Video Game Development
From its origins in single developer games of early consoles to the small teams of the 90′s, Game Development has grown to an international process that involves hundreds of people and tens of millions, sometimes hundreds of millions of dollars.
Because of the expense and time involved in modern game development, developers and publishers seek to minimize risk and increase the chances that a game will make a profit by working in proven genres and franchises that already have an inbuilt audience.
One main reason that titles are so expensive to develop are the quality and scope that is expected in premium, or so called ‘AAA’ games today. Each title that is released attempts to outdo it predessors in realism and scope. In order to provide such quality, developers hire specialists in almost every stage of the game.
In building a games environment, for example, an artist will create 2d renderings of location in the game. From these renderings, a team of modelers will create a 3d model of the location. A second team will then take over to design and apply a series of textures to the models, giving them colour and shade. A third team will then create virtual lighting for the environment, and a forth will dress the environment with objects that they player can interact with. Given that a modern ‘open-world’ game can have hundreds of locations and this process must be undertaken for each one, the man-hours (and cost) involved in just building the world of the game can huge.
The above division of labor was adopted by the game industry from another development process that video games have borrowed heavily form: film. Unlike film development, that employes contractors on a short term basis for the duration of their role in the project, video game developers prefer to employ their workers on a full time basis. One key reason for this practice is that is allows expertise and knowledge to be kept within the company and allows costs to be controlled. The downside is that in order to supply steady work to the specialists, the company needs to take on several projects at once. This practice has been cited as the reason that some games have failed to live up to expectations, such as Assassins creed 3.
One famous film studio that has adopted the video game model of having full time employees: Pixar. They hire workers with promise and apprentice them in junior roles, allowing them to develop their skills and progress in the company over time.
As entertainment ownership consolidates and developments costs increase, experts anticipate new models of game and film development emerging, as well as new methods for getting games into the hands of customers.