Abhinav Marwaha

Ramblings on the world.

25 January 2020

An Overview of Video Game Development

So some history first,

One of the first games was XOX or naughts and crosses made in the University of Cambridge in 1952.

And there was tennis for two made in 1958 in Brookhaven National Laboratory.

Space war was developed by a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology students led by Steve Russell In 1962.

Computer Space was the first commercially sold, coin-operated video game.

In 1972, the first home console system was released called Magnavox Odyssey, developed by Ralph H. Baer.

That same year, Atari released Pong, an arcade game that increased video game popularity.

Gun Fight, which was significant for several reasons: an early 1975 on-foot, multi-directional shooter, which depicted game characters, game violence, and human-to-human combat. it was the first video game to use a microprocessor.

Marking the beginning of second-generation consoles, beginning with the release of the Fairchild Channel F in 1976

Space Invaders, Zork, Baseball, Air Warrior, and Atari Adventure and so on.

In the early 2000s, middleware game engines, such as the Quake engine or Unreal engine were beginning to be popular.

App Store was launched in 2008.

And now let's talk about game genres, they can be broadly categorized into action, action-adventure, adventure, role-playing, simulation, strategy, sports, MMO, Casual games. Party game, Programming game, Logic game, Trivia game, Board game or card game.

The most popular ones are Battle Royale, RPG's, sandbox, FPS, Action-Adventure, Open World, Fighting, Platformer, Hack and Slash, Real-Time Strategy i.e. RTS, Turn-based Strategy, Fight Simulation, Survival Horror, Stealth, Third Person Shooter, Racing, Simulation, Survival, Beat them up, Puzzle, MMORPG and many more .

The most popular gaming Platforms are

a. Pc

b. Mac

c. Linux

d. Switch

e. Ps4

f. Xbox one

g. Android

h. Ios

i. TvOS

j. Web

k. Facebook

l. Cloud Gaming — Stadia, GeForce now, PS now, shadow, vortex, parsec, etc.

Let's talk about the game development pipeline:

  1. Pre-production or design phase is a planning phase of the project focused on idea and concept development and production of initial design documents. Before a full-scale production can begin, the development team produces the first version of a game design document incorporating all or most of the material from the initial pitch.

during the 1980s, pre-production involved sketches and test routines of the only developer. In the 1990s, pre-production consisted mostly of game art previews. In the early 2000s, pre-production usually produced a playable demo

Compiling a list of game's needs is usually called "requirement capture".

And the game design document contains a basic concept, gameplay, feature list, setting and story, target audience, requirements, and the schedule

  1. Production: Production is the main stage of development when assets and source code for the game is produced, it includes:

A. Game Design: which is an essential and collaborative process of designing the content and rules of a game, requiring artistic and technical competence as well as writing skills

B. Programming: The programming of the game is handled by one or more game programmers

C. Level Creation: From a time standpoint, the game's first level takes the longest to develop. As level designers and artists use the tools for level building, they request features and changes to the in-house tools that allow for quicker and higher quality development, later levels can be developed much more quickly as the feature set is more complete and the game vision is clearer and more stable.

  1. Art Production: Game art design is a subset of game development. It is the process of creating the artistic aspects of video games. Video game art design begins in the pre-production phase of creating a video game

  2. Audio Production: the production of game sound.

Testing: At the end of the project, quality assurance i.e. QA plays a significant role. Testers start work once anything is playable. This may be one level or a subset of the game software that can be used to any reasonable extent.

And now we will talk about different milestones in the game development process:

i. First Playable: this is the first version with functional major gameplay elements.

ii. Alpha: A game in alpha is feature complete game.

iii. Code freeze: Code freeze is the stage when new code is no longer added to the game and only bugs are being corrected.

iv. Beta: Beta is feature and asset complete version of the game when only bugs are being fixed.

v. Code Release: Code release is the stage when many bugs are fixed and the game is ready to be shipped or submitted for console manufacturer review.

vi. Gold Master: Gold master is the final game's build that is used as a master for production of the game.

vii. Post Production: After the game goes gold and ships, some developers will maintain the game, fixing the bugs that were not identified previously.

