I want to make Video Games: Understanding your Role!
A Brief Introduction
Hello everyone, let’s get over with the introductions first. Think of this as a cut scene! As all cut-scenes should have a skip feature (helpful tip), if you want to skip ahead to the goodies, skip this section and go directly to "The Roles" section, a little scroll down!
My name is Subhayan Roy and I am a Computer Science Engineer who decided to make games, rather than just play them. Yes! I did it, I quit my boring Engineering job and pursued Video Games, thus becoming the weird one in the family forever!
Anyways, I finally joined a Game Design Course after a monotonous job as an Engineer and after 4 years of slogging, I decided to open my own Game Development Studio, The Ink Mines Studios.
However, during the last year I had the opportunity to train young minds in the field of Video Game Development as well. It came to my notice that albeit young people are really interested in video games, they try to enter the field without any knowledge and thus, are never able to do what they truly want or are capable of.
Thus, I am starting this blog with the hopes of helping all the newcomers in the field and provide a little bit of help for their future. I’ll try to update this blog weekly however, due to circumstances, I might be late from time to time.
Without further ado, let’s start the very basics of video game development.
The first thing that I have seen youngsters seeking to be a part of the industry, get confused about is the role in video game development itself. The thing is the Video Game industry changes quite frequently as it’s part of the entertainment industry. Thus, the terminologies studios and institutes use differ from region to region. Let’s first put out a statement that Game Development is rarely a one-person job! It almost always requires a team unless a person possesses a tremendous amount of skill. Even then, developing a game solo will require much longer time than developing as part of a team. So now, let’s understand the team.
However, the core team of a Video Game Development team are as follows:
The Game Designer
The Game Artist
The Game Programmer
Hey! What about sound? And story?
I know, I know! Of course, there are many other roles required and we will get to them as well! However, the 3 roles mentioned above are the key roles required to develop a game.
So, what exactly do these people do?
The Game Designer designs the game, The Game Artist draws and the programmer codes, DUH! To put it in layman terms, well yea! But let’s discuss what do these roles actually entail!
The Game Designer:
In one sentence, the Game Designer is the one who sets up the rules of the world.
Rules? Games have Rules?
Well, rules are a must for any activity to be considered a “game”. Let us take the game “Rock, Paper, Scissors” as an example. The whole concept that rock beats scissor or that scissor defeats paper are actually rules.
In Video Games, the rules can be as simple as player dies after falling down a pit to as complicated as player can use a special combo of 3 to unleash a unique move which can be deflected if player 2 unleashes a reversal…you get the gist!
So, the Game Designer is the one who sets the rules of the game by defining the game world and all its aspects. The Game Designer defines the vision of the game as well. The Game Designer is also responsible for other things such as designing the levels, designing game systems, game balancing, story development and maybe even project management.
Game Designer Thug Life!
Wow? So many things? What amazing software do these Game Designer use?
Game Designers mostly use *brace for it* Microsoft Word and Excel (or other documentation software you may have). Yes, the core skill-set you need as a Game Designer is communication and documentation!
Why Communication & Documentation?
Like I have stated before, Video Game Development is a team job. The key responsibility in any team project is communication. In a creative field like Video Game Development, everyone has different ideas. It becomes really difficult to keep the team focused on the vision of the game. This is done by proper communication through documents.
In the beginning of Video Game Development, we have a “Conception phase”. In this conception phase, the team brainstorms ideas. Once, an idea is settled upon, it’s the Game Designer’s responsibility to write documents defining the concept, later the game and all its nuances.
The documents a Game Designer writes are Concept Document, Game Design Document, Art Design Document and Technical Design Document. These documents are handed out to the teams and the game is developed according to them. In case of any updates or changes, the documents are updated as well.
We will go through more about the Game Designer Role in the following blog posts to come.
The Game Artist:
In one sentence, the Game Artist defines the look and feel of the game from scratch.
Look and Feel?
Every video game has a particular style for everything that’s there in the game. For example, if we consider Skyrim, it would be weird if one of the Dragons was in pixel art style. If we consider Super Mario Bros. on the other hand, it would be weird if one of the goombas was 3D!!!
Well, looks like one of them mods to me!
Look and Feel is what art style the game assets will be developed in, how will the characters look like, how will the characters be dressed, the look of the enemies, the environment, the mood of the environment and how would everything fit in together to create a stunning visual for the player to enjoy.
The Game Artist defines this look and feel and creates art accordingly to this . Game artists start with a conception phase as well in which they first define the look and feel with concept art. Once the concept art is done, the assets are produced in 2D or 3D, depending on the game itself.
Not only conception and asset production, the Game Artist has several other responsibilities such as animation, optimizing the assets as well as making the collateral as well such as posters, banners, etc.
Game Artists use several software to help them digitally. The most common ones being Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, Spriter, Spine Pro for 2D and Autodesk Maya, 3DS Max and Blender for 3D.
The Game Programmer:
In one sentence, the Game Programmer is responsible for the technical part of the Video Game Development process.
Yes, the Game Designer has an amazing idea and the Game Artist has unique art style but there won’t be any video game if it weren’t for our technical geniuses. The Game Programmer is responsible for coding on the engines and actually developing the video game.
Engines? Nobody said anything about automobiles!
Engines or Game Development Engines are software or tools used by developers to code and compile a game quickly and efficiently. Some of the famous game development engines currently are Unity and Unreal Engine. Many others like Godot are coming up as well! Sometimes, in bigger studios, Game Programmers also have to create such engines themselves from ground up.
The Game Programmer uses such Engines, integrates the assets given by the Game Artist and gives life to “special” idea that the Game Designer had.
Not only coding (or actually, scripting), another major responsibility of programmers is to fix bugs!
Bug Fixing is a “Major” responsibility?
In game development, yes! Since most things in Video Game Development are dependent on each other, the number of bugs is usually quite large in number! Especially, after you think is the game is made! Not even counting the ones your players discover after the game is published!
The programmer usually has to deal with these and solve them in an efficient way!
Other than these, the programmer also has to think about optimization as if the video game is not optimized, players won’t be able to play it properly.
It's so true, it hurts!
Summing it Up
So, in a nutshell, the Game Designer thinks of the vision for the game world and sets the rules and parameters for the same, documents them and communicates to the rest of the team. The Game Artist decides the look and feel and creates art assets for the world and lastly, the programmer uses an engine to code the game using the assets and the documents and make the game a reality!
In the next post, we will talk more in-depth about each role and their responsibilities. Feel free to leave comments about how I can improve this series!