Originally written: December, 2001. Most recent update: December, 2016.
NOTE: the above process applies to the making of expensive mainstream consumer games. "Garage games" or games made by lone wolves most likely do not follow the pattern described herein.
To further complicate matters, the reality is that each game company uses different guidelines and definitions, at different times. The way one company does things today differs from the way another company does things today - and the way one company does things today differs from the way that same company did things two or three years ago (and they'll do things differently a couple years in the future).
Your job as the reader is to embrace the general principles I discuss, knowing that when you get into the game business it won't be exactly as I have described in every respect. My purpose as the writer is to give you a general idea of what goes on behind the silicon curtain so you can prepare to step beyond it yourself - hopefully, one day soon.
The FAQs for the GameDev.net "Business of Game Development" forum, at http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/showfaq.asp?forum_id=5, are an additional must-read.
Got a question about this article? Email it to webmaster at sloperama.com, and the discussion will be posted on the Video Game Q&A bulletin board. You'll get answers! Like this...
Date: Wed, 17 Nov 2004 10:07:16 +0000 (GMT)
From: "Ken Lawrence \[Creactiv Games\]"
Subject: Game Design Bulletin Board Question
>Hello Mr. Sloper
>I appologise in advance if this appears extremely
>niave of me but in what order is a game made, it is
>something that has been bugging me.
>By this question i mean obviously first comes the
>concept, however  does the animation come before or
>after or along side programming. I see it as the
>programmers could work much easier and possibly even
>quicker with the models from the artists, however this
>could delay the project  as the programming is so
>important.  at what point in the project does the
>marketting begin? from the beginning or at the Alpha
>Test.  Is the designer used throughout the project, or
>just to create the Design Document then they get time
>to themselves other than checking up every now and
>then?  or even are the QA used before the Alpha Test,
>or for every little aspect the Programmer change, or
>just mid project at the Alpha Test?  and other such
>If you do not answer this question in a reply or on
>the message board, might i recommend maybe a timeline
>for a lesson showing where each part of the industry
>come into the development and what they do, etc. 
>Thank you for any help you may be able to provide
How about that - Lesson 10 doesn't have a timeline. You're right.
1. GDD (game design document) is first. The game designer might not be entirely finished writing the design doc when the programmers start coding. The programmers might start programming before the artists begin creating models but the artists are definitely finished long before the programmers are finished.
2. What could delay the project?? It was kind of hard to follow what you were saying there. Also, there's a key on your keyboard labeled "Enter." You should use it more frequently.
3. Marketing typically gets serious around or after the time the game hits Alpha (when all the assets are done and implemented).
4. Varies depending on the project structure and the team structure. Some designers are freelancers who are hired to write the GDD - in such cases, the producer might save money by not keeping him around throughout the rest of the project. Some designers also perform some other function on the development team - in such cases, the employee is always around and can be called on to do more design work anytime.
5. Varies from company to company (and depending on the project, the time of year, etc.) But typically, QA begins sometime before Beta (when all the game's features have been programmed, and perhaps the development team believes the game has no major coding problems).
6. And other such answers.
7. Good idea.
More questions? - Tom
Los Angeles, California, USA
November 17, 2004
>From: Brian Bartram
>Sent: Wednesday, May 31, 2006 7:34 PM
>Subject: Sloperama.com -- accolades and a suggestions
> Hi Tom, I'm new to the industry (a year from graduating with a Game Art degree to add to my CS degree, and now applying for internships) and I'm really enjoying reading your site. Kudos for giving back to the community.
> I'm on Lesson 10, and wanted to mention something. You're outlining what goes into game development. When it comes to graphics, your information seems very simplified:
>"Graphics - The artists create the bits and pieces that make up what the game will look like. Characters, backgrounds, objects, vehicles, animations, interface objects, titles, and movie sequences."
>I started poking ahead to see where you go into greater detail regarding the creation of art assets, the flow from Concept Artist to Modeler and Texture Artist to Rigger to Animator to Lighting to Rendering (or Level Designer as the Lighting / Rendering man). I didn't find any mention of this chain, but thought that it would really benefit newbies and wannabees to understand these connections.
>Of course, there are a lot of resources (many that you hyperlink) to describe this, so perhaps a link to
> http://media.wiley.com/product_data/excerpt/68/07821437/0782143768-1.pdf (PDF ALERT!!!! Careful....)
>or something similar would be appropriate.
> Just a suggestion, keep the good stuff coming!
