Many people who play computer games do not even imagine how much hard work and original ideas the video game creation requires. Creation of the PC game is a long and time-consuming process which includes both technical and creative aspects. That’s why, in most cases, the game is created not by one professional but with a help of the whole team of developers, in which every single person is a specialist in his field of expertise. Let’s create our own PC game imaginarily studying the main stages of the development process, and its basic elements, from the beginning to the end.
- Purpose: – idea, – genre, – setting.
- Means: – program code, – game engine.
- Game mechanics: – objects – management, – physics engine – artificial intelligence.
- Levels: – level design.
- Design: – arts, – 2D, 3D models, – animations, – backgrounds – special effects – screen and menu design.
- Plot: – scripts, events, – dialogues, narratives – video inserts.
- Sound: – sound effects, – music, – voice.
- Polishing: – materials combination (a-version), – bug fixes (b-version).
- Promotion: – advertising, – placement, – sale system.
- Support: – release of the patches – additions release.
We`ve provided you with a general idea of the game development process, and now we can consider all the steps thoroughly in a specific order.
Level 1. Purpose
All the successful games are unique and at the same time, they can be referred to the certain genre. A genre is a kind of foundation for the entire game. A decision on the genre is the first thing! Nowadays the game market is replete with the diversity of game directions, just find the best option for you:
- Endless race
- First Person Shooter
- The tower defense
- Life simulation
The selected genre can be slightly corrected during the game creation but its essence should remain the same.
The setting is a game belonging to the certain storyline or to the particular virtual world. The most widespread setting types are the science fiction (sci-fi), World War II, the Middle Ages, steampunk, post-nuclear world, anime, comics.
Game features description: explain the idea
When you`ve decided on the game direction, it is necessary to note some of its details.
List all your ideas and concepts, and combine them. Prepare 5-15 features. For example:
1) Concept: the building of the space station.
Feature: You can build your own space station and manage it.
2) Concept: The damage caused by meteorites.
Feature: The player tries to survive under conditions of the meteor showers, solar flares, and so on.
Add the features until the full assurance and thoughts: “This game is absolutely my cup of tea”.
Put these drafts on the table for a week in order to give your brain a little rest. You`ll get the opportunity to see them from another point.
The purpose of the game project is solved, so now we have to choose the means (tools and materials) of its achieving.
Level 2. Means
In our case, the programming code is the main building material. It is the digital images, three-dimensional models, sounds and texts in the form of ones and zeros sequences.
First of all, we have to choose the most convenient and effective programming language. Then the hard and painstaking work on writing code that can operate with two-dimensional or three-dimensional objects in space, the connection of the images and sounds awaits us.
To create a virtual three-dimensional space we will need to use the complex geometrical formulas for constructing the projection of 3D-objects onto the plane. During the development process, we will have to study different images and video files formats, all kinds of codecs and encoding.
Fortunately, in our time it is possible to use the ready software module (game engine), in which all the basic functions that can bind together the graphics, sound, objects and their movements are already implemented. For independent developers, the range of engines is great and varied.
– With the help of the game engine, the work with graphics, sounds, and artificial intelligence is easier.
– Different engines – different pros and cons. Something is better suited for the two-dimensional games, another one – for the three-dimensional games. The most widespread and cool game engines are:
- GameMaker: Studio – one of the most popular engines for the two-dimensional games.
- Unity – a simple to use the engine for creating the three-dimensional games.
- RPG Maker XV – a scripting engine for the creation of the two-dimensional role-playing games in the JRPG style.
- Unreal Development Kit – a three-dimensional engine for the multipurpose use.
- Source – a very popular and frequently updated engine for creating the three-dimensional games.
- Project Shark – a 3D engine for the beginners and advanced users.
A game engine does not free you completely from the use of desktop development services but reduces them to a minimum.
Level 3. Game mechanics
The most important creative part of any game that is located not on the surface – game mechanics. If we imagine a game as a living organism, the game mechanics will be its nervous system and brain. It is a set of the rules that makes the game work.