Different design models are as follows:

a. waterfall model: In software development, it tends to be among the less iterative and flexible approaches, as progress flows in largely one direction ("downwards" like a waterfall) through the phases of conception, initiation, analysis, design, construction, testing, deployment and maintenance.

b. agile development. It is based on iterative prototyping, a subset of software prototyping.

c. Personal Software Process

d. Team Software Process

e. Game development usually involves an overlap of these methods. For example, asset creation may be done via the waterfall model, because requirements and specification are clear, but gameplay design might be done using iterative prototyping.

Traditional commercial PC and console games are normally funded by a publisher.

i. The publisher would retain exclusive rights to distribute and market the game and would often own the intellectual property rights for the game franchise.

ii. Console manufacturers, such as Microsoft, Nintendo, or Sony, have a standard set of technical requirements that a game must conform to in order to be approved. Additionally, the game concept must be approved by the manufacturer, who may refuse to approve certain titles.

Now let's dig deep inside a game.

First and foremost the game has Game mechanics that are implemented by programming, it includes but is not limited to:

a. Structure of game i.e. how everything is connected and how the player interacts with it.

b. Physics. Implementing the rules of the universe.

c. Networking: the things that are needed in a multiplayer game.

d. AI: the programming of the computer telling it how it will try to defeat the player.

e. Integrating 2d / 3d graphics in the game:

f. Input processing i.e. how different controls will work.

g. The implementation of sound.

h. Making game tools that are used by other members of the team.

i. And all the other scripting that is needed to make a game.

This all is in the backend of the game, how the computer interprets it, we interpret the game by seeing it. So now we will talk about Graphics. They can be 2D or 3D. They include:

a. Concept art — the art on paper / the rough sketch.

b. Sprites — the 2d drawings.

c. Textures — the color of 3D models.

d. Character

e. The 3D model includes

i. Modeling

ii. Texturing

iii. UV mapping

iv. rigging

f. Shaders: take input as pixel coordinates and return their colors i.e. RGB value. What I mean is they manipulate the screen or particular part of the screen in a certain manner to produce some visual effects.

g. Materials: the overlay for sprites and models.

h. Animation: changes the static into dynamic.

i. Environment: all the things except player and NPC's. It includes:

i. Climate /skybox

ii. Foreground layer

iii. Background layer

iv. Terrain

v. Alive things like animals and plants

vi. Artificial things

vii. Natural things

l. Cinematics: the little movies you see in the game.

j. Vfx i.e. visual effects. It includes particle effects and other things

k. Color design

The game is incomplete without sound. Ever played your favorite games without sound. It doesn't feel good. Does It? The sound in the game can be divided as follows:

a. Music can be live or synthesized

i. Music may be ambient , especially for slow periods of the game, where the music aims to reinforce the aesthetic mood and game setting

ii. Music may be triggered by in-game events. For example, in such games as Pac-Man or Mario, player picking up power-ups triggered respective musical scores.

iii. Action music , such as chase, battle or hunting sequences is fast-paced, hard-changing score

iv. Menu music , similar to credits music, creates aural impact while relatively little action is taking place

b. SFX i.e. sound effects.

c. And Voice over i.e. the real people saying stuff

And now comes the writing part. It includes:

  1. Story
  2. Dialogues
  3. game's narrative
  4. Cut scene narrative
  5. commentary
  6. Journals
  7. Hint System
  8. And many other things that require writing and storytelling skills.

The different menus and HUD i.e. Heads Up Display comes under UI. This is handled by UI / UX designers.

Level design is a major disciple in video game development.

Maps are made by seasoned cartographers (I think, maybe I am wrong).

Testing is done by QA people.

Marketing is done by salespeople. The game production has similar distribution methods to those of the music and film industries.

Now I will talk about the softwares used for different areas of video game development.

Game engines: unity (good for 3d games and games for mobiles), unreal (open source and good for AAA games), Godot (completely free and open-source), game maker

Music-making: fl studio (Windows), Ableton Live, Apple Logic Pro X (Mac), Bosca Ceol (simple yet free), Audacity (completely free and with awesome effects)


  1. 2D: photoshop (expensive yet the best choice), Inkscape(vector), Krita ( the complete package), gimp (raster graphics)

  2. 3D: blender (open source and free), Maya, 3ds max, cinema 4d

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