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  Game Design
  Vishnu Kotrajaras, PhD
     Team structures in industry today

            Executives       Marketing Team     QA

 Publisher’s team
                                                     All contribute to design
 Developer’s team

Game           Programmers    Visual Artists   QA              Specialized
Designers                                                      Media
Publisher & developer

 Sometimes the developer will do almost
  everything but sell and market.
 Sometimes the publisher will do the
  developing themselves, only using the
  developers in specific tasks.
 Typical tasks are summarised in the
  next table.
publisher                Developer
1.   Chooses the title to 1. Pitches creative
     produce                 ideas and demos to
2.   Finances titles         publishers
3.   Provides QA testing 2. Uses money from
4.   Market titles           publishers to
                             produce titles,
5.   Distributes titles
                             including game
                             programming, art,
   Many publishers develop games
    – EA
    – We consider the internal team as
      developers too.
    – The internal team usually has to manage
      its own cash flow, profit, schedules, and
      staffing, just like a real company.
   Some developers are owned by
    – Blizzard is owned by Vivendi Universal
Publisher: EA Games
Developer: Lionhead Studios

         Black and white
Developer’s team
   We help each other
    but still have our
    own focus.
Battle for Middle Earth

                                         EA LA
Game designer
   Gameplay linked with programming, art,
    music, etc.
   Game designer must collaborate with all
   Brainstorms concepts.
   Creates prototypes.
   Playtests and revises prototypes.
   Writes concept and design documents, and
    updates them throughout production.
   Communicates vision of the game to the
   Creates levels or work with level designers.
   Acts as players.
 Not all companies have designers.
 A person from some team may take this
 But skill is important.
 And it’s better to separate the team.
  See example
    – If 1 man acts as designer and programmer,
      he may let 1 feature pass because he’s too
      tired to improve it. This will cause problem
      in gameplay.
   So it is best to do the design as a full-
    time job.
CyberBoard is free
Peter Molyneux (Black & White)
 Deliver game to the publisher as promised.
 Create schedule, budget, resource allocation.
 There is one on the publisher’s team, and
  one on developer’s team.
    – Work together to make sure both teams are acting
      on the same assumption.
    – Make sure both teams communicate well.
Mario Kart Double Dash
           Mr Mizuki

  Producers Mr Sugiyama & Mr Takahashi
Producer’s responsibilities
   Team leader for the developer’s team.
   Main communication link between developer and
   Schedule and budget the developer’s side
   Tracking, allocating, and forecasting resources.
    – Hiring, firing, saying no to excessive spending request.
   Make sure the developer team finishes the work on
    – Some tough decisions on the way.
   Motivate team and solve production related problems.
   Often have to be a representative to appear in the
Executive producer

 Oversee multiple productions or an
  entire development group.
 Assistant or associate producers
    – Help the producer.
Game designer’s relationship with
 Sit down together at the start of any
 Talk through the design document.
    – Explain all the concepts, visions, and ideas to
    – So he can craft realistic schedule and budget.
   This means a designer must also understand
    scheduling and budgeting.
    – Read the scheduling and the budget, and be able
      to understand and offer opinion.

   Coders, network and systems
    engineers, database programmers,
    hardware support.
Programmer’s responsibilities
 Drafting technical specifications
 Technical implementation
    –   Software prototypes
    –   Software tools
    –   Game modules and engines
    –   Structuring data
    –   Managing communications
 Document code
 Coordinating with QA engineers to fix bugs
Atari’s Tempest (this is a good prototype example)

