Game Development Life Cycle
Get a brief insight on Game Development Lifecycle and know which Game Development Lifecycle Model is appropriate for you.
Today Games has become one of the most valuable product turning into a multi-billionaire industry. It is played by a wide range of age groups starting from small children to senior people. There are several genres and a variety of platforms it is made available on, and for all these segregations the design and the development process undergone is highly essential to take care of. This is only possible with proper planning and a good design architect. When we talk about planning and a good architect we precisely talk about the Process or the lifecycle of developing a Game. As we have all heard about Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) commonly in the field of software development, likewise in the field of Games, Game Development Lifecycle is the development process of a Game as a product undergone for the final global release. But unlike SDLC the Game Development Lifecycle differs in various aspects. Therefore, adopting the SDLC is not enough, this is the reason because Game Developers tend to face many other challenges which are uncommon in the SDLC. Moreover, making a Game involves more development resources than SDLC does, making Game Development Lifecycle a unique process in itself. It involves a complex iterative process abiding with the principles and design architecture. This overall process includes Game Developers, Designers, Artists, Producers, Sound Designers, Technical teams, Quality teams, Testing teams, Marketing teams, and others.
Although GDLC is quite a streamlined process of Game Development, it’s not an ideal process for every successful game out there. However, the major steps involved in the GDLC will lay out a fundamental path to understanding deeply the lifecycle of developing video games. Let’s first check out all the fundamental steps involved in GDLC.
Fundamentals Steps in GDLC
The Game Development Lifecycle Model primarily consists of 11 major stages that a game undergoes for the final global release.
Idea- Ideation is the first step towards your dream game. This is the time frame when a developer decides on the actual concept of the game to take ahead while laying a rough plan about it. This game prototype covers all the ideas and concepts which are further documented with the storyline.
Conceptual Analysis- In this phase, a broad analysis is done of various aspects that are required while developing the game. This feasibility study will help the developer to analyze the project requirement in terms of Pricing, Technicalities, Legal Solutions, Skills, Projects Scope, resource management, and so on.
Planning- The planning stage is one of the most essential phases in the Game Development Lifecycle. During the Planning Phase developer is required to make a blueprint of the entire game and most essentially the developer is required to find the starting point of the project. A proper list describing all the concepts, ideas, features, and scope is required to be well documented in the form of charts, visual representation, and description. Not just that, but the developer is also required to make a task list for all other departments for example graphics, audio, animations, etc., schedule a time frame for the project, decide and adhere to the task flow, and assign roles to individual and so on.
Team Building- Now in order to start making a game, you require a team full of skilled members who can turn the Game Document into a Live product. The team size and the role varies from game to game as the requirements for the particular game change accordingly. But in general, there is distinct segregation between the individual roles played in the Game Development Industry. The 6 most general expertise fields in this industry are – Game Programmers, Graphics Designers, Sound Engineers, Game Designers, the Testing and Quality Assurance Team, & Marketing teams.
Game Design- Game Design is the heart of any game. Undoubtedly, Game Design is one of the most creative and complex processes with no ideal solution that can be adopted for all games. A proper Game Design decides the future of the game. And to achieve a good Game Design a proper understanding, critical thinking, planning, implementing, and analysing is required. All these are further accumulated to form a Game Design Document which in itself describes everything about the game providing a complete blueprint.
Main Production- After we are done with the prototyping and gathering sufficient data from the players, we can further analyze them to know the player's behavior and other critical factors. The main Production comes into play when we are ready to launch globally with a fully workable build considering the challenges and suggestions derived from the prototype stage. Also, in the Main Production, the whole idea is turned out into be an end-product while satisfying every other aspect during the development time. This is the major phase of the development where a developer takes care of every small to a large detail and makes sure every element of the game works fine while having the ability to sustain the real world.
Alpha Stage- The Alpha stage comes into play when you are ready with a playable build to check for all the possible errors and list out the improvements for the game to do well in long term. This includes testing with Realtime players and unexpected bugs. This phase helps the developer track the user experience and the behavior of the players which would be helpful to potentially enhance the gameplay.
Testing- One of the most essential phases of a product development lifecycle is Testing Phase. When the game is all ready to launch globally, it goes through a major screening test from the testing team where the testers tend to test the game thoroughly keeping in mind all the mechanics, technical considerations, and other aspects. This is usually done by checking the test plans and test checklist where detailed points to check have been written for proper in-depth checking. The bugs found in this phase are all noted down for further fixes from the development team. As it’s all about checking the end-user experience many things can be further recorded that need to be changed again if it doesn’t look right. Therefore, it’s not a single passway for a product in its development lifecycle but an iterative process of continuously checking and fixing. The product finally moves ahead to the other phase only after the Testing team shows it the green signal.
Beta Stage- Once the product passes all the tests and reviews from the testing team, it’s completely set to face the real world but not as a final product but still a product to check if it’s ready to face the real audience in the market. This is where the role of the Beta Phase comes into play. This phase ensures that the product captures the Real-time bugs from the live audience and helps the developer to understand the potential of the Game. Further, it helps to get the real user experience and the acceptance from the people. All the data generated from this phase is highly essential for the development team to consider and change to have an impactful release while deploying it globally.