> - Brian / Los Angeles
Far be it from me to pretend that I know anything about the process of creating 3D art. You know more about it than I do, so I'll just append this to the bottom of FAQ 10. Or maybe it belongs in FAQ 53? Hey, see you at an IGDA Chapter gathering soon? Hmm? Hint, hint...
Tom Sloper (湯姆スローパー)
Los Angeles, CA (USA)
May 31, 2006
>From: "Kate Pell"
>Subject: Games Manufacturing
>Date: Thu, 15 Jun 2006 12:04:25 +0100
>I understand that, in order for you to give me the best answer suited to my unique situation, you need to know that...
>My approximate age is: 15
>The level of education I've completed is: doing GCSEs
>My occupation (if student, enter 'student') is: student
>My game biz question is: How are games mass produced? I need to know for my Graphics GCSE coursework and I would appreciate anything you know. Thank you in advance
I assume you're talking about a video game or computer game that's on a CD and shipped in a clamshell package. If I've assumed wrongly, well, sorry, but you blew it by not being specific enough with your question. This is the answer you get.
There are three aspects to manufacturing a CD game:
1. Printing the paper parts;
2. Burning the disc itself and printing the design on it;
Printing the paper parts takes longest - about 2 weeks, usually. The art for the printing has to be delivered to the printer, and he'll make the package cover art (one sheet of paper that fits into the clear plastic cover around the clamshell), the manual, and any other inserts that have to be put inside the package with the CD - a warranty card, a poster, a flyer for other products made by the publisher, etc. And sometimes a mistake is discovered after setting the cover art, or a reviewer comes out with a spectacular review, so a sticker has to be printed to go on the package. And the cardboard boxes the games will be shipped in also have to be printed at this time.
Making the discs is similar to the way you burn a CD at home. Only the manufacturer (often a big company like JVC, for instance) has big "gang burners" that can make a lot of CDs all at the same time, and a lot faster than your home burner. The trick with the big disc manufacturer is scheduling your game in between music CDs and software CDs, etc. I'm not sure if the disc manufacturer prints the designs on the discs themselves, but I assume they do.
Then the paper materials and the discs are shipped to an assembly company, sometimes in America where they use cheap labor, or sometimes in Mexico where they use cheaper labor. The paper materials are put into clamshells, the CD is put in too, then the clamshell is shrinkwrapped and sometimes a hologram seal is applied. And sometimes a sticker is added, either under the shrinkwrap or over the shrinkwrap, depending on how timely the sticker was delivered to the assembly company, or depending on the purpose of the sticker.
Then the assembly company gathers a bunch of the shrinkwrapped game packages and puts them into a box designed to hold 10, 12, 16, or 20 games (probably 10), and that package is taped closed. Then those boxes of 10 games each are put into a bigger box that holds maybe 6 or 10 boxes (now it has like maybe 100 games in the master carton - for instance). Then those big master cartons are stacked on a shipping palette, and plastic wrap (like heavy-duty Saran Wrap) is wrapped around the whole pile of master cartons to keep it together. Then a forklift lifts the palette with all the game boxes on it and puts it into a truck for shipping to the stores around the country. I don't know who pays for shipping. (^_~)
Good luck with your report!
Tom Sloper (湯姆スローパー)
Los Angeles, CA (USA)
The Ides of June, 2006
At what point in a game project can it be scrapped?
>Sent: Thursday, May 13, 2010 2:26 AM
>Subject: Game Q+A: Canceling a game project
>How old are you? 17
>What's your level of education? High School (doing my first year in college now)
>What's your current occupation? (If student: "student") Student
>Which game job, if any, do you aspire to or plan to study for? Game Designer
>What country do you live in (where in the world are you)? (OK, so that's 5.) Canada
>I've been going through your FAQs/Lessons and they've been very helpful in understanding the game industry from different perspectives, so thanks for doing this. I've just finished Lesson 10 and I have a few questions. The questions I have are these: At what point in the production of a game can the executive people/ producer/ lead designer decide to scrap a project? Is there a point of no return (the company produces it knowing it will be a loss) for game companies?
>Thanks for your time,
>P.S: Sorry I had to email you directly. The chimpanzee-in-a-suit-with-a-computer-picture hyperlink didn't work for me.
Hi, Neel. You wrote:
At what point in the production of a game can the executive people/ producer/ lead designer decide to scrap a project?
