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Video Game Development Stages: From Idea to Release

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Arthur Tereshchuk

Content Writer

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Arthur Tereshchuk

Content Writer

Contact:

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Video games often take years of production, and no wonder since the process of game development from idea to release is complex and multifaceted. Although each game project is inherently unique and deserves an individual approach, let’s outline some of the most common video game development stages that help produce high-quality games.

Pre-production

In the beginning there was word, and the word was Concept. Pre-production is the first stage of a video game development process during which the team creates a concept of the game and initiates game design development. The core goal of this particular stage is to create a game design documentation that will include a Vision (a document that outlines the game as a business product), a Concept Document (that describes all aspects of the game to be developed), and art direction guidelines.

Product documentation is where the Game Designer formulates and writes down their ideas to make it easier for a provider to understand better what needs to be done. Similarly, documentation shows QA engineers where to look when troubleshooting and helps PMs/Producers create a consistent plan to manage the development process. Comprehensive documentation also allows attracting investors and helps them better understand what are they funding.

In fact, the product documentation must be updated along the game development process and be up to date throughout all stages. Note that decent documentation is the one that:

  • Describes the entire scope of the game, including objectives, mechanics, target audience, concept, etc.
  • Includes a production schedule and defines milestones of the game development process, as well as potential risks and bottlenecks.
  • Provides system architecture design outlines everything from front-end and back-end to deployment.
  • Is well-structured, regularly updated, and has no controversies or parts that can be misunderstood.

Productiongame development stages

Obviously, production is the most time-consuming and resource-intensive stage since that is where the game begins to take a shape. Each case can be unique in terms of working approach, yet the production process usually consists of at least five major stages: prototyping, vertical slice, alpha testing, beta testing, and final product release.

Prototyping

Next comes the creation of a prototype, a vital stage in video game production that ought to show whether the idea is as good in reality as it is on paper. The main goal of the prototype is to evaluate the viability of core game mechanics, test out ideas and various hypotheses, and analyze technical aspects.

The prototype must be easy-to-implement and should include only a few main features that need to be tested.

Technical Demonstration

After the prototype was proved to be viable and most importantly fun, comes the creation of a technical demo that will be presented to the publisher or investor. Although the demo is far from a finished game, it still demonstrates the core ideas and mechanics of the future product.

Vertical Slice

At this stage, the goal is to produce the minimum possible final version of the product that includes a fully-realized game process and looks and feels like a completed game. In terms of content and lengths, it can be one level or location, but the quality must be that of a final game to create a stunning and memorable short experience.

Content Production

Content production is the most extensive phase of video game production. This is when most of the game content is produced and all features are implemented. The content production stage requires the involvement of the largest number of specialists: artists produce graphic content, game designers optimize game balance, programmers implement and polish new features, etc. When creating large-scale AAA projects that are to be released on PC and consoles, this stage usually takes 1+ years to complete.

Alpha Test

At this stage, the video game development process still continues along with parallel testing. QA engineers’ work is in full swing since alpha testing requires intense documentation of any software or hardware failures. Game testers track down glitches and bugs, as well as major game flaws that need to be improved. Then, QA specialists map a solution for the betterment of the game and suggest a further direction of the development process.

Beta Test

Now the game is almost ready, with major issues found and fixed. During this stage, the task of game testers is to use all possible methods to break the game, since the actual players will definitely try doing so. Testers apply stress testing, compliance testing, and performance testing methodologies during this stage of video game production to find any flaws.

Closed Beta Testing

CBT is usually conducted by people within the company or those loyal to the product and company. As well as during previous tests, the goal is to find flaws from gamers’ perspectives and collect data and statistics from the testers.

Open Beta Testing

OBT is available for everyone interested, usually a wide audience if marketing is done properly. This stage will additionally show how well the game responds to high load and reception of heavy traffic.

It is worth mentioning that during OBT, the game development process and implementation of new features freezes. Developers polish the product and focus on adjusting existing features.

Release

The release of a product is a long-waited yet crucial moment when everything must be organized and implemented as smoothly as possible. These include marketing and financial plans, established and thirsty for the game community, tech support ready to back up with potential issues, etc. This is the stage when marketing plays the key role, providing screenshots and gameplay videos, sponsoring game streams, and so on.

Post-Release Support

In game development, there is no time to breathe easy, even after the product’s release. Post-release support implies optimizing the product and fixing issues that occur during exploitation, adjusting the game’s balance, and developing new features and content to keep players excited about playing more.

Post-release support varies from case to case and can sometimes last for a few months and sometimes for years, depending on the client’s requirements and the type of game.

Full-cycle Video Game Production with N-iX Game & VR Studio

N-iX Game & VR Studio is a video game development company with over 10 years of industry experience and more than 240 professionals aboard. Apart from a wide array of game outsourcing services, we offer you the following benefits as your game development partner:

  • We will arrange your team in a way that would effectively facilitate your product needs, as well as provide you with possibilities of quick scale. N-iX has an exceptional employer brand, being recognized by Forbes as one of Ukraine’s top employers and ranking second in the Best Company to Work in 2021 list. In combination with a professional recruitment department and effective recruitment strategy, we can effortlessly scale in step with your project to cover all your needs.
  • N-iX is an Advanced Consulting Partner in the AWS Partner Network (one of only 9 Ukraine-based companies that obtained this accreditation), and a member of Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation partner programs which provide us with game development kits. We will allocate certified professionals with all necessary development tools to ensure your game project’s success.
  • This talent capacity, combined with market experience and all necessary resources for effective development and quick scaling, allows N-iX game studio to support our clients along all video game development stages, from ideation and conception to global release. Our most experienced Producers, Game Designers, Art Directors, and Technical Experts are there to help you minimize the risks.
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