Most reviewed Commercial Engine
1.   Torque Game Engine ->hard to use, poor structure and docs
2.   3DGameStudio -> better than torque
3.   TV3D SDK 6.5-> bad support
4.   C4 Engine ->Good
5.   Unity ->C#, good but hard to debug, no source.
6.   Leadwerks Engine 2 ->all lang. support may be lacking
7.   NeoAxis Engine ->from Ogre, ok
8.   DX Studio
9.   Esenthel Engine
10.  Visual3D.NET Game Engine
Most reviewed Open Source Engines
  1. OGRE -> not easy to make game or to learn but
       best rendering effect
  2. Irrlicht -> easier to use but ogre is better in
  3. Crystal Space -> a little hard to learn
  4. Panda3D ->python, easy to start, graphics ok but
       not best
  5. jME -> not sure about lastivity
  6. Reality Factory
  7. Blender Game Engine
  8. The Nebula Device 2
  9. RealmForge
  10. OpenSceneGraph
   FREE-OPEN-SOURCE engines that you could play with
    for your projects..
 (online servlet engine)
 (java engine)
Designer’s relationship with
   Designer must at least learn programming concepts.
    – So you can do a better design.
        • Modular design is better for changes.
        • So programmers won’t have to change things much.
    – Can describe game concepts more clearly to the technical
   Ask programmers about his work if you don’t
   Talk to the head of programmers first, do not cut
    corners. You must respect authority.
    – Have good relationship with lead programmer, so that he
      respects your idea and is ready to help you communicate
      with the rest of the team.
 Avoid making huge changes.
 Prototyping an playtesting can help on this.
 Don’t make them feel that the change is extra
     – Let the programmers do playtest too, so they
       understand the reason for any change.
     – Fun too, this will lead to good relationship.
     – Or, at least, share the results with them.
   Character designer
   Illustrator
   Animator
   Interface designer
   3D artists
   Art director
   Lead animator
   You can see there are many specific tasks.
    Artists will be good in different things.
Tetsuya Nomura
Alan Lee
John Howe
Artist’s responsibilities

 Characters
 Worlds
 Interfaces
 Animations
 Cut-scenes
Designer’s relationship with artist
   Artist may condense features to make things
    look better.
    – You may tell them first to follow your specification
    – Or you may re-think your features, and
    – Just make sure the game feature does not
   If you want a medieval style, find artists that
    like the style.
    – If you get the people who love different style
       • Change your vision to utilize their skills to the fullest.
       • Or, communicate your ideas clearly, so they can
         implement them.
A totally different art style by Ron
   Bring your own reference materials in to
    – Such as creating visual palette for retro-
      style game:
       • The artists went to a 2nd hand market to collect
         fabric textures.
   They may have already extended your
    concept towards something incredible
    or something you don’t like.
    – Talk, and listen.
    – Be specific on what you like and don’t like.
   Once the work start, designer should
    start giving criticism
    – Find things that you like and don’t like in
      the art.
    – “This is really nice, I really like it here. If we
      could expand on this…”
   Partner with the lead artist or art
    – work together to set the tone of the
   Allow artists to bring their own ideas
    and passions to the project.
QA Engineers

 Bug testers
 On both publisher’s side and
  developer’s side.
QA responsibilities
   Create a test plan based on the design and
    technical specifications.
   Execute the test plan.
   Record all unexpected or undesirable
   Categorise, prioritise, an report all issues
    found during testings.
   Re-test and resolve issues once they have
    been fixed.
    Designer’s relationship with QA
   Designer must give all information necessary for QA to make a
    test plan.
   Only the design document is not enough, offer them any help
    you can.
   They may want to start by playing the game alone. Do not be
    surprised by this.
   They are “the last playtesters”.
   Designer should sit down with them and observe their process.
     – Go through the game element by element.
     – They are expert testers, they will have extra information other
       testers do not have.
   Tips
     – Let them see your design early.
     – So they will start helping you in this early stage and prioritise your
       game above other games.
     – They will be willing to put extra hours later.
Specialized Media

   Writers
   Sound designers
   Musicians
   Dialogue coaches
   Fight
Yuen Woo Ping
Designer’s relationship with
specialized media
   Define what you need from these
    professionals as clearly as possible before
    they start working.
    – Otherwise you will lose lots of money, since these
      people usually charge you by hours.
   Interact with them and give them direction
    and support.
    – They don’t know about games, so you must
      communicate with them in terms they are familiar

