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How to made video games

by Nathan Zachary

Are you curious about the creation of video games? This article describes the steps involved in creating a video game, focusing on the “pipeline,” a phrase used in the industry to describe the process of starting from scratch.

What is the pipeline for game development?

The process of creating a video game from conception to completion is known as the game development pipeline.

The game development pipeline, which functions much like a production line, helps arrange the flow of work so that everyone is aware of what they are expected to provide and when.

The pipeline also assists in managing the budget and schedule for game production, which helps to eliminate waste and bottlenecks.

No matter whether you’re working on a AAA, indie, or mobile game, the process is largely the same, despite the fact that pipelines differ between projects and firms.

Things which sounded fantastic in theory might not function so well in practise because a game is constantly changing. Consequently, the pipeline isn’t always a linear process. Work must be submitted for creative approval and frequently requires modifications. Gamesoncloud

The three phases of game creation

Pre-production, production, and post-production are the common stages of video game development.

Prior to production
Each and every project starts here. Pre-production essentially outlines the game’s content, justification for creation, and production requirements.

You might have a brilliant concept for a certain kind of game, a compelling tale you want to tell, or you might want to create one that makes use of a specific technology (e.g. VR, a new controller, or console).

Pre-production, production, and post-production are the common stages of video game development.

Prior to production
Each and every project starts here. Pre-production essentially outlines the game’s content, justification for creation, and production requirements.

You might have a brilliant concept for a certain kind of game, a compelling tale you want to tell, or you might want to create one that makes use of a specific technology (e.g. VR, a new controller, or console).

The team is currently relatively small. A producer, programmer, and concept artist might be there (or, if you’re a one-person operation, you’ll be doing the majority of it yourself!).

The commercial side of the project, notably the finances, is handled by a video game producer. In order to sell the product, they create marketing plans and manage the money.

By creating sketches and artwork, a concept artist establishes the mood for the project from the beginning. This project’s early artwork contributes to the game’s visual language and serves as a visual reference for everyone involved.

The design plan for the game (GDD)

In a sense, a game’s Game Design Document (GDD) serves as its compass. It is a live document that aids in everyone’s comprehension and adoption of the project’s overall vision.

The GDD consists of items like:

The notion or notions
Characters and narrative
Gameplay elements
World and level design
Drawings and/or artwork
monetization approach
The GDD is regularly updated and improved throughout production because it is a live document. This could be because of technical or economical limitations, or it could just be that you realise that things don’t look, play, or function as well as you had planned.

Many people choose to employ more agile development strategies, which focus less on process and documentation and more on simply developing things. This is especially true with smaller developers. Larger studios, though, favour a different strategy.

Large gaming firms like EA, Microsoft, Sony, Ubisoft, and others are very process-driven and need a lot of paperwork. It plays a significant role in how they have repeatedly succeeded.

A GDD helps you stay organised, identifies potential hazards, and enables you to foresee who you might need to recruit or outsource to in order to complete your project. Your game concept can appear to be very simple, but once it is laid out in a GDD, you may quickly learn how large and resource-intensive your project really is.

Without a plan, projects are significantly more likely to go over budget and schedule.

Having a GDD will also help you pitch and fund your game. Before making an investment, potential investors will want to see a sound plan.

Finally, once your product is ready for release, the GDD will assist you in marketing it.


A rough test of functionality, user experience, gameplay, mechanics, and aesthetic direction is a video game prototype.

Pre-production prototyping is done to determine whether the game idea will work and whether it is viable to develop. Many concepts fizzle out at this point.

To rapidly, readily, and affordably test theories and iron out many of the complexities of a game or set of systems, the team may frequently start with paper prototypes.

You can only design so far in your thoughts or on paper, despite the importance of concepts, psychology, theories, and other deep thinking metaphors. The majority of game concepts should be handled, felt, played, and tested as quickly as possible.

The goal is to launch a prototype as soon as possible to see if your concepts are practical and the game is as entertaining as you had imagined. Additionally, prototyping can disclose unforeseen difficulties that might completely alter the direction of your project. It’s crucial to have people test your prototype because they may not see things the same way as you do.

Game Design

In order to save time and money, placeholder assets are employed. During the early testing stage, these low-quality assets serve as substitutes for things like guns and props; if they are accepted, they are eventually replaced with the final, high-quality equivalents.

Within game development tools, placeholder assets can be purchased or downloaded for free online. They tend to be quite simple shapes, but they can occasionally be slightly more complex, as in this Soul: Cave asset pack created by Epic Games for Unreal Engine 4: petnursey says


The pipeline’s longest stage, production, requires all hands on deck.

