Hang-ups and Hold-offs: Making a Game

I haven’t been the best about updating recently. That’s on me, through and through dear readers. What has been the plight of my absence, you may ask?

I’ve recently been hired to work on the art / animation for an independent title (yet to be released) and like many devs will tell you, it is all-consuming. On top of the forty hours a week stretch to make the animations I’m also launching my first digital comicbook on the side. In this article, I’ll give some insight into the process of making a game, as well as show off some of the early artwork for the title.

But first, what exactly goes into making a game?

There are five branches in game development: design, programming, art & animation, sound, and quality assurance.

Design is the actual structure of the game, each decision is by design, from the level layout, to how the UI (user interface) looks and feels. If it’s in the game, it was thought of and/or approved by the designers. Designers script in-engine, and are responsible for pipelining assets together.

Sound designers create (you guessed it!) all the sounds for the game. Whether it be diagetic, or nondiagetic, or even the soundtrack. They go out of their way to get the best sound for a game. Take 2016’sĀ InsideĀ for example- where the sound designers processed the game’s various noises through a human skull.

Programming is the harsh reality of the game development cycle. Programmers are in charge of things like data encapsulation, memory allocation, optimization, and creating the bones of the world itself. They’re the unsung heroes of the development process.

Game artists (that’s me!) are the people responsible for all the art assets used in a title. From conception to implementation, the artists work dilligently to create everything from idle animations to smooth combat frames, to the environment itself.

Cityscape - Concept Art

Cityscape – Concept Art

And QA, of course, bug checks and tests the game, subsequently relaying any broken parts of the game with the designers, before it’s released to the market.

All these parts work together (sometimes in harmony, sometimes in discord) with one another to yield a game! Huzzah!

But game development is not without it’s hiccups and hang-ups.

When we began to make the game we had very little in terms of the world, conceptually speaking, at large.

What was the ulterior goal of the game? How could we make it more than just a cyberpunk puzzle-solving 8bit romp?

Come to find out, as the development unfolded the project turned into something more. It manifested into something with purpose.

Protagonist - Concept Art

Protagonist- Concept Art

What was once a generic sidescroller became a game with a message. We wanted to tackle gender identity, and the pressures of society towards nonbinary youth in which they must adhere under the social construct of gender.

We wanted to reach out to any kid who might be experiencing what our protagonist goes through, in that they might not feel so alone anymore.

Games, in recent years, have found themselves addressing social issues, such as discrimination, segregation, fascism, and stereotyping. And I think it’s important for them to handle these issues- as almost all other mediums have been used to make some form of political commentary at one point or another.

Games in particular, have the ability to actively put the audience in the role of the art as it unfolds, something no other medium has the ability to do.

However, within this desire to make robust pieces that act as interactive art, there is one thing developers have to remember.

Something any developer will tell you is that the most important thing to remember is scope.

It’s so easy to get carried away with ideas, mechanics, and everything you want to be in your game. How can one not? It’s addictive to want to do X, Y, Z even though you might just be getting off of A, B and C.

Scope is crucial, and it can make or break your game.

So here is to you guys for sticking by me during this time away! Development has been stressful but I’m glad to say I’ve returned, and will be posting more about the indie community in Chicago and around the country more frequently!

Stay tuned!

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