If you look again at FAQ 10, you'll see that I mention Alpha Greenlight and Beta Greenlight (not only Concept Greenlight). Typically, the executives want to review the game at the following junctures, at least:
They can decide to cancel the game at any of those times, or, in fact, at any time whatsoever. Not only that, but there are several stakeholders who can make a decision that results in cancellation of the project:
The publishing company who's funding the project;
The development studio can pull out;
The IP owner;
The platform holder.
The lead designer is NOT one of those parties. He is NOT given the power of project cancellation.
Is there a point of no return (the company produces it knowing it will be a loss) for game companies?
In theory, perhaps. It's true that there's a lot of resistance to dropping a game once millions have been spent developing it. But I can imagine a game being cancelled at any time from concept and even on up through manufacturing.
Sorry I had to email you directly. The chimpanzee-in-a-suit-with-a-computer-picture hyperlink didn't work for me.
Um, okay. Why do you think you have to apologize? The instructions above say:
EMAIL YOUR QUESTION to WebmasterSloperama.com, or any email address you know to be mine (it doesn't matter which Sloperama email address you use to get email to me) -- or click the picture below to submit your question or comment.
No matter whether you click the chimp or click your email program icon, either way the result is that I get an email.
Los Angeles, California, USA
May 13, 2010
Why doesn't the law do justice, part 3
>From: Paarth G
>Sent: Thursday, December 29, 2016 4:14 PM
>Subject: Why doesn't the law do justice for the game industry? (part 3)
>Name: Paarth G
>Location: Chennai, India
>Occupation : Junior Game designer, game tester
>Ok so I would like to talk about this law in gaming industry further as it is simply irritating and just doesn't make a lot of sense atleast to me.
>The government in general often tends to insult games and tries its best to ban majority of games to the public hence the reason why China banned them until now. So if at all such attempts are made to stop these so called controversial games, then why not just make the companies go bankrupt by having strict laws instead? Its just them being hypocrites here as they despise any sort of game violence and yet they ignore basic laws when it applies to those who overwork or don't get paid.
>I'm not expecting a lot of discussion here since you already made it clear that you have no idea what can be done. But I would like it if you can make an FAQ about this matter so that those who want to be into the world of gaming or any other entertainment biz must know of these notorious crunches so they can think twice whether its worth doing this field or not...after all, there's the matter of families, friends and affording basic resources.
>Also it would be interesting to know what you went through during those crunch times.
Hello, Paarth. You wrote:
The government in general often tends to insult games and tries its best to ban majority of games to the public
I have no idea what you're talking about, Paarth. You're saying the Indian government has made the majority of games illegal to sell or to own or to play, in India? I did not know that.
hence the reason why China banned them until now.
You're saying China banned games in China because the Indian government "insults" games? I don't follow you. I don't think you have hit upon the real reason why China made it difficult for non-Chinese game companies to sell their products in China. I think the real reason had more to do with trade restrictions, and China's wish to control what goes on in China.
So if at all such attempts are made to stop these so called controversial games,
Here in the US, controversial games are a small subset of all games. You're saying that in India, non-controversial games are a small subset of all games.
then why not just make the companies go bankrupt by having strict laws instead?
I don't follow what you're suggesting.
Its just them being hypocrites here as they despise any sort of game violence and yet they ignore basic laws when it applies to those who overwork or don't get paid.
I agree that lawmakers worldwide are often hypocritical.
But I would like it if you can make an FAQ about this matter so that those who want to be into the world of gaming or any other entertainment biz must know of these notorious crunches so they can think twice whether its worth doing this field or not...
Hmm, let's see what I wrote on this... I see that in FAQ 14 I didn't say enough about it (so I'll append this conversation to it). And I see that I never mentioned it in FAQ 7, either. Same for FAQ 10. I need to append this conversation to those FAQs, also. I did briefly (too briefly, perhaps) define the term "crunch" in FAQ 28.
Also it would be interesting to know what you went through during those crunch times.
I used to keep a sleeping bag under my desk for crunch times. As a producer, if my team was working late, then I would work late too so they could get in touch with me quickly. I worked numerous late nights, and sometimes the overwork hindered my normal thought processes. I would get frustrated easily, and sometimes I would get sick from the long hours and lack of sleep.
You are be right that an FAQ is desirable; but right now I've got other priorities while I'm recuperating from cancer surgery that I had 10 days ago. I'm putting it on my list of things to do.
Creator of the game advice FAQs -- donations appreciated.
Los Angeles, California, USA
December 29, 2016
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