to coding, and so on, with no confusion or overlapping projects. The process is not necessarily suitable for more complex game designs today, but can still work well for simpler projects or companies with fewer resources.
The Iterative Model almost combines the approaches above. It is a relatively linear development process revolving around design, implementation, and analysis, but it is one that is meant to produce subsequent, improving iterations of the project. In a sense, it is perhaps most similar to the Spiral Model.
A lot of planning ultimately goes into game development, and priorities and possibilities can change depending on the nature of a company or product. But the use of development models, in general, is often what helps game designers to succeed. The models break down the process is simple but helpful ways that facilitate careful, purposeful design and review — and in the end, bring about terrific end products.
Juego Studios provides full-scale design and game development services for game development including concept art, storyboarding, UI/UX design, prototyping, level design, asset production, coding, scripting, programming, testing, and launches. We have a full-fledged team of artists, designers, and developers who have designed and developed a number of exciting games