A typical game development cycle can last anywhere from a few months to two years, and it takes a diverse team of designers, producers, testers, artists, programmers, and managers to maintain the integrity of the project throughout development.
Many people begin their careers in this field as a junior designer, where they’ll work alongside a lead designer to develop the look, feel, and concept of a game during pre-production – as well as write supporting documentation that will act as the blueprint for the entire project. Junior designers can move into a variety of roles, including narrative design, level design, gameplay design, and lead design positions.
In addition to entry and leadership design positions, there are various leadership roles that are integral to the development process. Those looking for a pure leadership track, focusing on the needs and group dynamics of development teams, might join the industry as associate or assistant producers. An associate producer, for instance, is responsible for the human resource needs of the staff, and helps mediate communication and conflict between the artists, programmers, designers, and producers.
There are roles and leadership tracks related to testing in both quality assurance and usability for those who are passionate about the technical and player-experienced functionality of games and game interfaces. In addition, the industry has director and lead roles in art, audio, and programming, a possible path for those whose undergraduate experience would combine with the Game Design degree to align with those focused responsibilities.
Project leads work closely with these departments, as heads of scheduling for a game’s development cycle. They’ll set and facilitate completion milestones, as well as the manufacturing timeline for the physical media.
The business end of a game studio also has a need for professionals who understand the intricacies of the game industry. Business managers and project managers oversee the financial resources needed to create a game and work to see that it gets completed on time and under budget. There are also managers needed to oversee the facility itself, such as the studio director, who maintains and manages the studio space – handling such day-to-day business responsibilities as incoming projects, public relations, marketing, and client relations.
Since graduating from Full Sail, Joe Laurino has worked his way through the production track to become a Game Producer at Arkadium Inc., where he’s developing educational games for the National Geographic Channel. Joe’s production responsibilities include creating and maintaining an efficient project pipeline, as well as managing the game content design – including the art and audio assets.
Graduate Brant Nicholas has also taken an important lead role as a Senior Producer at Codemasters, where he’s worked on projects like Operation Flashpoint 2: Dragon Rising. Brant is responsible for addressing any design, scheduling, and playability concerns that arise, and finding solutions that keep respect for the overall quality of the project.