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Start to Finish 
Building Games Step-by-Step 
Ed Magnin 
Big Design / Game Dallas 
September 5, 2014
My previous games 
2
Our recent games 
3
What does it take to make a game? 
4 
• an idea - a game concept 
• a plan - a game design 
• art assets - artist(s) 
• programming - programmer(s) 
• music & sfx - audio specialist 
• project management - producer 
• persistence
What makes a good game? 
5 
• something you can’t do in real life 
• something where you can make a difference 
• something that is easy to learn but difficult to master 
• If you can’t sell it with 5 screenshots and some text, don’t make it!
What goes into a game concept document? 
6 
• enough description of the game to explain the concept to others 
• might be useful in attracting team members or seeking outside funding 
• relatively short document
What goes into a game design document? 
7 
• lots more detail 
• often contains storyboard illustrations or screen mock ups 
• contains a list of the characters and levels or challenges to be solved 
• often attached to your contract as it contains the best description of the game 
• used to bring new arrivals up-to-speed. 
• can be a dynamic document - storyboard illustrations can be replaced with 
real screenshots 
• some 2nd party titles or low budget games may skip this step.
What goes into a game proposal? 
8 
• everything that went into the other documents, plus cost and completion 
timeline 
• typically paid on milestones - include a list of deliverables and payments 
• don’t forget other needed assets 
• add additional time at the beginning to cover up for a late start 
• Christmas still comes at the same time regardless of when you start. 
• Add a penalty for late payments.
Why are most games late? 
9 
• an unrealistic deadline in the first place 
• many assume that they won’t have any problems 
• we need it by this date 
• Alan Wake 
• Duke Nukem Forever 
• Why does it take several years to make a sequel? 
• Add a bonus for on-time completion.
Building a team 
10 
• How do you pick the right people? 
• What skill sets will you need? 
• How well can they work both together and independently? 
• Can they meet reasonable deadlines? 
• How will they be compensated? 
• What happens if they leave before it’s finished?
How to manage a game project 
11 
• What does a good producer do? 
• makes sure his team has all the resource it needs 
• manages his bosses expectations 
• Avoid unnecessary crunch time - avoid burnout. 
• Try to get your work done during normal hours. 
• There’s no free lunch, but there’s a free dinner!
Keep a progress file 
12 
• Every participant should keep a progress file. 
• Programmers can add a text file to the project. Write notes in the file while 
waiting for the code to compile. 
• Write down all the things you know you need to do 
• Each day write the date in the Completed section and list all the things you 
did, or even tried to do. 
• Backup the project often 
• If you have to revert to a previous backup, go back and see what things you 
need to do to get back to where you were.
Some legal issues to consider 
13 
• work-for-hire - of course that usually means they get paid 
• don’t get your “indie” project unnecessarily intertwined with your “day job” 
• protecting your IP - trademark, copyright, patent 
• copyright 
• patent 
• trade secret - use NDA
What happens when you get behind? 
14 
• manage feature requests — new features take time, plus testing time. 
• review outstanding features — is there anything that you don’t really need? 
• perform triage 
• be careful adding more people to the project 
• read The Mythical Month 
• take away any unnecessary duties that don’t have anything to do with 
finishing the game.
Reaching the finish line 
15 
• How long is a marathon? 
• 26 miles, 385 yards 
• The first 90% of the project takes 90% of your time. 
• The last 10% takes another 90% of your time.
Start play testing early 
16 
• Starting early lets the play testers get familiar with your game. 
• Don’t take it personal when they gloat after finding a “bug”. 
• Remember they are professional game players. 
• Whenever you make a last minute change, you have to allow time to test all 
the things it could possibly affect.
It’s time! 
17 
• One day, it’s just time to release 
• Start preparing the submission forms. 
• Avoid negative forces that try to keep your game from shipping. 
• Send the game off. 
• Treat play testing like a tennis volley. 
• Every time they find a bug, fix it even faster. 
• Eventually they will give up.
Submission 
18 
• Know the approval process, including what they look for. 
• Make sure you are comfortable with the build when it’s time to submit. 
• Get a reputation for quality work.
Approval 
19 
• Finish documenting and backup everything. 
• Make sure you can take the backup copy to another computer that never had 
the game on it, and build the game from scratch. 
• Make sure your team gets some recognition, reward, and rest.
Working with PR and Marketing 
20 
• Help grab screenshots for marketing purposes. 