What will happen if a player uses the exact bonus? If a player touches an enemy, what will happen then? Will he lose his health from this contact, or only from the hit? If a player comes close to the machine, will he sit inside of it and drive? Will a player be able to build anything or even to move the objects? Hundreds or even thousands of such questions may arise, the answers to which represent the game mechanics.
The foundation of the whole mechanics are the game objects. The main heroes, the computer opponents, the secondary characters, the bonuses, the moving objects, the scenery – all these game objects have their unique properties and possible actions.
The game mechanics determines by which keys a hero or a certain game object will be managed, and what action will occur after clicking a particular button. This also includes the laws of behavior of the game objects (physics engine) and the enemies (artificial intelligence).
The “management” is responsible for the movement of the hero that we control, while the physics engine is responsible for the movements that occur without our direct intervention. These actions simulate the physical laws of the real world (sometimes in a distorted form).
The ready game engines often include the physics engine. Just add the ready physical characteristics to your unique objects: weight, density, elasticity, durability. If you decide to create your own physics engine, try to find a talented programmer with a good understanding of the object-oriented programming (OOP) principles and knowledge of classical physics.
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
AI is responsible for the behavior of the computer enemies or allies. Its role varies considerably depending on the game genre. A serious strategic game requires tremendous work on AI, while in a simple casual game or online project targeted at the battle between only the real players the AI is not needed at all.
The game rules in the form of the game mechanics are ready, so now we need to create an area where these rules will be realized.
The created game objects are located in specific virtual spaces – levels (locations). A game usually contains a plurality of separate levels, the transition between which occurs in the course of the plot. However, in recent years due to the increased computer performance, the games with one large world that is only conditionally divided into different locations (GTA, Skyrim) are developed.
On each particular level the game objects, walls, platforms, decorations, backgrounds are placed. If we imagine the game as the house, the design of the game levels is a floor layout, and the number of levels – a number of the building floors.
This part of the game development process is within the competence of the level designers. The level designer must have a clear idea of the gameplay and should feel how the game situation changes when the objects move.
The level design plays an enormous role in the whole gameplay.
Level 4. Design
Are you ready to create the unique picture for your unique story? The creation of the video game design is a dynamic and exciting process.
Of course, if you develop a simple 2D-game, you are able to draw something consisting of the pixels but in the more serious and large-scale projects hiring the professional artists and designers is the best option.
First, you need to create the images of heroes, enemies, game items, backgrounds, and other decorations. They originally are drawn either on paper or on a computer using a graphic tablet.
2D, 3D models
On the basis of arts, designers create either the three-dimensional sprites made of pixels or the three-dimensional models made of polygons. And do not forget to impose the textures on top of the models.
The game designer creates the animations for the game objects that will move during a gameplay. A creation of the animation for heroes and enemies is especially difficult because they have to do more than thousands of different movements. Currently, the developers use a special «Motion Capture» technology that allows creating humanlike 3D-characters with animations based on the movements of real people.
Creation of the background is a simpler task: just draw it once, add to the desired location without any changes, and … just leave it in peace.
It is, in essence, the same animation but instead of moving the objects there is a movement of particles and light filters. The rays of light in various directions when taking bonuses, a fire in a burning building, a smoke after the grenade explosion, the laser beams out of the gun are the examples of the special effects. Their usage makes the game bright, lively, more realistic, and expressive.
Screen and menu design
It is necessary to design not only the game levels but also a system that integrates them into a single entity – the game menu (lines, buttons, settings pages). The initial menu is generally a business card of the game, so it should look perfect.
On the game screen, there is also a set of elements that require the design – the number of lives, a life bar, a minimap, a quick menu to select the action, an inventory, a task list, the dialogue screens. There is one appropriate acronym – GUI (Graphical User Interface).
Level 5. Plot
How to grab the attention of the player? It is the central issue which the developer should rely on while the plot forming. Any incomprehensibility, a boring or difficult point can instantly disappoint the player. Only the qualitatively written plot can attract the player, and arouse the desire to pass the entire game, and therefore – listen to your interactive story to the end.
