It seems like everyone wants to make games nowadays. A typical flow of thoughts could go something like this: “if playing games is fun then making them should be even better, right? And I could brag about that to my friends! And of course make loads of money! Isn’t it a beautiful prospect? So just tell me how to quickly make my first game!”.
Unfortunately, not all people who are just starting are aware of what game development really is. So let us try to shine some light on what game development really is.
Simply speaking, game development is the process of making games. That includes everything from the early idea up until final release and beyond.
Game development can be divided into 3 stages:
- pre-production (planning, prototyping),
- production (developing, testing, pre-launch, launch),
- post-production (fixing bugs, adding new content, marketing).
Let the adventure begin!
Before you start with development you need a game idea. We know it’s not an easy task and usually good ideas don’t come with a blink of an eye. Best thing you can do? Unfortunately there’s no such thing.
We’ve seen and experienced a variety of different ways to come up with an idea for a game and you’ll probably find something that works for you perfectly. But please don’t get discouraged if your first idea won’t click. Just generate the next one.
How do we come up with game ideas? Oh… It depends! Sometimes one of us just wakes up with a brilliant idea (an idea from a dream actually started our gamedev journey, but that’s probably a topic for another time). Sometimes we see, say or hear something that we can convert into the game. Most often we brainstorm. And there’s no shame in admitting to looking for inspiration on the Internet or in other games and yeah, we do that too.
No matter the way you come up with that perfect idea for your game this is the first thing that’s needed to start the whole process.
The next step is to define more details about the game. It’s a good time to ask & answer a few questions. Here are some of them:
- Do I have the skills to build it?
- Will I need to hire external help?
- How big will the team be?
- What is the estimated budget to develop this game?
- How long will it take to develop?
- What is the monetization strategy? Will it be a paid or freemium game?
- What are the key features it must have?
- Who is the target audience? Is there a market for it?
- On which platforms it will be available?
- Who is my biggest competitor? What will distinguish my idea?
And that’s only part of what you need to think about!
To organize all the information and answers for those questions you can also prepare a game design document (GDD). It’s a game’s blueprint, a document that showcases the project as a whole. It includes elements like the game idea, genre, core mechanics, gameplay, levels/world design, story, characters, illustrations/sketches, marketing and monetization strategy, etc. Basically everything connected to the game project. Here’s a great article explaining all aspects of GDD.
We, as a two-person team, don’t use this document anymore. We’ve tried that during the development of our first two games. It just didn’t work for us. Now we have and idea & most important things written down and that’s enough for our needs. We prefer a more agile approach which is less about documentation and more about emergent development.
You’ve got a great game idea so now it’s time to check whether or not it’ll work and it’s worthwhile to pursue. This is where the prototype comes in very handy.
Game prototype checks the functionality, user experience, gameplay, mechanics, etc. It’s made of placeholder objects for speed of use and saving precious time.
If that prototype proves the idea successful you’re moving to the production stage. If that isn’t the case you’re better off starting from the beginning.
Welcome to the longest & most challenging game development stage. Developing, testing, pre-launch, launch… Lots to do, so all hands on deck!
Everything you see in a game needs to be developed by someone.
Code must be written to bring each piece of in-game content to life. 2D/3D art & models must be designed and polished. Game levels must be created. Sounds & music must be developed. An interesting story must be written. Whatever needs to be done to bring your game idea to life happens here.
Throughout the development process you shouldn’t forget to test. Test early and often. Test everything and show the game as early as possible to your testers. It’ll help to find all the nasty bugs, ensure that the game runs smoothly and what is most important – get feedback to improve the game as many times as it is possible.
After all of the testing, the game should be ready to see the light of day. You can launch closed tests for your most trusted players or make them open for everyone interested. Pre-launch and waiting for players’ feedback can be a very stressful time for developers. Is this game even fun? Is it too easy/too hard? What media outlets will write about our game? Will they like it or hate it? In those hard times remember this:
If you’re not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late. – Reid Hoffman
During pre-launch you also need to make some noise about a game. You can:
- contact the press, influencers and YouTubers,
- show game on gamedev events,
- post on social media channels and forums,
- choose the paid promotion,
- or do whatever else will come to your mind to spread the word. 😉
Launch day is on the horizon and the finished game is waiting for its release. You’ve got some time to fix more bugs and polish the game as much as possible. Or just relax.
3,2,1… Launch! 🚀🚀🚀
Uf. Now the worst is behind you. Or is it?
Once the game is live in the stores game development process continues, but on a smaller scale. Now you have to take care mostly of fixing bugs, game balancing and adding new content based on players’ feedback. And of course of executing marketing strategy.
To sum it up, game development is a complex, often long-lasting process with multiple variables. There’re a ton of things to do along the way. Some developers do it all solo and some team up with others to achieve that final goal – released game. But no matter how it ends the whole process starts with an idea in your head.
Dive into various parts of mobile games marketing, create your own marketing strategy and make your game as successful as it can be. 📈🤩
All graphics designed by stories / Freepik