This research paper will cover the different aspects of project management in video game development. Focus will also be on discussing and overviewing the project lifecycles as it pertains to game development. There is also interest in seeing within the realm of video game development how the application of knowledge, various skills, tools, and the techniques are used. The will also be focus on examining pre-production, production and post production in the gaming industry. Topics will explore issues pertaining to, but not limited to, stakeholder expectations, timeliness of implementation, and optimization of resources. Additionally, information will be given covering the concepts of meeting the needs of business's vision and mission regarding development and exploring how the identification of and addressing any issues that may arise in game project development.?
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The video game industry has been steadily growing for over almost four decades. From Nintendo to Sony, there have been a myriad of games that have been made for the platform over the course of the video game industry. The initial commercial history of video games and the birth of this industry inevitably begins with the US military's computer hardware and networks. At the time, infrastructure was beginning to shift towards facilitating both game development and market consumption. Over the course of almost four decades, many games have been made, but the question is, exactly how are these spectacular pieces of art being made. When people buy video games, their focus is not on the people who actually make the product, or even on the process it takes to create the game that they own. Consumers only see the end product that is distributed and hit store shelves. For most, their energies and focus are on purchasing the product and investing in actual game play. However, the process and man power it takes to create a game is an intricate undertaking. It is stated that the intricacy of modern video games requires workers with varied skill sets such as computer engineers and programmers, visual artists, audio engineers, animators, game designers, writers, and quality assurance testers (Weststar, 2015). For starters the biggest component to game development are video game developers (VGDs) (Weststar, 2015).
Additionally, these projects can consist of a producer and studios have a range of upper managers and administrative personnel. Weststar stated that with project-based model the outputs of each new game are unique. In turn the environment is complex and uncertain. Coordination among project members is rooted in diffuse and informal power relationships in relation to their roles as it pertains to those that direct the work and those who perform it (Weststar, 2015). Thusly, with the consumer, the process of making video games is a non-factor, largely an unknown, and rarely registers in the thoughts in most people's minds. Many again just see the end product, of which is what is their main motivating factor of going to a retail store and purchasing it. However, there is a select pocket of individuals who are more cognizant of the game development process and they are more greatly invested. For this segment, they faithfully follow their favorite game, or for some developer, and will be aware the specifics from the announcement of the game and will stay engaged until the game goes gold. This is, going gold, that the game is finished and ready to be put on a disc and distributed.
The creation of each video game is a project with a well-defined production cycle of pre-production, production, and post-production phases of which reach require different and various resources (Weststar, 2015). HistoryBefore one can actually delve it the game development process, it is important to have some background understanding on the development of the gaming industry. Nolan Bushnell is credited as the pioneer of the worldwide commercial video game industry. Bushnell was the founder of Atari and is responsible for generations of home and arcade gaming hardware and software including the truly influential game, Pong (Grantham ; Readman, 2006). Arcades games were very popular and peaked in the early 1980s. As time progressed and newer technologies burst onto the market most titles were converted to play on the evolving home technology – home computers and consoles (Grantham ; Readman, 2006). It was also during this time of change and development, many independent developers and publishers started to emerge. One of the most noted and widely known, Activision for example, was founded by former Atari developers seeking greater ownership and control over their developments (Grantham ; Readman, 2006).
Over time people have come to recognize software games as new and very popular mode of entertainment and an important application of technology. This outlook has become increasingly accepted and by people of all ages. In today's culture, technology is easily accessible and has become more convenient. In turn more and more people like to play games and are also becoming motivated to design their own games. Also, software games are gaining importance because they are not only used for entertainment, but also for serious purposes that can be applicable to different domains such as education, business, and health care (Aleem, Fernando- Capretz, & Ahmed, 2016).
