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How a Game is Born Part 3: Programming and Arts Print E-mail
Written by Daniel Westerstal   
Monday, 04 July 2005
Our odyssey in the game development process continues. This time we will cover programming and arts, the largest part of the process.

When programming a game, developers have to stay one step ahead when it comes to hardware. Since games sometimes takes years to develop the game studios has to do the programming and testing on systems that will hit the market in a couple of years. This is very much the case when it comes to developing 3D games that uses a lot of new advanced hardware features.

Studios also wants to keep the development time as short as possible because of costs, the hardware issues and the fact that the game might get technologically old when it hits the market if the development time is not shortened.

As mentioned before programmers use the storyboard as a base for developing the game. Most game programming is done in the language C++ and Visual C++ is among the most popular compilers used. However there are alternatives to Visual C++, for example Borland and also several very capable Open Source options.

In addition to using C++ developers also has to decide on what kind of graphics libraries they want to use. A graphic library makes the game look nice and uses the computer hardware optimally. The most popular library when developing PC Windows’s games is Direct X. Direct X was developed by Microsoft to assist computer game developers when developing games for the Windows operating system. However Direct X is not only about graphics, it also handles sound, multiplayer options and much more.

There are also a number of other graphics libraries out there, one popular is OpenGL. OpenGL is more compatible with Linux and other operating systems and it’s very suitable for developing 3D Games.

Most computer game development starts off with programming a graphics engine. That is telling the computer how to present the graphics and how the physics in the game should work. There are also engines that are licensed by other developers, for example the Unreal engine which were used in many games.

Another large part of the programming phase is the artificial intelligence. If it’s an advanced game the AI is usually programmed by an expert in the field that is a programmer who specializes in AI. This sort of programming is very advanced but it’s generally about deciding how the computer opponents and enemies should behave and respond to the player.

Other part of the game that has to be code is the menus, the collision detection (making objects bump into each other, the sound and much more.

Except for the programming the game needs a lot of artwork. This is done by professional artists who work in programs such as 3D Studio, Lightwave, Photoshop and many others. If a character is to be created in 3D the work first starts on the drawing board with a sketch. After that the sketch is coloured.

Then it’s time for the character to be modelled into the computer. Special 3D modellers often do this. It’s important to get the model right and also the movements right. Some developers use motion capture to get the movements of the character right. Motion capture is the same technique as they use in Hollywood productions.

The production company rents an actor who then gets digital sensor placed all over the body. After that the movements of the actor is recorded into a computer. This process is often done in special studios for motion capture.

After the model is finished the skin is made for the character. This is where the clothes, hair, eyes and everything comes on. The skins is often made in Adobe Photoshop and then put on in a 3D program.

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