Playable Design – Presenting a method for Game Development

The computer game industry is currently facing problems on how to structure and manage a production due to the cause of ever-growing budgets and manpower required. Methods from other fields have been tried. However, these are not built with the purpose of developing games and do not facilitate the entire production or qualities of a game. We have during the course of the project addressed this matter by devising a method of our own which should enhance the process of creating games. A deeper analysis of current computer game developments identified the main problems to occur in the pre-production which suggests that this is where the point of insertion should happen. We have based our solution on theory from fields such as software engineering, innovation theory and game design theory and supplied these by observations made through experiments where we simulated parts of a game production. The result is the EVE method, which stands for Experimentation, Visualization and Evaluation and is based on principles of creative process control, flexible design in the form of prototypes and easily accessible feedback through early testing.

Download the entire report below and get a ready-to-use game development process with an heavy emphasis on prototyping as a design tool.

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Playable Design – Master Thesis (PDF – 2.1 MB)

Playing the game – Managing Computer Game Development

From the Introduction 

Every time a computer games is released it’s accompanied by endless reports and stories about how disorganized and chaotic the production had been. It’s a wonder to me that an industry that a yearly growth of about 15% still is plagued with bad planning. 

Even though the industry make a ton of money each year, it’s a known fact that many project end up with red numbers in the end. This is partly due to the very big economical investments that are normal in the industry. It’s common that large productions have a production budget of around 3-4 million dollars. That’s just for production. 

You don’t have to be a mathematical genius the figure out that you have to sell a lot of copies to make a return on your investment. The profit is a long way down the road when a single copy only brings in a couple of dollars in real profit.

And many games never sell over 500,000 copies worldwide in their entire lifespan.

To examine if the bad production planning really is the very root of the problem, I analyzed 43 different Postmortem articles from Gamasutra.com. The result of the analysis can be read in appendix A.

The analysis both confirmed and changed my view of the way professional game development is being carried out in the development houses around the world. Even though the analysis shows that some productions did indeed have good planning, and a solid pre-production, the majority of the projects did not. They were trouble with either bad or no planning, or bad project managers. Some even have all of the above. The articles all stated this as one of the main problems. 

One other thing that’s quite remarkable is that almost all of these games went on to receive huge critical and/or gamer acclaim. So it’s not so much a question of finding a qualified workforce. The problem lies more in the planning and management parts of the projects.

Another thing that all the productions share is that none seems willing to learn from former mistakes. The articles used in the analysis have all been printed in the period between the September 1999 and August 2002. So even though the information was there, none of the projects show any wish for change in the development form.

The lack of management, or bad management if you will, wears down all the people involved in the development and does not create the desired production level. More time than necessary is used correcting errors and not with what everyone really wants: to invent, develop and refine unique ideas for games.

Many mention the loose structure and the lack of control as a necessity for creative inspiration to thrive. In this report I will try to argument against this and many more opinions.

I will try to show that you as a game developer can save a huge amount of time in the game development process with a proper and thorough planning coupled together with a type of management that gives all the people involved time and space for creative work.

With the saved time comes saved money. Time is, as we all know, money.

Hypothesis 

Game development projects are generally badly planned and badly managed. This results in delayed productions and exceeded budgets. The process with creating computer games is not effective enough and a huge amount of time and human resources are wasted because of this. It seems that the tendency is to “re-invent the wheel” every time around. 

 

Problem 

How can the process of creating computer games be more effective without the loss of any creative force? 

This effective adaptation shall be seen through project management, planning, and organizational reflections. 

 

Audience for This Report 

The target group for this report is everyone working, or planning to start working, in the computer game development industry. That’s a rather broad statement but it’s my opinion that everyone can draw from the hopefully constructive solutions and suggestions written herein. 

Notes 

Throughout the report I use the term “computer game”, which here is meant as a technological aided game, be that either a console game, PC game, handheld game or what have you.

Secondly, all the people (gamers, programmers, producers, etc.) mention in this report are referred to by using the pronoun “he”. This is because the writer of this report is a “he” and the majority of the people working in with computer games development are male. Why that is, is a longer and much more elaborate discussion that lies beyond the aims of this report.

Some of the books referred to are only available in Danish. The ones I’ve been able to find in English have been listed in the reference list.

 

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