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Games Design Process

Games Design Process
The Games Design Process

The computer games design process is based on the general design process but has a process which is solely focused around the area of computer games. The headings differ from those in the general design process but they are effectively the same steps just broken down further and retitled for a particular task. The overall process takes on the form of 3 major stages with each containing a subset of more specific stages. The stages are called pre-production, production and post-production. As the names suggest the processes central objective is the creation of the game. The stages are discussed in theory below and the application of this theory is explained through text and video tutorials on this website. Just use the search bar to find what you need.

Pre-production:

Analysis of Brief/Sector:

If you are designing a game for a client or for a college project you will be given a brief (set of instructions) that you will need to follow. Read these carefully and identify the key requirements that you need to fulfil. If you are designing the game for yourself then you will need to analyse the existing market, identify a gap or choose a game genre, engine and target audience. In this way you are creating your own brief.

Research:

Research is an important part of any design project and it will help you to identify possible software to use, genres to choose, ideas to develop, characters to animate and much, much more. It is also important to familiarise yourself with games already on the market as these will be the competition for your game and they will have set the standards that you need to meet or beat for your game to be successful.

Brainstorming: 

This is just a buzzword for idea generation and although the process may sound simple coming up with an idea for a game that is both original and interesting is very difficult. For example a FPS where a senile granny goes on a shooting rampage in a local park wearing a hospital gown, carrying two bags of shopping and shouting "quiet down!" may well be original but is it interesting to your target audience or even politically correct? I think not. This stage needs time and consideration; For help and assistance visit our article on idea generation.

Game Concepts/Objectives: 

Once you have decided on the basic idea for the game you then need to develop it further. What is it called? What are the characters called? What are they like? What is the objective of the game? How many levels? Where is it set? In what time is it set? All these questions and more need to be answered in order to develop a fully working, feasible and interesting game world that the player will want to get involved with and interact with.

Concept Art: 

Having decided on all the details, you then need to develop the style of the game. You will do this through concept art. Concept art demonstrates how the characters, terrains, building and objects will look. They may be in a cartoon style, a photo realistic style or anywhere in between.

Map development: 

Now that the details are in place and the style has been chosen, the layout of the game world must be considered. Is it a free roam map? Is it broken into territories or sections? Is it an island? These choices are yours to make (unless specified in the brief). This stage does not need to be too detailed and is merely intended as a basis for the main structure of the game.

Sketched Level Design: 

This stage develops on the level/game map and breaks it down into more detail. In these sketches you will sketch building plans, and map plans, level paths and more. These sketches will include the positioning of enemies, objects, pick-ups etc. It is a vital stage in the game design process as it the first and last time that you should be making actual game layout decisions which will directly affect the gameplay. You should base these decisions around the previous stages and the outcomes of your work during them.

Production:

Scale and Proportion:

Any game or level can appear huge or tiny depending on the scale of things relative to the character. As soon as you begin the production stage of your game, regardless of the software or game engine being used, you should place a character template or similar in the level to guide you in the correct scaling of your level.


Blocking out the Level:

This process is used to quickly layout the main sections and areas of a level. Each block may represent a building or cliff or vehicle or object etc. and doing this will allow you to quickly and easily get a sense of the environment you have created and make any necessary positional changes. It is also an ideal way to break down a large level into more manageable areas/blocks which can be detailed one at a time.


Adding Textures:

Textures should only be added after a level has been blocked out and all static meshes have been added. This is because textures are easier to edit and change than meshes and it is therefore better to match textures to meshes than vice versa. Most game engines will have a library of ready-made textures but creating your own is recommended as it will give your game a more original feel.

Adding Lighting: 

Lighting is one of the most important elements to a 3D game. Good lighting creates atmosphere, hides enemies, build tension for the player and makes a game look more realistic. Subtle changes and constant lighting rebuilds will take a lot of time so allow for that in your planning. Poor lighting cheapens a game, makes it look false and boring. Put in the time the time to get the rewards.

Adding Functionality and Interactivity:

As good as quality textures and feature lighting will make you game look unless it also has interesting and challenging elements for the player to interact with or use then it will not be successful. Things as simple as adding light switches and sliding doors add so much to a game by keeping the player constantly active as they roam around. More complex elements like elevators, vehicles, countdown clocks etc. will further enhance the player's experience.

Adding A.I.:

Artificial intelligence refers to elements in the game which can react to the players' movements, actions or decisions. They may be enemies or friendlies or other. Although complex to programme, once one is programmed correctly the same code can be used on an infinite amount of the same characters or only subtly edited for different characters.

Cinematics: 

These are short "movie" like interludes in the game used to inform the player on the game mission or objectives, give character information, hand out clues, show dialogue between characters etc. The reasons for using them are up to you but they are undoubtedly a great feature and add a sense of professionalism to your game while allowing the player a short respite from the action.


HUDs and Menus:

H.U.D. stands for heads up display and refers to the on screen game information which is displayed to assist or inform the player of what is happening. Items commonly displayed in the HUd are ammo, time, game map, health etc. The HUD needs to provide this information without intruding into the view of the player while playing the game, in most games the HUD can be toggled on/off. The menu is the first thing the player sees so it is great if it is interesting and enticing however the main function of the menu is of course to provide options for the player. Be sure your menu is clear and easy to use above all else.

Post-Production:

Testing: 

Once the game is packaged the process would appear to be complete but rigorous testing through gameplay is still required. Testing the game in the UDK editor as you go along is not sufficient to guarantee the game will be bug or glitch free. Many glitches are obvious after a few plays of the game and even if glitches are absent it is important to sure the game does not lag or freeze during certain elements of play.


Redesign: 

Based on the findings during the testing process various elements may need to be fixed or redesigned.

Packaging: 

Packaging the game refers to the act of compiling the game folders and files into an executable version of the game that others could download, install and play. Although this is one of the last stages its success is dependent on the correct set up of the level map and related files in the early stage of the production stages.

Promoting: 

Any game needs to be well promoted through eye-catching disc covers, DVD box packaging, internet ads, posters etc. Without good promotion, no matter how good the game is nobody will ever hear about it and therefore will never get the chance to play it. For help and assistance in creating the promotional graphics for your game visit our Photoshop and Illustrator tutorials.


What Next...

Now that you understand the theory why not try to apply this theory using the text and video tutorials in the UE4 section to guide you along the way. If you enjoyed this article then perhaps our articles on the webgraphicinterior or furniture design processes may also be of interest.


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