ProcessPre-productionAs with any industry as it relates to project development, within the gaming industry, pre-production is the beginning phase of the life of a game, the project. It is during this phase that developers/project managers determine how long will it take to game to make, the personnel needed, and the budget needed to make the proposed project. During pre-production it is paramount that very specific goals are fleshed out of which will be essential to a successful project. Walfiz, Zackariasson and Wilson pointed out that certain elements are fundamental to projects: commitment to timing, staying within a budget, and producing an output (Zackariasson, Walfisz, & Wilson, 2006). Also, it is important to note that, these fundamentals are developed before the project starts, and thus commit both parties to specific activities/objectives.
Drew Liming and Dennis Vilorio states that in the pre-production phase, the lead designers outline a game concept with the help of lead artists and programmers (Liming & Vilorio, 2011). Additionally, it is at this time that the lead designers might select special feature(s), such as an innovative gameplay element, or powerful graphics, that will make the game unique (Liming & Vilorio, 2011). It was also pointed out that when the game finally receives the funding needed, programmers begin building its technological framework (Liming & Vilorio, 2011).
Pre-production considerations tends to produce a hierarchy of plans that guide the project and the pre-production phase is instrumental in producing the basis on which to build the game (Zackariasson, Walfisz, & Wilson, 2006). The over-ridding goal of pre-production is essentially to create a game plan that will be the road map in which the player(s) will finish the game. The game plan must include information of the game concept, the unique feature(s), the constraints that affect this concept, and analyzing risk assessment.Risk management is a necessary aspect of game project development.
Alem, Carpatz and Ahmed states that the importance of risk management is essential for the efficiency of game development. Thusly this is often the focus for project management (Aleem, Fernando- Capretz, & Ahmed, 2016). Alem, Carpatz and Ahmed also state, that it is with the upmost importance to identify risk factors early in the game development process (Aleem, Fernando- Capretz, & Ahmed, 2016). During game development, the project manager is the game's producer and must bring together management, the technical components, and the appealing aspects to create a successful video game.
They also identified two risk factors that must be addressed during this development process: failure of development strategy and absence of the fun factor (Aleem, Fernando- Capretz, ; Ahmed, 2016). Additionally, it is important to realize that in game development, other important risk factors can have an impact such as the development strategy, the fun factor or extent of originality, scheduling, and budgeting. With these, there will always be some level of "the unknown" when addressing risk factors. Taking time early on to identify risks is paramount as there will always be unforeseen issues in a project. Working to minimize as many issues initially will decrease unadvantageous developments later in the project development/production cycle. Thus, efficient work done during pre-production will work to minimize or even eliminate unforeseen issues.
Now that the risks, personnel, and assets are identified, for the project, it can now to enter the production phase. Thusly, the completion of the prototype signals the start of the production phase of development (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011). During the production phase the project team can now move forth with focusing on the cusp of the project work. Energies can now finally be channeled towards actual development of the game. It is importance to note that certain aspects of the work can be initiated during pre-production. Thus, there can be at times, some objectives running concurrent and simultaneously with those that are just commencing. Even though the project team is in full stride during this phase, and most of the ideas are being carried out, some new plans can happen that may have an impact and thus alter work. For starters, assets can be added or even removed at this point.
Accordingly, with these alterations, it is important that changes are accurately noted and are effectively communicated to the project team, the developer, studio upper management, and the publisher. Making such changes are crucial and essential and must be relayed in a timely manner. It is imperative that during development, the project document continues to remain as a point of reference for the entire project team. As pointed out by Liming and Vilorio, during the production phase, teams of designers, artists, and programmers use the project document as a guide to ensure efficient game creation (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011).
When the plan is communicated to the project team, it is the role of the project manager to remain vigilant on keeping the plan up to date. Ensuring that there is sound communication and a streamlined vision/design, will allow the project teams to collaborate to make the most of each other's expertise (Liming & Vilorio, 2011). There is feedback during production that helps the project team revise the document as needed. For instance, feedback might encompass how to improve a game's mechanics, or more so, remove an unfeasible feature (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011).
