What Goes Into the Making of a Hit Online Game?

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If you are a gaming fan then the next couple of weeks and months are set to be an exciting rollercoaster ride. In sports news the battle between FIFA and Pro Evo renews with the release of eFootball a rebrand of the latter.

Then in November the new Call of Duty game Vanguard releases with promises of a bigger, better and more detailed Warzone map to look forward to. In between that there is the release of Far Cry 6 featuring the enigmatic Giancarlo Esposito (Gustavo Fring to Breaking Bad fans.)

As you sit in excitement at a loading screen waiting to play one of these games, you may wonder to yourself, ‘how did they make such a great game?’ Below you will find the answers to that question from the very beginnings right up to the spectacular release of a hit online game.

(Call of Duty Vanguard is set to become the next hit online game.)

Planning

There would be no ‘Here we go again’ memes if someone had not come up with the idea of Grand Theft Auto, nor would there be so many ‘Bravo Six Going Dark’ memes without someone coming up with the idea of Call of Duty and the character Captain Price.

Every hit online game starts out as an acorn of an idea before growing into the all singing and all dancing title that we all adore. Idea generation then is one of the most pivotal aspects of game development.

In fact, for companies that offer online slots, where there are so many games to compete with, huge amounts of money and manpower are dedicated to idea generation. Oftentimes creative industry experts will be called upon to help with this process, but there is still plenty of work to be done from that point onwards.

Pre-production

After an idea or a premise has been decided upon games developers go about the next stages of development as though they were Hollywood directors. Intense storyboarding, scriptwriting and casting will then commence until developers are left with the skeleton of a feature film.

In this phase of development technological capabilities will be worked out with and plotted alongside scheduled milestones. Some basic ideas and concepts from the game itself may also be prototyped to gauge their feasibility in the long-run.

(Games developers follow a similar development plan to movie producers as can be seen from the incredibly cinematic trailer for Far Cry 6.)

Production

This is the most vital stage of any game’s development as a huge team of professionals will work on the modelling and designing of every aspect of the game. This not only includes how characters and their environments look but it includes how small features like the player HUD look and feel.

In addition to aesthetics, developers will work on audio and visual effects which is not as simple as it sounds. Things that you take for granted such as how the sound of footsteps increase as players get closer to you are tricky features to tie down.

After that developers will turn their attentions to the game physics and mechanics, making sure that every move you take in-game feels and appears as real as possible. There are of course hundreds if not thousands of other smaller tasks that developers have to cover in this stage that we simply do not have time to cover in this article.

Safe to say though that everything, absolutely everything that you see and interact with in-game has been painstakingly created and tested by a dedicated and hardworking developer.

Testing

Now that the game is beginning to look like a game, developers have to test it to see if it stands up to scrutiny. Does it perform as well as other titles in the same genre? Is it realistic?

Are there any features that could be exploited by players? Is the game too easy or too hard? Is it actually fun to play? Is it true to our original idea?

Those aren’t the only questions that developers have to ask, they are just a taster of the type of detail that they must go into when testing their products.

(Testing is designed to reduce the amount of glitches you see in your favourite games, although without them we wouldn’t have videos like these.)

Pre-launch

At this stage developers are fairly confident with their product and ready to release the Alpha/Beta prototypes to the player base. During this stage a lot of marketing work will go into creating a hype behind the game.

Cinematic trailers will be released to the market, streamers will be encouraged to review the title and the game will be showcased at gaming conventions all around the planet. Whilst technically this is not the hardest stage of development it is the most pivotal.

If the marketing is not done correctly and fails to garner enough hype then the finished game, no matter its quality, could become a flop.

Launch

The Alpha/Beta releases may prove an effective marketing tool but they are also important opportunities to learn for the developers. Both minor and major bugs can be identified in these releases and thus, rectified by the time the official launch comes along.

Just prior to this period developers will polish the game as well, making it as visually appealing as possible.

Post-production

After launch a hit online game must continue to be marketed successfully to new players whilst also ensuring that bugs are squashed, patches are added and balancing is made. In addition to this a good game will also post regular updates to keep the playing base engaged and loyal to the product.

Once all of this has run its course its back to the planning stage for the next hit game…

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