Release- Once the development team is all set with the Game fixing all the bugs and making required changes, the Game is ready to launch globally with a business model. This is the time when you prepare and decide the perfect marketplace for your games to be available. This phase gives the developer time to understand the value of its Game while making an appropriate decision on the market launch. Also, developers are required to keep all the details about the Game ready for the marketplace launch which generally includes a short descriptions, long descriptions, keywords to target, screenshots, videos, playable builds to upload, and a lot more things. And here you go with your dream game becoming life in the Game Market visible to millions of potential gamers. But is this everything for the Game Development lifecycle? Absolutely not, the last major point which is the reason for your game to be on millions of user’s devices is MARKETING!
Marketing- So we are down here where it seems like we are done with the development and now we can easily get millions of downloads and could income millions of dollars easily. But is this the real truth? Absolutely not! Even if you have given all of your hours making your dream game, it will still be played by only a few users if you don’t market your game well. And it is often said that start marketing your game way before you think of launching it. So, from all this, we can conclude that it’s undoubtedly the most crucial part of any development lifecycle. The marketing team is solely responsible for getting your game to the maximum number of people and gathering enough data like ratings, reviews, and suggestions to improve the game ahead in the future. The marketing team undertakes several QA sessions, PRs, advertisements, and many such things to highlight the product wherever possible. Not just promoting the content but the marketing team is required to gather the data from the real-world player and interact with the players in real-time to gain a decent userbase. However, this userbase will be helpful ahead while releasing the next title. They also keep a sharp eye on the Competitor's activity and tend to change their marketing approach accordingly. Lastly, they keep several factors in mind and keep optimizing while pushing the Game to be in the first position.
So now we have known all the phases a Game undergoes during the development lifecycle. Therefore, we require to adapt an ideal model to consider a product to be successful in the market. But this is not the end solution for a successful product. As mentioned earlier there are no particular hardcoded ways for a product to be successful in the market every time but there are definitely effective ways to push your game to the top charts and maintain the position for the long run.
Game Development Lifecycle Models
There are several recorded lifecycle models in the past which have proven to be useful and effective, but with growing time many models became outdated. This happened with the advancement in technology and approaches that evolved with time. Many of the proposals from the past seem to be taken out and only a few of them sustained well in time. So let’s know more about the lifecycle models or Process & development Models and also let’s check which development lifecycle models suit best your games.
Waterfall Model is one of the oldest lifecycle models which follows simple methods and techniques. This is also the widest used method among the developers where the work segregated proceeds ahead only if one task finishes, just like the name defines. This model ensures an easy working culture and effectiveness where the tasks are managed in a simple way. However, this model became outdated in the ’20s as other models came to the market with comparatively proven results. It was back in the 1980s and 1990s when the Waterfall model was used by a wide range of developers to develop games for a global audience. But this doesn’t mean it’s completely invalidated and can’t be used anymore in today’s time, it’s still an ideal model for small games and for a small team to develop games.
Derived from the Waterfall Model, the V-Shaped model is known as the Verification and Validation Model which depicts a parallel ongoing of tests and checks during the development period keeping all other stages to be constant. Therefore, the working style of this model is completely the same as the Waterfall model with only one change, i.e., parallel testing activity going on. This model came into existence due to the realization of backward movement in the Waterfall Model where developers found it really hard to move back while encountering certain bugs and changes in the last testing phase. Therefore, the V-Shaped Model will help the developers to test during the development stages and make certain fixes themselves.
The Agile Model is a bit different from other Lifecycle models. It is a rational development method in which a product is broadly divided into a set of distinct features. This helps a faster delivery of the product as a continuous process of releases goes on with regular updates and small increments. This ensures that the project is tested well every time before launch and the quality of the product is well maintained for a long period of time. Also, as it’s a continuous and long process of release there is no particular deadline and set of objectives that are to be met at last, rather a well syn project is maintained.
Big Bang Model
The Big Bang model is quite commonly seen among the small developers working forward to deliver fast and spend more time on development rather than on prototypes and planning. This does not follow up the ideal Game Development Life Cycle Model as it focuses specifically on the development phase reducing every other phase to a minimum. However, this benefits a smaller team to focus more on development time and resources which helps them to reach their goal and complete the project soon. Though it’s a common practice for a small developer, it’s never recommended in the Game Development Industry in a long run.
As the name suggests, the Iterative Model fully works on a continuous iterative process of Design, Implementation, and Analysis. In this model, an iterative design approach is considered where instead of starting from a well-known point with all requirements, directly we can jump with available resources and start building things. Then repetition of the process is undergone to make sure the product meets all the objectives. Further, this repetition of the process creates a new version of the game over time which gets finalized at the last as a complete product to be released globally.
Spiral Model is one of the most famous models in the Game Development Industry. Just like the Iterative Model, the Spiral Model also works on an iterative process but in a different way. It moves around 4 steps in a circular manner and keeps on iterating until the project is not finally completed. Hence, this ability gives the Spiral Model to become more flexible and efficient to adapt. The four most essential stages are – Design and Planning, Development, Play tests, and Evaluation/Analysis. Iterating over these stages is meant to be carried out until the project is completely finished. Due to this, the Spiral Model has a higher hand over other lifecycle Models as it ensures lower risk, the competition of prototype within less time, core features pre-integrated, and a lot more.
So far, we looked over the meaning of the Game Development Life Cycle, the use case of the Game Development Lifecycle, the Difference between Game Development Lifecycle and Software Development Lifecycle, Game Development Lifecycle Models, and many other concepts. This would help the developers ahead to choose the right Game Development Lifecycle Model for their respective game and successfully launch it on a global platform.
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