A pipeline is a production line of game content development, when graphic elements move like on a pipeline, going through different stages of development from concept to completion.
Main stages of development are concept art, content production (model creation, texturing, animation), integration into the game.
More details of the stages are shown in this block diagram:
For each stage, there are specialists who are focused on a certain task. When the project has passed one development stage, it is transferred to the next one in another department. The department that transferred the project starts working on a new one immediately so the pipeline is working nonstop. If there are any corrections or any mistakes made, the project goes all over the pipeline cycle again. Most of the mental and experimental work is done at the Concept art stage due to this feature. Otherwise, the pipeline will be stuck and the work will stop.
Concept art is the initial stage of graphics development. In other words, those are quick sketches for future implementation. The main purpose of the concept of art is to create a sketch or a layout of the object in a short time and put it into production. The concept specialists are researchers in game development graphic sphere.
At an early stage, you can apply various options: from the craziest and bravest to the minimalistic and modest. Concepts are created according to technical descriptions, that come from game designers and narrators. It sets a framework and then comes the reverse feedback. After the feedback, the narration can be changed, or new ideas in the game design may occur.
For example, if you give a task to develop a “king” character, artists will start to sort out the options:
A concept artist can generate several hundred options by answering such questions.
Narrow the action after a game designers’ feedback, while meeting all the stages of development:
The game style, characters, small decor items, and entire levels are created according to the scenario. A scenario is approved by a game designer. In most cases, the development cannot be started until 80% of the content concept is completed. Sometimes, when the concept cycle is complete and everything is ready for production, the cycle can be started again. Such decisions can be reasonable before the project goes to production. Heavy losses can be sustained at a production stage due to the clumsiness of the pipeline. Companies are ok with such practice. Even 10 processing game cycles at the concept stage will cover the losses if the game is successful on release. Unlike the game made by the deliberately bad concept that does not pay off.
Often the concept departments, having handed over the project to the main development team, immediately begin work on a new project of the company, the concept of which will be completed just in time for the release of the previous one, providing a continuous pipeline operation process.