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What is a Video Game Development Life Cycle?

Estimated read time: 9 minutes

Are you interested in exploring the video game development lifecycle? In this article, we will discuss the same in detail.

Video Game development software life cycle has similarities with software development life cycle, however, it has unique flavors too. It’s commonly known as the Game Development Life Cycle (GDLC).

Video Game Development Software Life Cycle

Game Development Lifecycle (GDLC) has the following stages:

1. Generating Ideas and conceptualizing the game

In the first stage of the game development software life cycle, you create ideas. You conceptualize the game concepts.

When do you start the idea generation stage?

You need to kick off your overall video game development project before starting the idea generation stage. A game development project needs a lot more than just content and software development.

E.g., you need to have a comprehensive marketing plan for your proposed game. A general project kick-off initiates all of the workstreams in the project. Start the idea generation stage after the project kick-off.

Who in your team should work on the idea generation and conceptualization stage?

You need a team with the following roles at this stage:

  • A project manager (PM): The PM manages the entire project end-to-end.
  • A software architect: The architect develops the technical solution for the game software development project. Architects also oversee the project and initiate course corrections when applicable.
  • Business analysts (BAs): Business analysts gather and document the ideas and concepts about the game from the business stakeholders in your company.
  • The lead game designer: The game designer hears the game idea and concepts. Video game designers help to refine ideas and concepts by explaining the possible design scenarios and parameters to business stakeholders and BAs.

What do you do in the idea generation stage?

Your team does the following in this stage:

  • It meets the business stakeholders and brainstorms the ideas and concepts around the proposed game.
  • BAs and the architect ask questions to find out the ideas behind the game, e.g., creating educational games.
  • The team gets clarity over the objective of the proposed online game.
  • BAs gather relevant information from the business stakeholders. This includes the target audience, demography-related information, target platforms, etc.

What outputs do you produce in the idea generation and conceptualization stage?

Your team produces a “Game Concept Document” at the end of the idea generation phase. The document details the objectives, ideas, and high-level concepts of the proposed game.

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2. Game design

The game design stage is key to a successful game development project.

When can you start the game design stage?

In the game software development life cycle, the game design stage starts after the completion of the idea generation stage. This stage uses the game concept document as a key input.

Who should work at this stage?

You need the following roles to work on this key stage of the game development lifecycle:

  • The PM;
  • The architect;
  • BAs;
  • Game designers;
  • The lead programmer.

The PM oversees the game design stage, and the architect reviews the design to get inputs for technical solution design. BAs work closely with the game designer to ensure that the design reflects the game concepts.

Led by the lead game designer, the team of game designers creates the game design artifacts. The lead programmer closely reviews the game design. Programmers will later need guidance concerning the game design principles and parameters. The lead programmers need to prepare for it.

The output of the game design stage

The key output of the game design stage is the “Game Design Document”. It’s a detailed document that lays out the following:

  • The reflection of the game concepts in the design;
  • UI (user interface) of the game including buttons, animations, texts, fonts, dialog, etc.;
  • Game characters including animations, features, etc.;
  • Gameplay scenarios;
  • 3D environment design and other game design elements;
  • Graphics;
  • Game progression;
  • Music like the theme music, background music, etc.;
  • Levels of the game;
  • Game data elements;
  • Game usability requirements.

The key activities in the game design stage

Your team needs to do the following in this stage:

  • Creating the “Game Design Document”;
  • Designing the game objects, game scenarios, characters, etc. using tools like Adobe Photoshop, Autodesk Maya, Mudbox, etc.;
  • Having structured review sessions with the business stakeholders;
  • Having iterations of game designing activities when needed.

3. Technical requirements analysis

The technical requirements analysis stage in the game development process sets the foundation for developing the game software.

What’s the right time to start technical requirements analysis?

The technical requirements analysis stage should help your game programming team to develop the game software. Therefore, this stage should provide your game developers with the information they need.

The game development team needs the game software architecture information. It also needs a detailed technical solution to start the development process.

Your architect can develop these only after the game design. Therefore, you can start the technical requirements analysis stage after the game design stage.

Team members needed in this game development life cycle stage

Your technical team should have the following roles in this stage:

  • The PM;
  • The software architect;
  • BAs;
  • The lead game designer;
  • The lead game developer;
  • Game development team members;
  • The testing team lead;
  • The DevOps team lead.

The software architect and the lead game developer should collaborate to create the technical specification and game software architecture. They need inputs from BAs and the lead game designer to create robust software architecture.

The testing team lead should review the technical solutions and architecture closely. This helps the test lead in creating the test strategy. The DevOps team lead can prepare the deployment strategy. The PM should oversee this process.