Production, which can take anything from one to four years, is where the game truly begins to take shape. The plot has been polished, characters, creatures, objects, and locations have been made, the game’s rules have been established, levels and worlds have been constructed, code has been written, and much more!

In a video game, almost everything is an intentional choice. Every character, setting, and object is covered in here, along with the appearance, colours, noises, level of difficulty, guidelines, and point-scoring structure.

The game is constantly being tested and improved as work is being done because original ideas don’t always transition well in practise.

Let’s look at some of the essential video game development occupations and big game production milestones, keeping in mind that smaller teams will need to perform various responsibilities, whereas a larger studio will have more people, many of whom are production specialists.

Production Milestones:

Several benchmarks must be reached as the game is being developed.

prototype: This is the game’s first test (which happens in pre-production and is described in detail above). Some games might never progress past this point.

The first playable provides a much better sense of the game’s appearance and playability. The placeholders have been updated with higher quality elements, and artwork has been added, albeit it is still far from finished.

A vertical slice is a completely functional sample that you may use to introduce your game to publishers or investors. A vertical slice offers a first-person view of your game for a period of time that can be as brief as a few minutes or as long as 30 minutes.

Pre-alpha: The bulk of the content is created during this phase. Some significant choices will need to be made at this stage of game development. To enhance gameplay, content may be deleted or new components introduced.

Alpha: The game is “feature complete,” which means that all of the key elements have been included and that the entire experience can be enjoyed. Although some components, including art assets, might still need to be added, controls and functionality ought to be in good working order. The QA testers will ensure that everything functions properly and will notify the team of any mistakes.

Beta: At this stage, all the material and assets have been incorporated, thus the team should concentrate on optimization as opposed to including new features or capabilities.

Silver master: The game has reached its completion and is prepared to be submitted to the publishing company for public distribution.

important positions in the creation of games

The size and kind of the studio will determine the different game development responsibilities. These are some of the often occurring positions.

Project manager 

The project manager ensures that the game development process proceeds without hiccups, that deadlines are fulfilled, that risks are identified and addressed, and that team members are carrying out their duties. They frequently serve as the focal point for communication between the development and design teams and the executives. Project managers need to be incredibly organised and have strong interpersonal and communication abilities.

game programmers and designers

Game programmers contribute to the creation of games by translating design ideas into executable code. (Read more: What is the difference between game development and game programming, or how to become a game programmer.)

Programmers frequently use their creativity, math prowess, and patience to successfully translate ideas into dynamic images and sounds. Programmers are frequently software engineers or computer scientists with a strong programming background. They guarantee that the game operates smoothly.

Programming has a wide range of facets, such as:

constructing a game’s bespoke base engine
coding interactions, events, and functions
designing physics (e.g. gravity differences in a game set in space)
the creation and modification of 3D graphic renders
artificial intelligence opponents’ simulation
Including voiceovers, music, and sound effects
putting game mechanics and reasoning into practise
design of the user interface
the creation of keyboard, mouse, or joystick-specific code
enabling online or LAN multiplayer so that participants can compete or collaborate
creating unique tools
code porting across platforms
putting algorithms into practise, dealing with memory needs and cache concerns
Finding and removing bugs
Larger studios may have personnel that only focus on the user interface or specialists who are only responsible for the AI programming for the game.

A senior or lead programmer can earn more than $100,000 annually compared to the average programmer’s salary of $59,010. You can gain the knowledge and abilities needed to land your first position in the field by taking a game programming course.

Game designers

The creative force behind a game is its designer, who is typically a hybrid of a writer and an artist with some programming expertise.

Making engaging narratives, characters, objectives, guidelines, and challenges that encourage interactions with other characters, users, or objects is part of the game design production process.

Designers may be in charge of:

Creating the dialogue, individual backstories, and the overall plot
Creating the game’s rules, gameplay, and scoring scheme
Establishing the difficulty level
Environments, ledges, items, and constructions
World and level design
electronic editing
These duties would resemble specific responsibilities if you were employed by a bigger organisation; we’ll discuss those roles next.

According to Pascale, a lead can earn more than USD $93,926 while the average game designer pay is USD $63,838. (depending on experience, location, size of studio, and industry). Designers with advanced technical skills may go beyond this range. To gain a sense of the abilities required for a position in game design, check out our game design courses. (Read more about game design here.)

Level designers

The task of designing engaging levels for video games falls to level designers. Their responsibility is to lessen the possibility of confusion while the player is focused on progressing through the game and completing their objective or task.

The complexity of games has greatly increased over the years, therefore it’s usual in larger studios to find game designers who specialize solely in level design.

