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  • Game Curricula: Differences in Focus

    [08.04.09]
    - Lewis Pulsipher

  • Game Development

    In video game development, your concern is how to create the entire game, to get from the image of the game originally residing in the mind of the designer(s) -- the initial game design -- to a working video game. (A better term would be video game production or video game creation.) The great part of the production time and money is devoted to programming and art, with lesser amounts spent on game design. 

    A school teaching game development, then, may concentrate on one of the aspects, or may try to cover the three major ones, design, programming, and art.   

    In contrast, in the non-electronic game world, game development plays a fairly small part in the creation of a game, because there is no programming, no sound, and so forth. The art is simple, and there is rarely much of it. A published non-electronic game is 80 to 95 percent the work of the designer, whereas a AAA list video game is perhaps 25 percent the work of the design team (such games are designed by committee, in effect, if not formally).

    A video game developer who is not a designer, when playing or watching a game, is likely to think about how it how it was made, what software tools were used, how long it took, how many people were involved. But developers usually love to play games, as well.

    The "deliverables" of game development students, depending on their concentration, will be 3D models, animation, artwork, pieces of game programs, mods, fully-realized simple video games (no one has the time to make a AAA list style game in school).

     Game Design

    This brings us to game design. The game designer is the person who conceives the framework and structure of a game, who writes the rules or the game design document for the game, who decides how to modify the prototype many times until, ideally, the game is good enough to be manufactured.

    Game design is a combination of conception, communication, and dogged continuous improvement, via playtesting. The initial ideas don't count for much, and anyone who thinks he can get an idea and someone else will do the real work is in cloudcuckoo land.  

    In video games, constant communication is very important, as other people actually make the game and get it to work. The designer has to describe his game in great detail so that those people can make it. (In the non-electronic world, the designer makes the entire game, except for the actual production artwork. Communication with play testers and publishers is still important.) 

    In many cases, AAA list video games are actually designed by committee, involving several official "designers" but also every person on the production team. Everyone wants to contribute to how the game works, and the designer must carefully accommodate (and take advantage of the brain power of) all those folks.

    A video game designer, when playing or watching a game, is likely to think about player interaction, challenges, what makes the game worth playing. 

    The "deliverables" of game design students are completed non-electronic games, completed levels for existing games, completed game mods, game design documents (for games not yet made), and (in conjunction with game development students) completed simple video games.

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