The process of game development is not quick. The amount of time required to deliver a finished product depends on the project scale, budget, and your dev team size. It takes at least 1-2 years to create an average game, while AAA titles usually need at least three years or even more. These numbers are not carved in stone, obviously. For example, the remake of Resident Evil 3 took three years to make by a competent game studio. On the other hand, complex independent projects like Disco Elysium take over four years
. Why so long? Because they went through all stages of full-cycle game development with limited human resources. What are these stages, you ask?1. Creating a concept
The very first step is where a dev team invents the game’s concept and starts thinking about the game design basics. The most important task at this stage is to write a Game Design Document
that includes the project’s vision (a detailed description of the future game as a commercial product) and concept (basic information about all aspects of the game).2. Making a working prototype
Every game requires a prototype before starting an actual development. Something that looks good on paper might be less exciting in reality. A prototype is needed to evaluate core gameplay features, test various ideas, tinker with game mechanics, choose a game engine, and analyze other key technical aspects.
Just remember that during this game development stage, you must focus exclusively on those features that need actual checking. Also, keep in mind that your prototype must be simple in realization because it will be scrapped after serving its purpose. Mediocre developers have a bad habit of copying temporary infrastructure into the main project, which does not do any good in most cases.3. Compiling a vertical slice
After you are done with prototyping, you need to create a minimal viable product or a piece of the game with all its features. It must be a small piece that demonstrates the variety of core gameplay. In vertical slices
, the game development focus shifts towards those game elements that have the most impact on the game and how it is played. It does not mean that all other basic features must be left out, though. Include them too, but don’t spend too much time on their polishing. Crude representation is okay here. At the end of this stage, you must have a playable area/level that demonstrates the variety of content and features.4. Game development
Now you need enough content to fill your game with. This includes all kinds of creative tasks, from modeling and drawing to coding and testing. All features that were planned earlier and approved for the final product must be added to the game before it goes into the beta-testing phase. The amount of work at this stage is tremendous. On big projects, it usually takes a year or more to prepare and integrate everything.
All developers participate in creating content for the game. Writers do dialogues, and artists prepare visual materials, sketches and illustrations. Programmers do feature coding, managers analyze the game design and make changes, and so on. Having a full-stack development team makes managing all this creative “chaos” much easier.5. Closed beta testing
Now you have a product to show to people outside of your inner circle of devs. These testers are still loyal to the product or brand, so there are no guarantees that the target audience will react the same way. During the beta, you need to detect as many bugs and flaws in game design as possible. The game must have all key features at this point, enough content for extended gameplay sessions, and integrated tools for gathering/analyzing data.6. Open beta testing
Let the testing continue! But with more people involved in the process. This is how you test whether your game is truly optimized. Every new player becomes a quality assurance asset. Depending on their feedback, you may either continue towards the release with minor fixes and changes or start adding more features if the crowd is not satisfied.