Ever wonder how video games are made? Maybe you might know that it involves very technical programming and drawing (duh), but do you know about the steps involved and the specialty required? Admit it, that thought has crossed your curious mind while playing a game. Maybe it was a very terrible game you bought at the store recently and you thought to yourself, “I can do better than this.” Or maybe that game was so good, it enthralled you for hours, slowly sapping your life away and had you branded as a social outcast by your peers. I’m pretty sure almost every seasoned gamer would be curious about how it is like to be a designer – in this case, a Game Designer. People tend to think that a game designer draws. NO. A game designer is like an architect. They produce blueprints for the game. Programmers, sound engineers and artists will populate and bring life to the game from the blueprint. It is similar to constructing a building. In this article, I will be covering the very essence of the game industry; in the life of a Game Designer.
Honestly, it depends on you; whether you will be working for a well-established, multi-million dollar entertainment corporation like Blizzard or Square Enix, or whether you will be working as an indie game developer. Obviously, the odds are against being an indie developer. Not all hopes are lost, however. There are pros and cons on both sides of the card. You just have to find one that works to your advantage. We shall compare the difference. (Note: all these are based on my long experience in the industry. There is no optimum standard as far as I know, yet.)
Working for huge companies like Blizzard, Square Enix, or SEGA is equivalent to mainstream jobs. It is by far the safest route yet; monthly salary, bonuses once in a blue moon, health care and insurance and job security. These are the perks that you are most probably entitled to. It is the same as working for any well-established company. However, your creativity will be limited and you start from the bottom of the ladder. You have to float the boat of the producer and the publisher; convincing them that your project is worth the money. This is one of the hard parts. Once you get the money from them, all you have to do is to add more content and let your team do the work. And then you have to meet deadlines. It is not easy when you have a team of 200 people consisting of programmers, artists and sound engineers. It is a common occasion when the project goes into a session called “crunch time”. This is when everyone works overtime to meet the deadline. It is not fun; it is hectic, but it is satisfying when you get to put smiles on millions of people around the world.
And then we have indie game developers. I am pretty sure most of you who reads this played Angry Birds at least once, or at least heard of it. No? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU?!
Developed by Rovio Entertainment, it is one of the most successful games ever developed by an indie game company. What is the difference you ask? An indie game company is a standalone company, usually having about 50 employees. It is on a much smaller scale compared to those big powerhouses. The working environment is quite similar, but it is much more relaxed. This is because even YOU can be the boss. You recruit your own manpower. You can let your imaginations run wild here. No restrictions, no pressure. Sounds good? Of course! And then comes the bad part. Unless you are rich, finances are always your main problem. This is because you are not tied to any publishers and because you are not as well-known, they are less likely to fund you unless it is really, really good. Your number two enemy is finding manpower. It would not be much of a problem if you know people who are willing to work and starve until your project blossoms. Finding people can be a hassle at times. But it is easy if you start a team in college and work on it as a side project. It might take a longer time but it is better than not doing anything at all.
“A great idea is meaningless. A great idea that leverages your existing technology, gets the team excited, is feasible to do on time and budget, is commercially competitive, and, last but not least, floats the boat of a major publisher. Now you have something” – Ken Levine, Irrational Games.
There you go! The pros and cons laid out for you. Although they are not as informative as you hoped it would be, there is no standardized platform to refer to. The best alternative is to read and follow the industry news, or mingle with like-minded people from the industry.
Next issue will concentrate more on the composition of your team, if you are aiming to establish your own company. It’s not hard; you just need a lot of perseverance, time, connections, and some money in your hand.
Antarnis is a semi-veteran game developer. Though he has not published any games yet; maybe because he is bad. But maybe he hasn’t found the right publisher yet.
Original art from HERE