 Creating bits of dialogue where needed.
 If you are good, you may not need the
  writer at all.
 If you are not strong in writing, you may
  bring writer in early and start working
Sound designers

 Create special effects or music when
  the game is nearly completed.
 Or, lay out the plan from the beginning
  and make sure that the music support
  the gameplay effectively.
    – This is better.
    – Sound can reach player at an emotional
      level, so it is very important.
Level designers and their
 Use “level editor” to develop new
 Implement level design.
 Come up with level concept.
 Test levels and work with the designer
  to improve overall gameplay.
Clean game library for 2D
GtkRadiant is a level editor that
supports Jedi Knight: Jedi Academy
and Jedi Outcast.
Designer’s relationship with level
 Work together.
 Fostering creativity in your level
  designers, just like what you do with the
 When they have freedom, they will work
Publisher’s team: producer &
 Leader of the publisher team.
 In charge of marketing and making sure the
  executives continue to support the game.
 Main communication link between publisher and
 Responsible for schedule and budget on the
  publisher’s side.
 Tracking, allocating and forecasting resources.
 Approve work by developer so milestone payment
  can be made.
 Coordinate with all teams for the publisher’s side.
Designer’s relationship with
Publisher’s team’s producer
 Listen to them.
 Do not think against them just because
  they do not understand your game as
  well as developer’s team.
 If you can incorporate their suggestions
    – They will support you all the way.
Publisher’s team: marketing
   Find ways to sell your game.
   Feedback on game concepts.
   Hold focus groups for character designs.
   You must learn the trend in the market from
   They know about PC hardware that
    consumers have.
    – They can estimate how many people will have
      3GHz PC in 2006.
Designer’s relationship with
marketing team
 Bring in the marketing team early.
 Tap them for information.
 Invest them in the project.
 Give them credit for their insight.

   Design the game box.
    – Will it show screenshot?
    – Character?, artwork?
    – Write top four features.
   Founders of the company.
   Or they used to be a designer themselves.
   Some may come from marketing or other industries.
   It’s good to know the background of your executives.
   If you still don’t like them, learn from their mistakes to
    improve your own management
    – Presentation?
    – Ideas?
    – attitude.?
   You must communicate your vision to them clearly.
    It’s not their fault if they don’t understand your
    – Invite them to participate in the brainstorm of problems.
    – You and him will be satisfied this way.
    – This game may not be to his liking much, but he’ll think you
      respect him, and work with you better in later games.
Publisher’s team: QA

 They work the same way as QA in
  developer’s team.
 They decide if the build pass the
  payment point.
Publisher’s team: Usability
 Control tests
 Mostly third party hired in the later
 Microsoft has its own usability labs, thus
  they integrate usability testing from the
Usability Specialists responsibilities

 Evaluation of interface.
 Creation of user scenarios.
 Identify and recruit test subjects from
  target market.
 Conduct usability sessions.
 Record and analyse data from sessions.
 Report findings and recommendations.
Average team size

 SNES: 10
 PS: 15
 Ps2/GameCube/Xbox: 25
 Next generation console: 40
Average development time (months)