The plot is useful only if it catches the player`s feelings. This is possible only when there is a unique, interesting and believable story; each hero must have his own inimitable personality and do the appropriate actions. Don`t overload the plot with the extra characters and events, which moreover should be logical and maintain an intrigue.
The best way is to create the plot directly inside the game. This is achieved by the use of scripted scenes. The script can be described as: when a player comes to a certain place or takes a required item, thereafter the programmed actions are carried out.
With the help of scripting events, you can make a very diverse gameplay, or even turn the game in the endless scripts amusement (Call of Duty game is based on this principle). The only disadvantage of such a method – the player`s freedom of actions is limited.
All the dialogues and narratives occur during the game: in the safe locations or with a stop of playing time in order to make a player focus only on the text. The player has to listen to the narratives because the game in this moment of time pauses but does not stop completely.
In the dialogues, it is even necessary to choose the proper answer. The choice of the answer provides the interactivity and certain practical meaning – the properly selected answer can bring an added bonus, facilitate the further game or save the selected features of the hero’s character in the role-playing games.
At the end of the certain level or at the checkpoints instead of the tedious text and voice you can show players the interesting video inserts (cutscenes) which always take the breath away and it is impossible to break away from the view.
This technique can be created using the separate video files, as well as the game engine. Video files allow transferring the image of any quality and complexity but when making a distribution of the game, they take up a lot of disk space.
Artists, animators, 3D-designers, scriptwriters, and directors are involved in video inserts creation.
Level 7. Sound
The stunningly written and beautifully designed project is silently looking at us and waiting for the moment when we add the sound to it.
Each primitive game movement requires an emphasizing sound. It can be a sound of the moving car, a sound of the discovered bonus, a sound of the coming enemy, a sound of the sword hit, etc.
There are 3D-action games which the developers have neglected to add the sound of footsteps of the main hero or enemies too. As a result, we see that the hero moves in the space, and it seems that he does not go but smoothly slides.
Good sound effects not only fill the silence but also supplement the game concept. Most frequently the real sounds recorded in the digital form are used.
In addition to the sound effects, there is a need in a specific music (soundtrack). It is an audio background for everything that happens on the screen. Music is also one of the stylistic elements of the game, and it has the strong impact on the mood of the players. There are a lot of both paid and free collections of game compositions that you can apply to your game.
The third sound component of the game is the voice acting of the dialogues and monologs. It is a quite expensive but not the essential feature. In some games, there are almost no dialogues and texts, so you can do without the voice acting. Subtitles can resolve the problematic situation.
Voice acting increases the involvement of a player in the gameplay and in the common story that you tell.
Level 8. Polishing
The development process of a big game is organized in such a way that the different specialists are responsible for different game elements. At the initial stage, the game is a set of separate components from the various fields of art: images, sounds, 3D-models, architecture, texts, sketches, cutscenes, design. And then, finally, there comes a time for gathering the scattered stones. By means of the software tools, the separate objects are integrated into a single complex system.
Materials combination (a-version)
When developing a game using the game engine, the integration of objects occurs gradually. As long as the game is not fully assembled, it is called an alpha version. At this point, you can already test the individual levels, scripts, and other mechanisms.
Moreover, right now it is possible to launch the demo version and the short video with gameplay.
Bug fixes (b-version)
The fully assembled but not checked for errors game is called beta version. Bug fixes are one of the most important parts of the development process as a beautiful but not working thing is a useless thing.
It is the task of the Game Tester whose job is painstaking and time-consuming (30 percent of the total time!).
Level 9. Public release
Now it`s a high time for development of your own game! You`re fully armed with the experience and specific knowledge, so try to create a new piece of art. We`ll wait a little bit here… .
So, have you created the game of your dream? Yes??? It means that our plan works, and the game promotion, advertising, sales, the stage of maintenance and updating are looking forward to your project!