Key activities in the technical requirements analysis stage and outcomes

The technical requirements analysis stage involved the following key activities:

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  • Creating the development strategy;
  • Evaluating resources like game engines, frameworks, libraries, etc. for developing games;
  • Creating the detailed technical specifications document, which is a key work product;
  • Creating the game software architecture, which is another key work product;
  • Building the test strategy for the proposed software game;
  • Creating the deployment strategy.

4. Development

The development stage in GDLC includes several complex programming system development tasks.

The right time for the development stage

Your team gets key inputs from the technical requirements analysis stage to handle complex development tasks. You can start the development of video games only after that.

Who should work in the development stage?

The lead developer and the rest of the software development team should work on this stage. You need the architect to verify whether the team is implementing the software architecture decisions.

The lead developer and architect should also ensure that the team follows good software engineering processes. You need the PM to monitor the progress and make course corrections when needed.

Activities and outcomes of the development stage

The game development team codes the game software. You need to implement a code review system, furthermore, this stage should include unit testing. Bugs tracker reports and unit tested code are outcomes of this stage.

Your development team should have experience in video game development tools and technologies. For example, the Unity platform is used widely by game developers to build 2D and 3D video games. Stencyl and Construct2 are famous platforms with drag-and-drop interfaces to develop 2D games.

Read more on video game development tools here.

5. Testing

Test your work-in-progress game app to find out if it can compete in the market.

When should you start working on the testing stage?

A part of the work in the testing stage should start as soon as the technical specifications, game architecture, and testing strategy are ready. The testing team leader should work with the testing team to create the test plan and test cases.

You ought to identify test automation tools. The test execution in video game development projects can start after the software development stages.

Team members needed in the testing stage

You need the game testing team to work on this stage. The DevOps team should facilitate the development and testing iterations. The architect should oversee the progress, and the PM should manage the entire process.

What are the activities and outcomes of this stage?

Test execution involves running various test scripts. These could include integration testing, performance testing, security testing, etc.

Test automation tools provide various reports and analytics. The testing and development teams need to review them. They should collaborate and resolve bugs. The PM and architect should review the comprehensive test report and verify the resolution of bugs.

6. Deployment

Your target audience might be playing games on multiple platforms, and you now need to deploy your software game on those platforms.

When can you start working on the deployment stage?

Parts of the work in this stage start right after the creation of technical solutions, software architecture, and deployment strategy. The DevOps team lead can work with DevOps engineers to create a detailed deployment plan.

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Deployments to the test environment will happen as iterative processes. The timing of them depends on the design, development, and test iterations. Whether you follow the waterfall model, spiral lifecycle model, or agile model will influence this.

The production deployment can start only after the game software meets the business and non-functional requirements.

Who should work in the deployment stage?

The DevOps lead and DevOps engineers work on the deployment stage. They need to coordinate with the architect, while the PM needs to oversee the process.

Activities and outcomes of the deployment stage

The DevOps team puts into action the deployment plan created earlier. They might run a few manual scripts, furthermore, they will need to review the outcome of the automated scripts.

DevOps teams often create deployment checklists and they refine them during the pre-production deployment exercises. They will fill these checklists and review reports from the automated deployment tools.

Planning for a Video Game Development Project?

The global market for the video game industry is already large. Furthermore, the game industry is growing noticeably. A Mordor Intelligence report estimates that the global gaming market will grow from $198.40 billion in 2021 to $339.95 billion by 2027.

If you, as a business owner, are also planning to invest in a video game development project, you are making a lucrative investment decision.

However, the key to succeeding in a competitive market of video games is to develop games app that is robust and have innovative features. You can achieve this by partnering with a competent team of video game designers and developers.

If you lack such video development skills in your project team, we would advise you to partner with a software development company.

DevTeam.Space can help you here with its field-expert software developers community. Write to us your initial video game programming specifications via this form and one of our technical managers will reach out to you to provide further assistance with project team building, planning, implementation, etc.

FAQs on Video Game Development

1. What are some commonly used tools in video game development?

Unity game engine, GameBench, Incredibuild, GameMaker Studio, etc. are top game development engines and tools used by game developers.

2. Which are the top PC games?

At the time of writing, the top 10 computer games are Monster Hunter Rise, Elden Ring, Alan Wake Remastered, Psychonauts 2, Guilty Gear Strive, Mass Effect Legendary Edition, Little Nightmares II, Nioh 2 – The Complete Edition, Hades, and Microsoft Flight Simulator.

3. Which are the top game development companies?

At the time of writing, the top web and mobile games development companies are Nintendo, Ubisoft, Sony Interactive Entertainment, Activision Blizzard, Epic Games, Gameloft, Square Enix, Bungie Inc., iTechArt, and Zero Games Studio.


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