A computer game emerges – from the idea to the game fun

We would now like to introduce this general procedure in more detail using FIFA 12 as an example. For a game like FIFA 12, the development of new features (e.g. two to three years development time for the “Player Impact Engine”) and the motion capturing runs in a constant process, independent of the outlined production phase.

We will also discuss the small differences between the development of a completely new game and a title from the FIFA series.

Idea and concept development

With the idea of one or more computer game designers begins the great journey for each new game. In the case of the FIFA series, the cornerstones of the game idea are already predetermined by football, so that concept development concentrates year after year on further refining the numerous details and examining certain technical innovations for feasibility in advance.

This first phase in the development of a video game is particularly important because it is on the basis of this work that a decision is made as to whether the idea will be pursued further and the financing secured. It is also called pre-production. For the FIFA series, this phase usually takes place between October and December.

Financing and cost plan

The presentation of the concept is then presented to the publisher. Here, all the details from point 1 are closely examined and it is discussed whether an investment is worthwhile. If a suitable cost plan is drawn up on the basis of the decision, nothing stands in the way of actual development and production can begin.

FIFA 12 also went through these points, whereby helpful empirical values exist through the experiences of the previous parts of the series. Some of the costs for the FIFA series, for example, are usually fixed in the long term due to the licenses from football used in the game.

Production phase

Since FIFA series matches are released in an annual cycle, the production phase is set to a time frame of 9 to 12 months. The majority of the features will be integrated into the game between January and June. For games that are not subject to a regular release interval, this phase can last one to two years, sometimes much longer.

The following sections are part of this development – and some even start in parallel. The challenge in developing a video game is to make parallel progress in order to gradually combine the results into a whole.

Screenwriter, Level and Game Designer

The foundation stone for the development is laid by the level designers and script writers, whose work plays a major role in the creation of a computer game. They are responsible for the atmosphere and the so-called gameplay. Only a well thought-out, exciting plot and varied missions in the different levels lay the foundation for a successful game.

Finally, the game designer is responsible for outlining the game concept and controls. In the case of FIFA 12, this includes the contents of the menus, the various tournament forms, the controller assignment, the manager mode and the various online functions. The screenplay plays a rather subordinate role for FIFA 12 and other sports games, since reality serves as a guideline here: The football field defines the virtual, physical framework, the game rules already exist and an action, as in a role-playing game, sports games usually lack. For the manager mode, for example, FIFA also has a kind of script, which is of course determined by the course of a typical season as well as by reality within a certain framework.

Virtual environments, programmers and graphic artists

Programmers and graphic designers now implement the specifications of the previous planning. Together, they implement the virtual environments and use a technical framework that is usually referred to as an “engine”. To ensure that the game environment is filled, programmers also work on the artificial intelligence (AI) of virtual characters – and use a physics engine, for example, to be able to react as realistically as possible to a player’s actions.

It is understandable that FIFA 12 attaches great importance to these two aspects, since a computer-controlled football team should be a worthy opponent – and the ball physics should also look as realistic as possible on the virtual green. This focus rarely changes in the FIFA series, so that parts of this programming can be used year after year and further improved. At this point it is important to also refer to the existing work on new techniques parallel to the game development, which every few years also in the FIFA series is responsible for a completely overhauled and even better look and for new game possibilities.

Figures, Objects, Music, Language and User Interface

In a further step the game figures and objects are created. In soccer simulation, for example, these are the team players, who are recorded in great detail thanks to motion capturing and 3D head scanning and later displayed in the game.

In addition to the regular background music, the developers also integrate the ambient noises from the football stadiums, for example, which the employees recorded on site. The music plays a major role and contributes significantly to the atmosphere. This applies not only to games with one story, but to all genres.

For the players, there is an extensive list of music pieces from well-known and new artists available. Of course, the important recordings of the commentators and dubbing actors are also included. Finally, the recordings recorded in the recording studios are to be played back later in the game at the appropriate points.

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