Game Development – Team roles
Alessandro Canossa –
Mark Nelson –
Course code: MSU 0806015U
Spring 2010
Standard team composition
Producer / project manager
Game designer
Artists (concept, 2D, 3D, animator, art director)
Programmers (graphics, AI, physics, engine, network, etc.)
Level designers
Sound designers
Voice acting
Redundancy or roles, one person many roles
Responsible of overseeing development of a video game though all its stages.
External (executive): publisher side , negotiating contracts, including licensing
deals, link between the team and publisher or executive staff
Internal (more hands-on): costs, personnel, on-time delivery, milestones and
overall quality (QA, User research), overseeing creative (art and design) and
technical development (game programming) of the game
Arranging for beta testing and focus groups, if applicable
Arranging for localization
Relates to art lead, programmer lead, design lead, testing lead
Contact between team and higher levels in company and other stakeholders
Project Manager
Scheduling team members
Motivating team members based on performance and deadlines
Handling individual requests (new hardware, logistics, etc…)
Point of contact for the whole team
Defining production method
Often shared between several teams
They serve as advisors regarding creative issues
Focalize creative vision, but do not create assets, art or designs
Management role dedicated tot he vision of a single game
Create documents and structure to ensure unified ”look and feel”
Game designer:
Designing gameplay, conceiving and designing the rules and structures of a game.
Responsible for game design document (or wiki). Different skills: design, management,
scheduling, research, understanding of all aspects of a game, ability to document the
vision and communicate it to others. Thinkers, writers, planners.
From the seed of an idea into a set of rules, descriptions and examples, direction for the
whole team.
Game designer:
"A great idea is meaningless. A great idea that leverages your existing technology, gets the
team excited, is feasible to do on time and budget, is commericially competitive, and,
last but not least, floats the boat of a major publisher... Now you have something.” Ken
Systems designer
Level builder
Technical designer
Lead designer
Area designer
Character design
Background design
Game designer:
Neverwinter Nights 2: the job is to take the chunks given out by
the lead designer and flesh them out. This involves doing a lot
of area overview work, drawing maps on paper or in
Photoshop, writing all the dialogues and quests, making
creature lists for the areas, placing objects and critters, building
levels in the editor, and proofreading/play-testing each other's
Game designer:
Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic II: keeping the vision for the game, the game
mechanics, the "fun" of the game, the overall story and any elements that
propel the story (companions, key locations, etc.) and then breaking down the
remaining elements into digestible chunks for the other designers:
– area briefs and area overviews ("this planet is X, the following things need
to happen on it, etc.")
– breaking up the mechanics and play-balancing ("I need you to oversee the
feat and class advancement systems, as long as they accomplish the
following goals," etc.)
– managing all the parts so programmers, artists, and the producer are
getting everything they need to keep moving.
Game designer
Creating game systems that interact in an interesting
manner while also creating a universe. It's not enough to
create cool characters or systems. It's about seeing how it
all merges in the end.
Level designers
A level designer’s role changes a lot in different studios: from
planning the flow and circulation patterns to creating basic
or refined geometry to properly illuminating it. Eventually
they can control all aspects of the player experience in a
certain location of the game. Often working in level
Juggle design, art and code to create spaces for player action.
Design gameplay
Build, decorate and populate the world
Scenario Desiger: if all the level’s art is prefabricated
System designers
Creates individual systems, rules, scenarios of the game but
does not build content or assets.
Minute details of sub systems (combat system)
Support lead designer by defining details and working out
mechanics and documenting them for the rest of the team.
Game Artists:
Create art for games: all the people, objects, buildings, landscapes and characters
- which make up the game world. Game artists are responsible for all of the
aspects of game development that call for visual art and aesthetic
component. Their work is coordinated and supervised by the art director
• pencil drawings, pen and ink illustrations, oil paintings, 3D models, etc.
• 2D art used as reference, concept art, textures or 3D models and animations.
• design the look of the character through concept art and render them to be
integrated into the game.
