When people think of a single project taking multiple years, it seems almost overwhelming. When you factor in that a single project may require hundreds of people and still take multiple years, you might consider that insane. It’s one of the reasons that game development studios come and go so frequently. A single poor release might send a game studio into bankruptcy.
So, why does game development take so long? Game development takes a long time due to the number of skills required, high expectations in game development projects from players, and the standard of quality video games within the industry.
If you wish to get into game development, know that creating a game on your own takes a very long time in most cases. There may be a few things you can do to speed up the process, but game development in general is a slow process.
Reasons Why Game Development Takes a Long Time
The Numerous Skills Required to Build a Video Game
- 3D Modeling or 2D Sprite Creation
- Level Design
- Sound (Such as a door opening or footsteps)
- Music Composition
- Particle Effects
- User Interface Design
- User Experience Design
- Project Management
This is a fairly comprehensive list, but within each of these areas, there are different techniques and maybe even other skills that may be required for a game developer to become somewhat proficient in to build a quality game. Without any of these areas mentioned above, your game will likely suffer greatly.
The most commonly overlooked skill mentioned here is marketing. Without this as a part of a skill you develop, you are likely to fail. It will take a considerable amount of time, but the payoff will hopefully be well worth it. If you are currently looking to build a game, I highly recommend that you read my guide on marketing a video game.
Do I Need All Game Development Skills to Build a Game?
I can tell you that of the list above there are certainly areas that I feel more proficient in than others. My specialty is likely 3D modeling and programming. Animation and Rigging are likely my weakest areas. However, I still consider myself a game designer.
Work on the the parts of game development that you love. You should partner with people that love the parts that you don’t. There are a lot of great animators out there that absolutely love the process.
Also, keep in mind that you can also always build games that play to your strengths. If you are exceptional at the art side, then build a simple environment with a basic story line and very few game mechanics. Adventure games or Story based games can be relatively simple in terms of the programming side.
The opposite is true if you love programming. Build a game like Tetris, very simple graphics. These games have cool game mechanics but from a graphical standpoint, they are pretty simple to build.
Players Have AAA Expectations
There are a lot of successful indie games out there. However, the vast majority of gamers think of Call of Duty, Overwatch, and Fortnite as THE standard for video games. These are great games, built by great developers, but generally have a large budget and a large number of people working on them.
Unfortunately with these huge budgets, the games really have a lot packed into the small details. The numerous models you might find around the map, the beautiful optimization, the realistic scenery. These are all things you would expect to see in almost any modern AAA game.
Unfortunately to compete in the game market, you have to develop something quite unique and generally the game has to look high quality. This is tough to achieve on a budget with limited time. Ultimately, even simple games take a considerable amount of time in order to compete in this industry.
How to Speed Up Game Development
If it’s such an uphill battle to lower the length of time it takes to develop a game, what can we do to help? I have a few options that I think can really help any size of team. If you follow some of these items mentioned below, I think it will not only help your games become more successful, but will greatly reduce the time to complete it.
Invest in Tools That Will Help You Speed Up Workflow
There are a lot of great tools out there. As an example, in Unity, there are assets such as Gaia that can help you build an entire environment within just a few minutes. You can then tweak it over the course of a few days and get something that you are extremely happy with.
If you are looking to build a first person shooter, you could look at an asset such as the Ultimate Character Controller, which will give you a quick foundation to start from.
Essentially I am saying, you should really never build anything from total scratch. There are almost always tools out there that can give you a great start and likely make the process much faster in the end. Ultimately, this is the intention of modern game engines anyhow. You should not be such a purist that you develop a game engine on your own. The modern engines such as Unity and Unreal can create almost any game you could imagine at this point and give you a great foundation to work from.
Identify a Process That Works For Your Game and Stick With It
Processes are extremely important in game development. In my classroom, this is often a big struggle that I see in new game developers. They may start with a process such as Maya to Substance Painter to Unity. It’s a common workflow we have used. However, they may opt to start changing the process in the middle of development such as forgetting to do UV’s on models, or not assigning materials the same way each time they complete a model.
You should figure out your processes and workflow early on. If you don’t change them, you can really start pumping out the work pretty quickly. You get faster over time, and accomplishing some tasks does get easier as you become more and more familiar with it.
Prioritize Your Needs
The problem many game developers have is that they never feel “done”. The project could always be more improved. You, as the developer, see all of the little problems that others don’t notice.
I encourage you to frequently allow people to play your game. Get a fresh set of eyes. Watch what they do and where they get stuck. Those are things that matter most. The minor glitch in a texture is likely something that will go unnoticed.
With that said, I highly recommend you polish the first 5-10 minutes of gameplay in your game. From there, try to secure funding. Do not cut any corners on your “demo” portion. However, at some point you have to get to the point where you can ship your game. At this point, you have to overlook some things intentionally in order to meet deadlines and keep your game profitable. The only way to do this is by prioritizing what you absolutely HAVE to get done in your game.