Behind the screen: video game development

***SUNDAY CALENDAR STORY FOR MARCH 9, 2014. DO NOT USE PRIOR TO PUBLICATION*** VAN NUYS, CA - FEBRUARY 27, 2014 - QA testers, including Mark Grimenstein, front, testing the new video game "Titanfall" at Respawn Entertainment video game development studio, Thursday, February 27, 2014. The studio is launching the new video game on March 11, 2014. (Ricardo DeAratanha/Los Angeles Times).

Video games are becoming increasingly popular nowadays. They broke into our lives when personal computers became affordable to the masses at the end of the 20th century. And now it is hard to think of any PC or mobile device that comes without a game pre-installed.

Game developers have gone so far as to create games with augmented reality, such as Pokemon GO, where players have to move around within the real world. Though the game was only released in July 2016, there are now already millions of players.

So considering all these facts, it’s not surprising that some people want not only to play, but also to develop games. They wonder what is behind the screen and are eager to improve the drawbacks that they see, or have their own ideas about how to make a cool video game.

Video games: how they work

Start with an idea

Like with any other creative process, video game design starts with an idea. As there are a number of games on the market already, designers may propose to modify an exciting game.

The design process starts with the creation of content and game rules. This is how the pre-production stage begins.

The end goal of this stage is to create a set of design documents, including a comprehensive plan, describing the deliverables and deadlines for the development team. This so-called production plan has to be reviewed regularly, because it is a living document that accompanies the development process.

Due to the complexity of the game development process, an entire team of designers and a separate team of programmers work on the game. They turn the production plan into reality.

“Bones” and “muscles”

Game developers are the people who are responsible for writing the software that forms the core process of any game development project.

Video game software development is the process of creating new source code: developers write instructions for the computer in a language that it understands.

It should be noted that the game industry has already reached a certain state of maturity, meaning that there are currently ready-made software packages for game making. Usually, off the shelf packages can be divided into three categories: for 2D games, 3D games and role-playing games. This software helps with game development since developers do not have to create the game from scratch. However, to create a unique game, writing original computer code is a must.

Advanced programmers use such programming languages as C++, Python, Java, Perl, etc.

The written code is called a “game engine,” as this is what makes the game unique and come alive.

So the game software is its “bones.” But in order to make a fully-featured video game other specialists must be engaged. Artists work on the visual appearance of the game (characters, weapons, environment) and audio engineers create sound effects. The game’s various levels are created by level designers. All this hard work is invested to develop the game’s “muscles.”

Game designers are constantly involved throughout the development process. They are responsible for fixing issues with the game’s design, which may appear during the production stage.

In addition, designers are responsible for making sure that all the ideas that are included in the production plan are realized and that the game plays as intended.

When the game is ready, it must be tested. Testers are responsible for identifying software bugs and other weak points in the game (such as errors in the calculation of scores).

Who are those wizards who create video games?

Given the unprecedented popularity of video games and the fast-growing market for them, it would be quite logical to suppose that video game developers are both in demand and well-paid.

But to become a game developer one needs at least a bachelor degree in computer science or computer information systems. A good developer has programming skills and understands gameplay theory. He is also aware of different types of game platforms and technologies. This job requires an ability to think systematically and strategically. Those who are interested in working as game developers should remember that game development is an intensive process, especially for complex games, and so it may last several years.

So behind the screen, you will find a separate world, which is created by an army of qualified professionals. And this army is not going to stop surprising us with new amazing and engrossing video games anytime soon.

Olga Yaskova

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