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Game Development Overview Step by Step [V1.1]

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1 Game Development Overview Step by Step [V1.1] on Tue May 29, 2012 8:10 pm

Jon Bon

Jon Bon
Below is a recommended series of steps for game creators at Bon Ink Creations to help them achieve a better end product. Each step in this guide has related guides linked in the related step. I encourage anyone on here to correct me, and suggest changes or alterations to the guide.

  1. (1)Conceptual Design

    Moving Parts
    This is the very first step in your game creation. As a developer you must know for a fact things like, is there one main character you play, maybe their are 7, or 126. Is the game one or two players? is it an action game, shooter, fantasy etc? Can you jump, move, interact, or maybe it's text based, or an audio interaction game.
    Here you will want to iron out exactly what you want to achieve with this game. Write everything down, using our forums conceptual design section, if need your own game section as a staff member simply ask an Admin.
    You should get everything decided that you want to TRY and implement into your game, including crafting systems, mini-games, and every other major element. There should be no, "Hey, let's add mounted travel" mid game development, that stuff is for the design phase. With that said, some ideas can be added on easily to a game, so the design part is never truly complete until launch, but here is where you outline large ideas, things that will take days, weeks or months to complete and implement into your game.

    Story Elements
    Here you want to figure out things like, who is the antagonist (villain), why are he and your protagonist (hero) against each other? What happens near the beginning of your story that forces your main character to undergo their journey (inciting incident). These and other story elements are the basic foundation of any good story. The story combined with the moving parts of your game should be the main 2 drawing points for fans. Characters that are relate-able, and that feel real, with an interactive and innovative system is what most die hard gamers look for. You may have to go back and forth adjusting your story and moving part design to match each other. Also try not to forget some methods ring true with the test of time for classic gamers.

    Related Guides:
    Your creative rights

  2. (2)Research

    Engine Research

    Since you know what you want your game to do, now you need to figure out the best way to make it do that (which engine to use). Knowing the limits of your engine and it's user friendly nature, or lack there of, is extremely important in being able to give yourself a realistic timeline for creation. Knowing your potential limits and setting realistic goals for yourself is a big part of keeping yourself inspired to create and be satisfied with the results.  This is where you might make small prototype sections of your ideas to test out different engines, and how they might fit to your conceptual design ideas.

    Talent Research
    What kind of extra talent will you need? Depending on peoples field of expertise a lot of the time they focus into one aspect of their trade. Such as an artist that only does murals and portraits, or a writer who does poems, and songs, but not stories, a programmer that does html, or java, or C++.
    The point is you need to figure out exactly what kind of help you need in which field. This way when you contact someone you can at least know whether they are qualified to help you, and you will know what you want.

    Knowledge Research
    Are you making a pirate/medieval/historic game? Then unless you are a scholar on the subject you are likely to need some more background knowledge on the topic matter if you want to produce something with impact. Even if you are making a completely unique idea from the ground up, looking into similar ideas and concepts from our own world history and lore can give you great inspiration and insight into your creative direction. This also comes into play when writing your story, is one of your characters a flight attendant? What do you know about being a flight attendant, probably not as much as someone who works as one. Reaching into the different aspects of your story can allow you to create elements that feel real when you tell it.
    The same can be said for things like crafting systems, skills and spells, items and equipment, pretty much anything you create can have inspiration or insight for a real world concept.

  3. (3)Resources

    This is what you will need talent for. You may have a skill yourself, or be on a team of skilled craftsmen, in either case you will likely need more then one type of trade to make the entire game. If you are releasing a free game you can use any resources intended to be used for free projects, or created under the creative commons license. Commercial games intended to be sold however need to use resources that expressly allow them to be sold in a game. In either game release case you should always note the proper credits for use of every resource you obtain as you obtain it, note it carefully in case needed for future use. The name or call sign of the person is all you need, but a website/origin of the resource is best as well.
    Graphical Resources
    This is the 'video' aspect of your video game. You will need to figure out what kind of graphics you will need. Does your game have full motion computer animated story sequences? If so you'll need to get them from somewhere, or have someone make them. If you have a sprite based game you'll need sprites, if you have a 3D game, you'll need some character skins/models. Maybe you are going to have a custom menu for your game, what about your games logo and title design. Advertising material in the future, and forum skins for your website, etc. All these things need to be considered when taking a tally of the graphical resources you need.

