Update #30: How Stuff is Made
Today's update is different from what we've done so far, and is to give you a look at what's going on at the studio. During the making of Project Eternity we want to give you an idea on how our games are made. Making games is not magic - game development just boils down to a lot of work from a lot of talented people. I would like to pull back the curtain, and give you the who (the talent) and the what (the work that they do) to make Project Eternity a reality.
RPGs are large and complex games that have a ton of stuff, and much more stuff compared to most games. Characters, companions, dialogues, areas, monsters, abilities, spells, items, weapons, armor, sound effects, visual effects, interface art, music, crafting recipes, animations, textures, crates and quests are the bits of stuff in Project Eternity... and the list goes on and on. At the time that we finally ship the game, we will have hundreds of thousands of bits of stuff in the game. Managing and creating this stuff is one of our major problem when creating RPGs. Our task is to make all of the stuff as efficiently as possible with a high level of quality.
Right now we are knee deep in pre-production. Pre-production is the period of time at the beginning of development where everything is planned and prototyped, production schedules are made, and pipelines are constructed. I'm not talking about oil pipelines here - I'm talking about asset pipelines. An asset pipeline can be described like an oil pipeline - First the asset is made by a content creator (like an artist), next the asset is processed by a tool so that the game understands what the heck it is, and finally the asset is placed into the game world in its final location. All of the different types of assets (stuff) require a custom pipeline. Pipeline creation is one of the many problems we are tackling right now in pre-production.
We have many different roles (sometimes called "hats") on the Project Eternity team. Most of the team fall into three categories: content creators (makers of stuff), programmers (making the stuff work), and production (making sure the stuff gets made). Our role percentage breakdown is a bit different than what we typically have on a project. If you look at my fantastic pie-charts below, you can see that we are content focused because we have larger design team, and since our team size is small we don’t have the need for a large production staff.
All of these roles are equally important and are all vital for making the game great:
- Animation: Animation adds life and movement to the game. Every moving object in the game requires an animator to be involved.
- Effects Art: Spell effects, sword swings, fire, smoke, and blood are animated and designed by an effects artist.
- Environment Art: The environment artists make the world look beautiful. They do a pretty good job at it.
- Character Art: Character artists create the characters, companions, and monsters. They also model and texture all of the weapons and armor.
- Concept Art: Concept artists paint and illustrate environments and characters that fit within the art and design vision. Their art is used by the rest of the team for reference on style, mood, color, size and proportion. They also paint the 2D portraits and touch up the 2D pre-rendered environment scenes.
- User Interface Art: All of the buttons that you push, the interfaces that you interact with, and all of the mouse/item/weapon/spell icons in the game are designed and crafted by the UI artist.
- Audio Design: Audio design is responsible for any and all of the audio that comes out of your speakers. This includes the creation and production of all of the music and sound effects, and making the character voices sound great.
- Area Design: All of the cities, towns, dungeons, and wilderness areas that you can explore are designed by area designers. They take the environments and characters made by the artists to construct a rich and believable world. They also fill the game with quests and combat encounters.
- Narrative Design: RPGs contain thousands of lines of branching dialogue and huge non-linear storylines. The world, story, companions, factions, lore, and themes are created by the narrative designers.
- System Design: Rules and systems specialists. They like numbers and spreadsheets. Combat, abilities, spells, non-combat skills, and items are designed by the systems designers.
- Production: The producers organize the team. They make sure everything is running like a well-oiled machine. Producers have the responsibility for making sure the game is delivered on time, on budget, and is awesome when it's shipped.
- Engine Programming: The engine programmers deal with system, rendering, and physics code. Unity handles a lot of our engine-level programming for us, so we can focus our programming time and energy on gameplay.
- Game Programming: The game programmers implement the game design including the rules, combat, and abilities. They also code up gameplay systems like dialogues, quests, stores, and create artificial intelligence for monsters.
- Tools Programming: Pipelines and tools used by the team are made by the these programmers. Most of their code lives "outside" of the game code.
- Quality Assurance Testing: The QA tester reports in-game problems to the rest of the team. They make sure that all the stuff is working together and functioning properly.
We want to go into more detail on what each person does on the team in future updates. A two sentence description trivializes the responsibilities for each team member, so in the future we will dig deeper and take a closer look into the disciplines.
Next week Josh has an update with lore and other fun worldly things.
Update by Adam Brennecke