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5 Dec 2013

Documenting the Entire Game Development Process

Here is a morbid thought: whenever we are all dead and historians begin to comb over the history of video games, they are going to have absolutely no idea how they were originally developed. Sure, people are going to know which games were popular and were milestones in the industry, but no one is going to know how they were developed, what it took to create the games, how what primitive technology was used to develop the first games in the industry, and so on.

And the odd thing about it? Even now, many historians are going to have no clue as to how games were developed in 2013. And possibly 2014. Sure, there may be occasional documentation regarding what tools were used, when a project was announced and completed, but as far as the blood, sweat, and tears of developing a game? We are not going to have any idea what exactly went into developing the games we all know and love.

It’s a shame really, and it doesn’t make a lot of sense to begin with. Look at films for example: there is footage dating back decades showcasing how a film was created, directed, and so on. You get to see the lives of the people that were a part of creating a film, how they worked, and essentially how the film came together. Why can’t the development process be documented in such a way?

It turns out that actually, it can be – and to some extent, it already is. No surprise, indie developers are leading the way for documenting how they develop their games by streaming footage from their workstations as they develop a game to streaming video sites such as Twitch and UStream. This essentially creates a full library of footage that completely documents how a game is created.

But why is this important? Here are a few reasons why documenting the game development process is so important.

Looking to the past

It may not seem important now, but it is. The world is going to need to know how games were developed in 50 – 100 years. Sure, the development process of games in the future will probably be completely different, but even so, knowing the past of a medium is vital to ensuring that it is shaped and molded appropriately. Besides, indie developers (and developers as a whole) can learn a lot about developing games by looking to the past and learning how games were developed back then, so it is beneficial on multiple levels.

A sense of history

When you are working in a medium you love, you want to be able to look back and see how far we have come from a developmental standpoint. Certainly today, you can look at games from 10, 15, 20 years ago and see how far we have come, but that’s only from an ‘outside looking in’ perspective. Playing a 25-year old game for a few minutes will make you realize how far graphics, sound, and gameplay mechanics have come, but what about if you want to learn about the advancement of programming a game? What if you want to learn about how far we have come in terms of developing music for a game, graphics, and how different game engines were in the past? You can’t unless you speak to someone that actually developed those games at the time, and I don’t have to tell you that those guys won’t be around to tell their story forever.

By documenting the game development process, anyone is able to get a first-hand look at how differently games were developed because they get to watch a live stream of the individual working. Imagine if live streaming technology was available during the development process of  Super Mario Brothers, Final Fantasy, or Myst. We would be amazed by what these developers had to do to in order to create the works of art they developed, and with today’s technology, it is possible to provide the luxury for future developers.

Gaming isn’t solely about the finished product

When people talk about Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, they don’t solely talk about how beautiful it looks. In addition, they also talk about the process of painting the ceiling. When people discuss the impact of Star Wars, they also discuss the brilliant way George Lucas and company were able to create incredible special effects that blew the minds of moviegoers around the world.

 

Will your next indie game be as timeless as the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel? Probably not. Will it be as breathtaking as the original Star Wars film? Who knows. Yet even so, gaming isn’t solely about the game that is available on Steam, on mobile devices, or sitting on store shelve around the world. Rather, it’s about the sweat, the tears, and the emotions that drive someone to sit at their workstation and begin developing a game they truly believe in. It’s about the dedication and passion someone has when they get a compelling idea and do whatever it takes to turn their idea into an awesome game.

That’s what gaming is all about, and to exemplify this, documenting the development process of games is vital to the medium.

Should you document every hour of every day? Probably not. But when you get deep into coding, when you are creating something magical in your game, please, start livestreaming your work for the world to see live and forever. It is crucial that the world knows how games are created today, so lessons can be learned tomorrow.

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