    Auditory Resources
    Your game will likely need sounds. This is a very broad category as well. Every time you move your cursor in a menu it makes a sound, when your character jumps it may make a sound, swords slashing, rocks crashing and things of that nature are called sound effects. Then there are music effects, for things like when you get a new item, or skill, or when a character says something funny, sad etc. Background music is what you would hear while you play the game, music that helps set the scene of where you currently are in game. Background sounds are things that help give an ambiance to certain scenes in your game, they would play behind the background music, and would be things like, birds chirping, crowds talking, weather sounds, etc. Then there are things to consider like voice acting, story narration, and any other auditory aspect you might need. It's best to get a good idea what you will need as it can end up being dozens upon dozens of songs for your game.

  4. (4)Finalize Design
    Now that you have a basic idea of what your game is going to be like, a background knowledge in the different aspects for your story and other game elements, and a catalog of the resources needed to make it, you can now start linking it all together. Just like in step one, go through the story and game elements and start assigning your researched material to where it needs to go, like for your crafting, lore or other game stuff. You will likely find stuff you missed or didn't account for so this is when you find that as well. This should be the last time you make any major changes to the concept of your game and if you do go back to step 1 and move forward again until you reach this step again.

  5. (5)Funding
    Now that you have the entire game outlined on paper and likely some moving parts working in your engine from the research phase, you can begin to raise money if necessary. The best way to know if you need funding for your game is to use the information from your talent research and see what kind of help you can find for free. There are tons of dedicated and passionate people who lend their talents for free to others. Those are the kinds of people you can see if they will lend help to your project, and the same kinds of people I hired on as staff at Bon Ink. If you intend to release your game for free then you are likely to get people who like your idea and want to help for free. If you release your game for sale, then people are likely going to want some sort of compensation for the work they helped put into the game. You are going to have to find out exactly who you can get to do all the work you need done, who is willing to do it for free, who needs to be paid, and how much. This is called a budget. Remember to add a bit of extra on top of everyone's estimated fee's, you should always have more then you think you need, in case you do need more. Once you have an overall number for your budget, then you have an idea of what it will cost to make your game. With that in mind you can start looking into where to get the funding.

    Related Guides:
    Funding through fan interest

  6. (6)Creation (the fake step 1)
    This is where the average independent developer starts out, and if you are trying to learn your craft, it is the right place to start out, hands on and learning as you go. But if you want to make a polished and clean release that is well received and didn't take you forever to make, it's not the best way to start. I will always suggest to creation teams who have no complete games yet to start with a simple story from a nursery rhyme as their story arc, and start making a game at this step right away. If you make a 3 little pigs game, it's going to be short, concise, and likely still teach you tons of stuff about your engine you may not already know. At the same time you are making the '3 little pigs game' you can be making your big planned project through the steps below. This allows you to both create and plan at the same time. With the fairy tale project you don't have to worry about any story line stuff, just game dynamics, so it should be easy and teach you lots. Then when you are done developing your big game you can use all the tricks you learned with the fairy tale game.

    If you are familiar with your game engine, and you feel confident to dive in then have at it.

  7. (7)Alpha Testing
    This is when you test your completed product (start to end), or completed section of your product (crafting system, skill tree system, battle arena, etc.). This form of testing is generally done closed, and in house by your creation team itself. In a small team or some game instances it can be done as the game is being made. The benefit of having dedicated alpha testers is that the developers don't have to worry about the finer points of the game as they make it, like checking to see if all doors work correctly, or skill animations play right, or cut scenes work well. They can just make them as intended to work test basics then move one. Alpha testers can then come along and catch and catalog errors so developers can go back and fix them in one big go, rather then one at a time as noticed during creation with meticulous testing that wastes creation time. Even if tested during the development phase alpha testing should be done at least once by at least one person. Meaning someone on your team needs to play through the entire game. To do it properly you would need someone to play through as a normal player, then someone else to play through as a cheating player, trying to break your systems at every turn to find faults. This process should never be skipped and should be done before showing your game to the public, other then when showing on development communities.

    It is important to note that grammar, story progression and and things of that nature can be corrected during the alpha or beta testing phases. And it's important to realize that depending on how in depth your game is you may need different alpha testers for each aspects such as, grammar, mapping/interaction, story development and growth, and one for each system you might have, arena battles, skill trees, crafting systems etc. You can't expect one person to go through every crafting possibility in your game, and check the whole thing for grammar, and check all the walls for the ability to walk through, etc, etc. It is best for bigger games to divide the through testing this way.