• responsible for designing characters, scenery, props, and any other visual
effects in the game.
• 3D Max and Maya most popular tool
Give life & motion to characters and props.
Response for each action (and inaction, idle)
Cleaning mo-cap
Procedural animation (Uncharted)
Texture Artists / GUI-HUD Artists:
Create material for every object and character
Shader artist
Procedural textures (vector gfx)
High poly normal & parallax maps - mudbox
Photoshop and 3D package
Interface art assets: health bars, icons, buttons, inventory, etc.
Information Display (McCandles)
Concept Artists:
Important in pre production to create character and prop sheets for 3D artists
Define with art director locations, charatcers, objects, interface, etc.
Overproduction of concepts and selection among many options
Finished as soon as production starts
Sound Designers - Composers:
Create aural texture, pre-recorded or synthesized sound effects and foleys
From full thematic scores to ambient music
Game programmers
Software engineers in charge of one or more of the disciplines necessary to
realize a game: advanced physics, artificial intelligence, 3D graphics,
digitized sound and music, complex strategy, different input devices and
network support for multiplayer or other on-line features.
Physiscs: dedicated to developing the physics. Only a few aspects of realworld physics are simulated. For example, a space game may need
simulated gravity, but would not have any need for simulating water
AI: develops the logic the game uses to complete large number of actions.
Now evolved into a specialized discipline: pathfinding, strategy and
enemy tactic systems. One of the most challenging aspects of game
programming and its sophistication is developing rapidly. 10/20 percent
of programming staff is devoted to AI.
Game programmers
Graphics: developing both specialized blitter algorithms and clever
optimizations for 2D graphics and complex 3D graphic renderers. 3D
graphics programmers must have a firm grasp of advanced
mathematical concepts such as vector and matrix math, quaternions
and linear algebra. Eye-candy gurus.
Sound: building and refining the game's sound engine, some background
in digital signal processing and in some cases also 3D positional sound.
Responsible for scripting tools to be uses by sound designers. These
tools allow designers to associate sounds with characters, actions,
objects and events while also assigning music or atmospheric sounds
for game environments (levels or areas) and setting environmental
variables such as reverberation.
Game programmers
Gameplay: give functionality and behaviour to game elements, focuses on
a game's strategy and the "feel" of a game: strategy tables, tweak
input code, adjust other factors that alter the game. Subset of this
group is scripters: implement cinematic events, enemy behavior and
game objectives with scripting language
UI: responsible for user interfaces, either custom made or developed from
a library that can be used across multiple projects. Even 2D looking
interfaces use 3D technology so knowledge of 3D math and systems
required. Other skills: special effects, transparency, animation, particle
effects, etc.
Input: writing the code specifying how input devices affect the game, very
relevant for wii and new upcoming technology
Game programmers
Network: allows players to compete against each other (or play together)
connected on line or download/upload content. Challenging discipline,
involves dealing with network latency, packet compression, and
dropped or interrupted connections.
Tools: are used for tasks such as scripting, importing or converting art,
modifying behaviors or building levels. Many tools are specific to the
game and are custom programmed to handle specific tasks. Some
tools will be included with the game, but most will not. Most tools
evolve with the game and can eventually become source of revenue
Game programmers
Porting: converting code from one operating system to work on another
or on a variety of devices, such as mobile phones. Sometimes it means
re-writing the entire game to fit proprietary languages, tools or
Technology (R&D): not attached to single project but referring to CTO,
focused on optimization or solving challenging issues or experiemnting
new features or implementing algorithms from academic research.
Generalist: In smaller teams, somebody who can take on the various other
roles as needed. Often engaged in the task of tracking down bugs and
fixing them.
Lead: in charge both of coordinating the various submodules of the game
and to keep track of development from a programming standpoint
Other roles (freelancers)
Cut-Scene artist (in-game cinematographer)
Voice acting
Motion capturing
Sound design
Music composition
QA lead
User Research