The concept art, photographic references, and GDD are all sources of inspiration for level designers as they doodle plausible maps and build physical models of levels.

They might need to thoroughly research historical events and real-world locales depending on the game style and whether it is based on real-world occurrences (such as a World War II fight). They must read the book or watch the movie if the game is based on it in order to find any hints. They’ll have to be imaginative and take ideas from the concept art if the universe is entirely made up.

They then create the levels, stages, or missions using a level editor, which is software used to develop levels and maps. They may also be responsible for arranging the start and end points, the locations of tunnels and secret lanes, the locations of interactions and conversation, the locations of monster spawn spots, the trigger points for specific actions, and many other things.

The task of finding and correcting flaws, such as players slipping outside of their designated boundaries or becoming imprisoned and unable to escape, falls on level designers. The difficulty with video games is that once they are released, the designer no longer has control over the game. Unexpected interactions between the player and the environments can reveal bugs that were missed during development.

Before being finalised, the level probably goes through multiple iterations.

Depending on the studio and region, a level designer can make an average salary of USD $56,884. Designers with greater seniority or experience may expect substantially higher salaries.

The Game Design Course explains the procedure for turning ideas into prototypes, how to make a level enjoyable, how to make sure your level is visually engaging, how to combine storytelling, and how to build and script your level in a game engine.

Game artists

Concept artists, animators, 3D modellers, and FX artists are examples of game artists.

This team is in charge of giving the game colour, motion, and life.

A concept artist normally works in pre-production, creating the initial visuals (often in 2D), but they might be re-engaged later in the game development cycle if new features are introduced or the game’s direction changes.

A 3D concept artist (who may also be the same artist) creates 3D environments, objects, and props using digital sculpting programmers like Brush, Maya, and Photoshop. They will also have details and textures.

3D modelers

It is possible to texture and animate 3D models of people, things, environments, weapons, and other items as desired. When recreating real items, modellers need to know how to obtain and use high-quality reference materials (e.g. an AK-47, Buzzard Attack Chopper, the Eiffel Tower, etc).

In the case of considerably larger items when an aerial perspective is required, modelers may employ drones instead of images of the objects they are making. If the entire game is fantasy, they will need to draw inspiration from the concept art and apply their creativity to develop something fresh and original. (Read more about 3D texturing here. Career Pathway for 3D Modelers

Game animators

Characters, objects, and settings are given plausible movement by game animators to give them depth and realism. They’ll plan out crucial animation moments and produce storyboards that correspond with the game’s plot.

Animators frequently have to do a lot of research (e.g. observing how animals behave and interact with others if working on an animal-based game). Animations can be made more realistic by using motion capture data.

FX artists By providing amazing effects like explosions, smoke, fire, and liquid simulations, as well as weather phenomena like rain, lightning, blizzards, and more, FX artists give gamers a more immersive and enjoyable experience.

Game FX artists typically work with programmers like Houdini FX or Maya, but they need also be familiar with game engines like Unity or Unreal Engine 4.

Audio engineers / sound designers / composers

The sound specialists generate audio cues and realistic sound effects, record character voice-overs and dialogue, and compose music to build the scene for players (e.g. opening music, menu pause music, marking a victory, etc).

testers for video games and quality assurance
Testers for video games are crucial to the creation of games! These people check games for bugs, make sure the game works smoothly, and make sure the player’s instructions are clear. In what is occasionally referred to as a bug sheet, they communicate faults to the development team.

further roles
Larger studios may have the ability to hire additional specialists in addition to the game development positions already mentioned, such as:

Quest architects
conflict planners
Writers, translators, and interpreters
The product team becomes more involved in the game development process as it assists with the marketing and distribution of the game.

  1. the editing stage
    Some team members are assigned to maintenance (fixing problems, providing patches), or creating extra or downloadable content after production is over and the game has shipped (DLC). Others might move on to the follow-up or the next undertaking.

To discuss what worked and what didn’t work and to figure out what could be done better the next time around, a post-mortem or debriefing may be organised. The finished, gathered, and saved versions of all the design documentation, assets, and code are kept in case they are ever required.

Additional resources for game creation: It’s vital to comprehend the game development process if you wish to create video games.

Whatever your position within the pipeline, being aware of the goals and hierarchy of each department can help you perform more effectively and prevent expensive difficulties in the future.

However, you will need to understand how your work influences theirs and how to transfer usable work to the subsequent stage of production. You don’t need to be an expert at everyone’s job. Being aware of the procedure will also increase your employability since every big studio follows a production timetable for video games.

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