 SNES: 7
 PS: 15
 Ps2/GameCube/Xbox: 20
 Next generation console: 30
Team profile
   SNES
    –   1 designer
    –   1 producer
    –   3 programmers
    –   4 artists
   Playstation
    – 1 lead game designer
         • 2 level designers
    – 1 producer
         • 1 associate producer
    – 1 lead programmer
         • 3 programmers
    – 1 lead artist
         • 4 artists
   Ps2/GameCube/Xbox
    – 1 lead game designer
       • 4 level designers
    – 1 producer
       • 1 associate producer
    – 1 lead programmer
       • 2 engine programmers
       • 4 game programmers
    – 1 lead artist
       • 10 artists
   Next generation
    – 1 director of game design
       • 2 game designers
       • 4 level designers
    – 1 executive producer
       • 2 producers
       • 1 associate producer
    – 1 lead engine programmer
       • 3 engine programmers
    – 1 lead programmer
       • 6 programmers
    – 1 art director
       • 3 lead artists
       • 14 artists
All should contribute to the design
 Everyone must feel a sense of
  authorship of the final product.
 A designer must make sure
  everybody’s input is heard.
    – Set up weekly meeting between leader of
      each group to discuss the status of the
    – Start a suggestion box.
    – Take time for 1-on-1 creative talks with key
      members of the team.
– Have open brainstorming during the design
  phase for anyone who wants to attend.
– If you get stuck, ask your coworkers.
– Ask members of your group if they have
  hobbies, talents, or knowledge that may
  aid in the production.
– Share authorship, use “we” instead of “I”.
    Building your team
   Examine their track record and talk to people
    who have worked with them before.
   Attitude: positive people with optimism.
   Experience: unless hiring at low level, you
    should use people with experience.
   Friends: hire your friend if he is the best
    person for the job. Do not hire a friend
   References: talk to former employers. Phone
    call is better for you than recommendation
 Diversity: combining people with different
  backgrounds will form a creative
 Track record: look for people with history of
 Maturity: you want people who can control
  their emotions.
 Excellence:
    – school record.
    – Can they deliver under pressure?
    – What is their approach to problem solving?
   Creativity: yes we need people who ask good
    questions, curious, and always have ideas.
Team communication
 Respect the chain of command.
 Understand resources, time, and cost
  that you request.
 Be open to requests of others.
 Communicate decisions and changes to
  the design both up and down the
 You need to structure the meeting.
 There must be a definite goal.
    – Everyone knows the goal ahead of time so they
      can come prepared.
 If you are asked to join, make sure you
  prepare everything to contribute.
 If you are the leader, you lead the discussion
  and assign others to run certain parts of the
    – It is still up to you to keep things on track and lead
      everyone to the goal.
   No one should be left out of the conversation.
 No criticism of one another.
 If anyone makes a personal remarks,
  they should be warned. If it continues,
  throw them out.
 At the end, review the decisions and
  assignments given to each member (or
 Make sure everyone has enough time to
  prepare for next meeting.
 Send out notes and reminders of the
  decisions and assignments to everyone.
Play games together
   Organize a game night.
   Forge stronger relationship with everyone.
   Pick a game which players can work together or
    express themselves.
    –   Online game
    –   Board game
    –   Sport
    –   Personalised game
    –   Game you make
   Try new game each week.
   Everyone has a chance to try new game.
Set up the atmosphere
   Everyone belongs
    – Especially new member.
 Fairness
 Cooperation
 Goals
    – Set mini goals
    – Publicise the success of these mini goals
      to boost confidence and re-energise the
 Make everyone knows how they fit in
  the success of the company.
 Make sure each group knows its tasks
  and deadlines.
 Break down walls between groups.
 Make sure everyone can track progress
  of everyone else.
    – So everyone can adjust schedule.
 Make sure everyone knows his or her
 Everyone should know who to turn to for
  various functions
    – Clarify overlapping duties.
   Set up evaluation process to evaluate
    groups and individuals
    – Involve managers
    – The evaluation rules must be clear, for
   Delegate
    – Delegate decision and monitor results.
   Diversity
    – Encourage everyone to be themselves
    – Find jobs that allow them to contribute most.
   Communication
    – Schedule weekly and daily meeting between and
      within groups.
    – Every group should know what every other group
      is doing and who to talk to if there is a problem.
   Support
    – Get technical and any support you team needs.
   Honesty
    – Make it an issue of pride to stand up and admit
      that you made an error.
    – Praise people who take responsibility for their
   Reward
    – Small gift or recognition.

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