The development of video games and similar applications (simulators, interactive presentations) has a long story. This process is constantly being rethought, renewed and improved to raise the developers’ productivity.

3d charactersGame development has much to do with the development of products for a broadcast/cinema sector. In particular, planning is of great importance in both fields, because many of the issues that must be solved in the field of broadcasting and cinema are typical for the gaming sector too.

However, there are large differences between two spheres mentioned above.

Major differences

Most obvious of these is a platform for which the products are being developed in both areas.

  • For example, a broadcast/cinema sector, which has a long history, has established certain standards for display format. In particular, if you are working with NTSC or PAL, advantages and disadvantages of these formats are known in advance, along with accepted workarounds. In addition, the size and quality of material corresponds to the known standards adopted for the present and future audiences.

  • In game development almost every year new platforms appear working on more advanced technologies and providing new opportunities. Of course, designers want to work with the latest systems because they provide more opportunities for innovations. Though, the things are not as simple as they seem. Often new features have to be implemented by programmers before the designers can take advantage of them. Therefore, first of all the developers should decide what kind of platform the product will work on, taking into account the possibility of simultaneous development for multiple platforms.

The next step after choosing a platform is a preliminary analysis of technology to be used by a development team.

Should we create a new game engine, or upgrade an old one, or buy a license on such engine from another company?

All these questions are crucial because they affect work of each member of a working group.

Pros and cons of using a licensed game engine

+ If a licensed game engine is used, developers can save time, as they do not have to write the game engine from scratch.

–  Developers have to work with someone else’s code. This can lead to unexpected difficulties; for example, it is rather difficult to make radical changes in unknown code and in some cases it is just impossible.

For designers the purchase of game mechanism may be even more convenient option:

+  Designers know in advance the software he will have to work with (in particular, 3ds max).

+ They know general limitations, such as creation of a balanced shell for the characters or the use of segmented characters. When designers know the limitations, they can confidently work within the specified framework.

This article also addresses the following questions:

  • Different roles of designer in a game development team.

  • Organization of technological process for artists and designers in game development.

The role of designer in a game development process

First, note that each game development process is arranged in a completely different way. There are no established rules. The working group is formed basing on individual abilities of its members. Standard process of forming a game development team will be discussed in the next section. However, you should consider this only as guidelines.

Lead Designer or Art Director

Art director is generally the designer, who has experience in the field of three-dimensional graphics (usually in game development) and is able not only to create artworks, but also to lead the subordinate designers and artists. Unfortunately, in practice, it is only a pipe dream, as many designers are not good managers, and vice versa. Still, it’s an interesting position, because it involves a variety of activities. For example,

  • Such person should be able to unite designers around one common project idea.

  • Depending on individual organizational skills of an art director this position may involve a lesser degree of designer activity and a greater degree of planning work and overall project management.

  • On the other hand, a lead designer or art director can deal with very little management, focusing on artistic matters.

The roles of other members of game development team

Each group is formed in a different way, so it’s rather difficult to define the role of each team member of the game development team. So here is a typical situation:

  • Director
  • Associate Director
  • Programmer (Lead, Senior, Junior)
  • Designer (Lead, Senior, Junior)
  • Artist (Lead, Senior, Junior)
  • Sound recording department and others

This is a typical organization of a game development team. You should, however, consider that artists can perform the duties of designers, and some designers – the duties of director.

In general, it is the duty of a director to organize a team. Besides, director analyzes all aspects of a game along with his assistants. Below this level there are programming, design and decoration departments.

Proper organization of interaction between these units is crucial and often causes major problems arising in game development environment.

In particular,

  • if designers do not know about the relevant changes in the code, they can create content that will become inapplicable for the game.

  • if programmers are unknown with the possibilities of the artists and designers, they can make a wrong opinion about how the contents created by artists will look in a game.

Artists and designers should know about programming as much as possible, though this should not impede their main activities.

Organization of technological process for the artists and designers in game development process

A typical working process involves many stages. Depending on the staff members and specific situation this process can be predetermined or informally organized with possibility of further changes. Regardless of organization method there are some general steps that artists and designers usually follow in their work.

The first and main one is a collective development of a general concept of the game.

In this stage ideas are put forward, conceptual sketches are drawn and some models are created. As a result of the collective game concept development the general look and feel of the game is defined.

At this stage the artists should work closely with designers to get a correct understanding of game concept, which will further help them to develop an artistic sense, appropriate to the game design. The development of a general concept of the game may proceed differently. It can be quite an unrestricted or a strictly regulated process, so the production of some guiding principles of game design can take from several weeks to several months.