4 Stages of Game Design

Some questions were raised in the post “Until you launch something, the time you spend is meaningless“, about the nature of computer game development.  There are many ways that you can develop a title, so these are not the only way that such stages can be defined.  This is in no way a complete list, but meant to provide basic awareness.  It will also form basic definitions for ideas that come in future posts.

Prototype:
Version 0 of the game. The goal of the first stage of game development is to create a working prototype.  Something that is playable and features some of the art and some of the graphics of the game.  While building the prototype you are looking for the fun, and designing the main game play loop.  For example the ZoRTS prototye is going to render some basic terrain.  Two types of buildings will be inserted into the terrain.  There will have two survivor units, and two zombie units.  This is much less than the full version of the game would contain.

Alpha:
Version 1.0 of a game.  You have revised the prototype to include as much content as you possibly can.  Even if unpolished and buggy code.  Even if the thing crashes some time.  All the intended functionality should be present and work at least some of the time.  The main game play loop should be evident and fun.

Beta:
Version 2.0 of the game.  The vast majority of the bugs should be found and squashed.  New units could be added or old ones removed.  Game play should be tweeked and refined.  Numbers crunched for fairness and balance.  There should be some Quality Assurance people involved.

Release:
Players see this as a game with a title in a box on a shelf.  It should be working 99% of the time.  Some players may experience bugs, and things may need to be fixed, but the game should otherwise be stable.  It should be something that a customer is willing to purchase.

These stages outline the process of producing most AAA games, and I would assume many Indie games as well.  There may be different names, or some stages may be missing, but this is the progress that most games go through.

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