Throughout production, developers continually build improved versions of the game. This allows for the creation of more content that is better looking, more streamlined within a design, and thus is more refined (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011). Liming and Viliorio also went on further to state that the conclusion of the production phase is that the fully playable game includes art, music, and sound effects. This milestone is referred to as "content complete." (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011).Post production Production ends when the developer and publisher agree that no more features are needed; thus, no features are added during post-production. Instead, the main goal of this phase is to finalize software quality. The post-production phase starts at least three months before the end-of-project deadline. During post-production the focus is on playing the game to test for errors, called bugs, and on tweaking it to eliminate unwanted elements (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011).
Post-production is key for the game develop process as quality assurance and process validation are critical components. The quality assurance staff tests the game by playing it and attempting to do things the development staff never considered (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011). It is during this time that such things as bugs and compatibility issues are fixed. Additionally, work will be done to ensure that all coding is optimized. Process validation plays an important role in assessing game quality. Also, during this phase, the development process as a whole is analyzed. Collection and evaluation of process data from the pre-production phase through to the post-production phase can provide evidence that the overall development process produces a good-quality game. Congruously, analysis can depict either product errors, in-complement coding, or that the final product does not measure up to expectations. It is known, as the game testers find bugs, they document the errors and assign them to a programmer, designer, or artist to be addressed and fixed (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011).
Efficiently identifying and correcting issues is essential for the game roll-out deadline. Additionally, the developer may sometime want the game put into consumer hands before official release. Such instances could be in the form of advance releases, or advance copies for select consumer testing and gameplay which is a marketing strategy in gaming. Developers also use beta testing. Beta testing in games is used to gage overall game functionality using external testers or a select segment of identified consumers (Aleem, Fernando- Capretz, ; Ahmed, 2016). Beta testing is a kind of first public release for testing purposes by users. Game publishers often find it effective because bugs are identified by users that were missed during the in-house testing process (Aleem, Fernando- Capretz, ; Ahmed, 2016). Dealing with bugs and tweaks can make postproduction time-consuming. Thus, the process may take as long as production, especially for more complex games that have bigger budgets (Liming ; Vilorio, 2011).
The video game industry has grown tremendously over the last four decades. From Nintendo to Sony, a plethora of games have been made over the course of the video game industry. Games, the end-products, are the results of the efforts of many. The process of video game development is an intricate undertaking. The production cycle encompasses a myriad of derivatives which adhere to pre-production, production, and post-prediction phases. During the entire production cycle of a game key players such as computer engineers and programmers, visual artists, audio engineers, animators, game designers, writers, and quality assurance testers are involved.
The pre-production phase helps lay out the groundwork and plan that will be followed as the game develops. During pre-production specific goals are fleshed out and key fundamental elements to the project are identified. It also during this phase that focus is on working to minimize as many issues initially. This works to decrease unneeded or potentially negatively impacting developments later in the project development/production cycle. During the production phase the project team's main focus is on the actual creation of the game. It is during the production phase that new plans can happen which can have impact and alter work. A project document is used to ensure efficient game development and thus the project manager must ensure that the plan is up to date. Additionally, the project manager will work to ensure that there is sound communication for the entire team.
When the game has entered post-production, the focus is on playing the game to test for errors and other unwanted elements. There is a lot of focus on quality assurance. Within the gaming industry, testing can be done both in-house and the use of a select segment of consumer beta testers. Though most consumers only see the end product that is distributed and hit store shelves, there is a lot that has happened to ensure that the they will have a quality game playing experiences. Additionally, there is a select pocket of consumers who are more engaged development process and have a greater apperception for the game development process. Overall there is a great deal that transpires in the development of a game. From stakeholder expectations to timeliness of implementation, a lot of resources have been invested to create that end-product game. Understanding the life of a game through the lens of game development production cycle helps to foster a heightened appreciation for the final product.
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