  8. (8)Completion  
    After you have received all your alpha testing information you will need to go back and fix any issues that may have arisen. You should then have your alpha tester(s) retest the game and report any additional issues. Repeat steps 7 and 8 until you are satisfied there are no major or game ruining glitches.

  9. (9)Beta Testing
    Your game is still considered incomplete but now comes the time to get real gamers not developers to test your game out and can be considered a for of 'soft launch'. This can be used to check grammar, story and the overall quality of your game. The beta testers will represent test target audiences and be able to test your game on a much larger scale then your team or alpha testers could. You can do this step closed or open, the decision is entirely up to you and really depends on what you have left to test. It is entirely possible that this step may not be needed based on the quality of the alpha test, and the size of the game. I would recommend that this be done even if briefly if only to ensure the games launch goes well.
    After you move on from this step you have your first Release Candidate (RC) for the game.

  10. (10)Feedback
    This section can be done at any point during the creation process. Sometimes during the creative process you can get stuck or blocked as some call it. Feedback can really help with this, sparking new ideas, themes and direction for your creation. On the opposite end, feedback can also help you see what people think, maybe the spikey black haired dude isn't being as well received as you thought he would be. Comprehension is important too, you want to make sure that what you are trying to get across is what people feel and get from your creation. This is when you would use independent development sites and other small development oriented places for. Posting there rather then here will give you high volumes of feedback from players and potential fans rather then developers.[/font][/size]

  11. (11)Marketing
    This is where you decide who wants your game, as known as your demographic. Is your game for young, adult, middle aged, old, male/female, puzzle, first person shooter, wilderness/animal lovers, cartoon fans, etc, the list goes on. You should have a basic idea who is going to be interested in playing your game, but back on step 9, you should also have gotten some valuable insight into other groups of people that you may not have thought of to appeal to. You are going to want to make a list of the demographics you want to reach, grouping them into like categories. Then you can start to think about what parts of your game best appeal to each demographic/category and write that down. Now you should have a target audience and a product with an aspect to show them they might like it when it's time to advertise.  

  12. (12)Advertising
    Now that you have the feedback from the development communities, the beta info from the real gamers, and the marketing info you put together, you can start drawing up an advertising campaign. What are you going to feature as your one hit thing, you need to brand your product. Is the sales point Cloud like in Final Fantasy VII, or maybe the royal purple color of Saints Row the third. Creating something that will become synonymous with your product is really important if you are trying to sell people. Mostly because you want them to be able to recognize it, remember it, and be able to easily tell people about it if they want to. There are no tricks involved here it's about being clear and concise to your intended audience. It's when sneaky advertisers use underhanded tricks to mislead audiences that this becomes bad. But it's not the method, it's the user that's to blame. In any case, this is key to reaching the people who want to pay for your amazing game, you need to pick apart your game and choose the best parts to show these people and advertise where they will be, using the marketing information you put together. You get everything ready, prices, dates, etc, and then you hold off for the next step.
    This and marketing are broad topics and these are only guidelines, more detail will be covered in the complete threads.  

  13. (13)Release
    So, you're done, right? Not quiet. If you think about it, you have every piece to the puzzle to release your game, and you haven't even advertised yet or announced a launch date (hopefully), now the sky is the limit. When SHOULD your game come out? Now you can pick whenever you choose, and be sure it's the best time for your game type based on market trends. Maybe it's a Halloween game, and you have to wait 8 months, maybe it's a Christmas game, or a beach game(summer), the point is, you can pick exactly when to launch it to get the maximum results.

    In general though you are going to want to advertise for at least 1 month before releasing your game. Get the word out there, give people the time to spread the word. On another note, now is the time to start looking into competition, is anyone else releasing something similar? Are you going to get swept under the rug by a game with like play style, or maybe just this years next biggest anticipated hit. You won't want to launch next to a million dollar advertising campaigns, or realistically games you yourself would buy and want to play. Pick the time that's right for you and your game.

    Related Guides:
    Guide to releasing your game through an entebrain engine (RMXP/VX/ACE)

I Hope you enjoyed this in general overviw into my insights on the development and release process based on my experiences as a gamer and an independent developer and publisher.I would/will always suggest to start with a small game based off of a fairy tale, or known free rights story, and make it as a proof of product and learning experience. At the same time you can work on the first three steps of the process for your big, for sale game that you would like to release. This give you the ability to learn more aspects at once, and the freedom to make at your own pace. The methods listed above are 'my' methods and by far not the only methods to success.
Please post any comments or suggestions below, I welcome all replies.

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