Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Changing Landscape of Game Development

To avoid the content intertwining of this week's reading with my upcoming presentation, I would like to write about one of the finer points that was examined in the Aoyama writing: the evolution of video game production teams.  Over the course of time, the development of video games for consoles has transformed from a one man production, to a team of hundred of talented multidisciplinary workers.  From the one man team behind the Atari 2600's Adventure, to the 250 person team who created GTA V, the landscape for creating games has forever changed, but so have the tools for creating games.  For further reading, I must suggest Racing the Beam by Montfort and Bogost chapter 3, which outlines the 1 man design process behind Adventure for the Atari 2600.  If you're looking for a great read on  the whole, I suggest the book in its entirety to everyone.

Aoyama discusses 2 distinct paradigm shifts that occur in gaming history which had a great effect on the makeup of a game development team.  Those changes were: the introduction of game narrative and identifiable characters in games like Donkey Kong and Super Mario Bros, and the transfer of console games from cartridges to CDs.  Both of these changes altered the game development team by requiring more artistic chops to model more believable characters and animate them, write compelling stories, and render beautiful in game cutscenes, etc.  The expectation  for triple A games to contain all of these features listed above ripped large scale game development out of the sole programmers hands.  However, a more recent trend in game design has given the power back to the small groups, and allowed for a greater breadth of practices to be involved in game design.

The creation of the licensable and open source videogame development kits has radically changed the way that games are developed, and who can develop them.  These kits provide game developers with most, if not all of the tools they will require to model textures, animate, build lighting, create objects, program AI, etc. with relative ease.  All of these things which would have been propriety before, can be licensed from a game engine, such as the Unreal Development Kit, or Unity.  Many of these kits and toolsets are readily available, and free, allowing developers to create their own game without fees.  Once the games begin to sell, then the kit developers will take a percentage or a fee.  Because there are so many pre-programed tools available to artists, this allows much more broad array of disciplines in videogame development with minimal programming experience required.  These kits are also monumental in allowing smaller companies to develop their own games without having to invest the huge amount of time and resources required for building a custom game engines.

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