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  • Excerpt: How Games Are Made - A Common Misunderstanding

    [02.21.12]
    - Charlie Czerkawski

  • The developers begin with a basic prototype, blocked out with cubes/grey boxes/throw-away assets. The gameplay is built to function with these assets, and once gameplay exists, the art is moved into the game, effectively as an aesthetic which ‘lies over' the gameplay.

    It is true that this is a very much simplified overview of the game creation process, and things do become far more complicated. There are, of course, many sub-iterations within gameplay development.  For example, the first stage is usually to move a character in an empty environment, then place obstacles within this environment, then enemies, etc, building up the scene. Along the way, the final art is introduced - a tricky and demanding process.

    The main point of this, however, is that the art does not usually dictate the gameplay. The designers ‘play around' with the gameplay. There may be brainstorming sessions which involve whole teams of people, and sometimes, like our hypothetical chess designer, the video game designer will have to try things out on paper first! Of course, they will do this in consultation with others and with a deep awareness of and respect for all the other skills involved, but the decisions to be made will be the responsibility of the designer.

    The programmer will make the game work, solving a series of difficult and sometimes intractable problems along the way. The artist will add that vital, visual appeal which we all know and love within video games. The success or otherwise of the finished game will depend very much on the interactions between these people, each with his or her own area of expertise. The producer will have overall responsibility for bringing that game to the market. But if the designer has some misguided idea that his job is simply to ‘tell everyone else what to do' - the game is probably doomed from the start!

    What Should You Do To Become A Designer

    The previous sections have effectively set the scene, defining and describing the role of game designer. Unfortunately, the advice given by so many career guides does not extend much beyond these rather vague definitions. But you're looking for something a bit more concrete, aren't you or you wouldn't have downloaded this eBook! You want to know what you have to do to become a designer.

    The bad news is that there is no sure fire direct route into game design, and even when you think you may have found it, the path ahead will be full of unexpected twists and turns. In fact I sometimes think it's more of a maze than a route. It therefore follows that clear-cut advice can be problematic. However, I will give you my opinions based on the current state of play and attempt to formulate some kind of pragmatic approach, divided into seven separate sections.

    It's up to you how far you want or need to follow these instructions, and following them is no guarantee of a job in game design. But at least the discussions in each section will give you food for thought when you're trying to decide where to go next. And the good news is that if you pay attention to at least some of this advice, it might just give you a head start over the multitudes of young people who say they want to ‘make video games' with no clear idea of how they are going to set about it.

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