• Help record a gameplay video for marketing purposes. 
• Proofread marketing documents for possible “bogus” features. 
• Be available for interviews, assist with social media.
21 
Contact

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Start to finish - Building Games Step-by-Step

  • 1. Start to Finish Building Games Step-by-Step Ed Magnin Big Design / Game Dallas September 5, 2014
  • 4. What does it take to make a game? 4 • an idea - a game concept • a plan - a game design • art assets - artist(s) • programming - programmer(s) • music & sfx - audio specialist • project management - producer • persistence
  • 5. What makes a good game? 5 • something you can’t do in real life • something where you can make a difference • something that is easy to learn but difficult to master • If you can’t sell it with 5 screenshots and some text, don’t make it!
  • 6. What goes into a game concept document? 6 • enough description of the game to explain the concept to others • might be useful in attracting team members or seeking outside funding • relatively short document
  • 7. What goes into a game design document? 7 • lots more detail • often contains storyboard illustrations or screen mock ups • contains a list of the characters and levels or challenges to be solved • often attached to your contract as it contains the best description of the game • used to bring new arrivals up-to-speed. • can be a dynamic document - storyboard illustrations can be replaced with real screenshots • some 2nd party titles or low budget games may skip this step.
  • 8. What goes into a game proposal? 8 • everything that went into the other documents, plus cost and completion timeline • typically paid on milestones - include a list of deliverables and payments • don’t forget other needed assets • add additional time at the beginning to cover up for a late start • Christmas still comes at the same time regardless of when you start. • Add a penalty for late payments.
  • 9. Why are most games late? 9 • an unrealistic deadline in the first place • many assume that they won’t have any problems • we need it by this date • Alan Wake • Duke Nukem Forever • Why does it take several years to make a sequel? • Add a bonus for on-time completion.
  • 10. Building a team 10 • How do you pick the right people? • What skill sets will you need? • How well can they work both together and independently? • Can they meet reasonable deadlines? • How will they be compensated? • What happens if they leave before it’s finished?
  • 11. How to manage a game project 11 • What does a good producer do? • makes sure his team has all the resource it needs • manages his bosses expectations • Avoid unnecessary crunch time - avoid burnout. • Try to get your work done during normal hours. • There’s no free lunch, but there’s a free dinner!
  • 12. Keep a progress file 12 • Every participant should keep a progress file. • Programmers can add a text file to the project. Write notes in the file while waiting for the code to compile. • Write down all the things you know you need to do • Each day write the date in the Completed section and list all the things you did, or even tried to do. • Backup the project often • If you have to revert to a previous backup, go back and see what things you need to do to get back to where you were.
  • 13. Some legal issues to consider 13 • work-for-hire - of course that usually means they get paid • don’t get your “indie” project unnecessarily intertwined with your “day job” • protecting your IP - trademark, copyright, patent • copyright • patent • trade secret - use NDA
  • 14. What happens when you get behind? 14 • manage feature requests — new features take time, plus testing time. • review outstanding features — is there anything that you don’t really need? • perform triage • be careful adding more people to the project • read The Mythical Month • take away any unnecessary duties that don’t have anything to do with finishing the game.
  • 15. Reaching the finish line 15 • How long is a marathon? • 26 miles, 385 yards • The first 90% of the project takes 90% of your time. • The last 10% takes another 90% of your time.
  • 16. Start play testing early 16 • Starting early lets the play testers get familiar with your game. • Don’t take it personal when they gloat after finding a “bug”. • Remember they are professional game players. • Whenever you make a last minute change, you have to allow time to test all the things it could possibly affect.
  • 17. It’s time! 17 • One day, it’s just time to release • Start preparing the submission forms. • Avoid negative forces that try to keep your game from shipping. • Send the game off. • Treat play testing like a tennis volley. • Every time they find a bug, fix it even faster. • Eventually they will give up.
  • 18. Submission 18 • Know the approval process, including what they look for. • Make sure you are comfortable with the build when it’s time to submit. • Get a reputation for quality work.
  • 19. Approval 19 • Finish documenting and backup everything. • Make sure you can take the backup copy to another computer that never had the game on it, and build the game from scratch. • Make sure your team gets some recognition, reward, and rest.
  • 20. Working with PR and Marketing 20 • Help grab screenshots for marketing purposes. • Help record a gameplay video for marketing purposes. • Proofread marketing documents for possible “bogus” features. • Be available for interviews, assist with social media.