In This Chapter
• Production Cycle
f you are a newly minted producer or lead, you are probably wondering
what you’ve gotten yourself into. Even though you are likely to get assistance
along the way from your boss, your publisher, and your team, the burden
of responsibility for getting a game created and code released rests squarely on
your shoulders. These days, as budgets are rising and teams are getting larger,
producers and leads responsible for a project must have a solid understanding
of the game production process, how all the variables involved fit together, and
how to modify the process to fit the needs of their games.
The production process begins with defining the initial game concept and
ends with creating a gold master of the final game code, with everything else
happening in-between. The process differs from project to project, which is
one reason why game production can be challenging to manage. One developer
might have a small team of 15 people working on a web-based game, but another
4 THE GAME PRODUCTION HANDBOOK, 2/E
developer might have more than 100 people working on a console game based
on a well-known movie license.
Regardless of the size of the team, scope of the game, the budget, or other
variables, a basic framework exists for the overall production process. The pro-
cess can be broken down into four broad phases: pre-production, production,
testing, and post-production. Within each of these phases, several goals must be
accomplished before moving on to the next phase. The successful completion of
each phase directly affects the successful release of the game.
1.2 PRODUCTION CYCLE
Figure 1.1 serves as an overview of the basic production cycle. Specific game
production tasks, such as recording voiceover, creating character models, and
debugging multiplayer code are not indicated, as these tasks will vary from proj-
ect to project. The diagram depicts the general goals of each phase and how the
success of each phase builds upon the completion of the previous phase. As you
can see, detailing the project plan in pre-production is important as it provides
a solid foundation upon which to build the game. A project that does not define
a plan in pre-production is likely to encounter several problems that could have
been avoided or prepared for in advance.
It is important to note that this diagram outlines a very basic view of the
game production cycle and that some games, especially as the stakes get higher,
will go through an iterative production process with numerous production cycles.
FIGURE 1.1 Basic game production cycle.
GAME PRODUCTION OVERVIEW 5
For example, if you plan to create a working proof of concept for your game—
a fully polished playable level—you will want to include a few game develop-
ment cycles in the entire production process, with the first cycle consisting of
pre-production, production, and testing of the prototype; the second phase fo-
cusing on the core set of features and assets for the game; and a third cycle creat-
ing and adding any “glitz” features and assets, such as extra levels. Figure 1.2 is
a diagram of multiple production cycles for a single project.
FIGURE 1.2 Multiple production cycles for a single project.
Pre-production is the first phase in the production cycle and is critical to de-
fining what the game is, how long it will take to make, how many people are
needed, and how much everything will cost. Pre-production can last anywhere
from one week to more than a year, depending on how much time you have to
complete the game. One rule of thumb is that pre-production requires about
10 to 25 percent of the total development time of a game. So if you are working
on a six-month project, pre-production will last from a few weeks to a month.
If you are working on a two-year project, pre-production will last anywhere from
two to six months.
The overriding goal of pre-production is essentially to create the game plan,
which is a roadmap for finishing the game and releasing code. The plan must