Thursday, 30 October 2014

Unit 22 and 72 - Pre Production For Wayne's Maze Game

BTEC Extended Diploma in Games Design 
Unit 22 and 72 -  Pre Production for Wayne’s Maze Game
By Dave Johnson


The pre production procedure includes a number of areas that need due consideration. These should be documented before work begins to provide a solid foundation to build the project on:


Type of production
The type of production specifies exactly what the project is being designed for. In creative industries terms this could possibly refer to TV, Film, Radio, Advertising, Print, Web, Handheld media, Graphic Design and Games Design.

Financial concerns and possibilities are addressed from the outset. They can refer to costs concerning equipment, software, hardware, personnel, transport, locations and marketing / advertising the project.

Time constraints
A vital consideration for any creative project is time. Time scales need to be put into place to organise the sequence of production tasks. Planning of time management early on gives will give everyone involved an overall picture of the scale of the project, along with the expected release date.

The term personnel refers to the individuals that will be involved in the production of the project. In video game production terms, these could be designers, artists, programmers, musicians and voice over specialists. The term personnel could also cover any contributors to the project such as celebrity endorsements.

Facilities refers to any place that will be needed for successful completion of the project. This could refer to a studio to build the game in, a recording studio or motion capture suite.

In video game terms this could refer to what form the game will be released in - digital or physical. It could also refer to any accompanying printed materials such as the game’s manual, posters, advertising, packaging, point of sale and merchandising.

Contributors refers to any outside talent that could be specifically bought in to help on the game’s production. These could include professional specialist staff and celebrity endorsements or voice overs. The term could also refer to financial backers who offer a contribution to the project in return for a token reward, such as members of Kick Starter or Crowdfund.

Locations could refer to any environment that is specifically sourced for the purposes of the game. In real world terms, this is called a ‘recce’ and is the process of a small team of photographers and filmmakers shooting footage. This footage is usually then used as reference material to build realistic environments within the computer. Locations could also cover looking through image libraries for visual reference materials.

Codes of Practice
This term can be broken down into many sub sections, and it is necessary that developers and publishers have a complete understanding of it all. Failure to do so can result in prosecution or criminal charges. Areas to consider include copyright, health & safety, insurance and regulatory bodies. Regulatory bodies are necessary for the fair and safe usage of the product and include

OFCOM – The Office of Fair Communication
PCC – Press Complaints Commission
ASA – Advertising Standards Authority

The regulatory bodies concerned with the rating of games pre release and trade unions are:

PEGI – Pan European Game Information
ESRB – Entertainment Software Rating Board
TIGA – The Independent Game Developers Association
ELSPA – The Entertainment and Software Publishers Association
BIMA – The British Interactive Media Association

Procedure for the pre-production of Wayne's Maze Game 

The type of production for this project will be relevant to video game production. For ‘Wayne's Maze Game’ there are many things I need to consider:

We have been granted a small budget of £1000 to produce the maze game. I believe I will not need a huge budget as I plan to keep my costs and expenditure as low as possible. To prepare a budget will require breaking down the financial requirements of the work and making sure the funds are allocated correctly to each task. It is a good idea to monitor this regularly in parallel with the production of the work to make sure I am not over budget on anything at any point. My budget is as follows :
Game Maker Premium Edition (Software)
Creation of game at home and outside of college
£500.00 (Free at college)
Photoshop (Software)
Creation of game graphics
£8.74 (Free at college)
Illustrator (Software)
Creation of game graphics
£8.74 (Free at college)
Recording studio time
Recording of music and sound
£30 ph () - 2 full days
Domain name and website
Promoting the game
Posters, mock up of box packaging
Promoting the game


As this is over the £1000.00 allocated, it may mean compromising on the purchase of the premium version of Game Maker and supporting website. This would bring the total spent to £597.48.

The spending for this will be as follows :

My professional background is in graphic design, web design and illustration. Therefore,  I am fortunate in the sense that I have a lot of the skills and contacts around me to make the game happen, so I will not need to worry too much about the cost of sourcing personnel and hiring talent. I have several powerful Mac computers at home along with a high spec PC at college and Game Maker. If I did need to buy any hardware, I would go through the process of sourcing the best quality product at the lowest price. I would expect that a high spec PC and monitor would cost around £1000.  Sites such as Amazon, Ebay and any comparison sites will help me to do this. In terms of software and personal hardware. In truth the maze game will not require a huge amount of processing power to run, being a simple 2D game. Processing power will be required when running applications such as Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, two programs that will be required for making sprites and backgrounds.

Further financing could be raised by turning to funding websites such as Kick Starter or Crowdfunder. I could offer contribution  incentives such as a copy of the game, in game appearances or a ‘Maths pack’ that expands on the game by offering accompanying printed educational materials with the game.  

As stated previously, I will be the sole designer, illustrator, musician and programmer on the project. I have many years experience doing all of the above professionally so the task in hand does not overwhelm me. Planning and making good use of the time available will be more of a concern, so I will probably be reliant on people around me to critique my work and let me know when each stage has reached an adequate point. As there will be speech in the game, and the main character is female I will require the help of a female voice over artist. Fortunately my wife is a professional in this field having done many years of voiceover and radio work. She has already offered her services and will be happy to contribute to the project for free. Any other voiceover work for characters of a different race or gender could be supplied by classmates who I will help in return.

I estimate that much of my budget will be spent on recording time in a studio. This could be as much as £20 - £30 per hour. Therefore with voice recording, music and retakes I estimate that around £450 - £500 pounds will be spent on this alone.

The main resource I will need is a version of Game Maker to work on at home. The free version should hopefully fulfill all my requirements for completing the game. SLC has the full version installed on their machines, so there will be no difficulty in find a copy to use. If however I were to find that I needed the features of the premium version whilst working at home (the ability to port over to mobile devices for example), I would have to consider paying the £500 necessary for it.
The spec of my Mac is more than high enough to run Game Maker along with Adobe Creative Suite. I already have all the programs I need, but if I were to buy Adobe CS it would cost around £1000 to buy outright or £8.74 per application per month to rent. I would need Photoshop and Illustrator as a minimum, costing me £17.48 per month.  As this project runs over just 4 weeks, the rental option would be preferable to my budget. In terms of drawing equipment, I have a Wacom tablet that will allow me to draw directly on screen, speeding up the design and illustration process. These usually retail for around £40.00.
SLC has the correct software environment to produce all graphics and game assets, bar sound recording. I would have to find a local recording studio that would likely cost me around £20 - £30 per hour.

If this was a large scale budget within a large company the likelihood that I would be outsourcing work to professionals is quite high. I may well need to employ programmers, designers, musicians and voice over artists to produce high quality assets that would reflect the budget. I may also need to spend money on the marketing of the game by employing website designers, online and offline marketers, packaging and advertising specialists and merchandising. In truth, the budget for this marketing aspect would be as large as that reserved for the game’s development. I may also need to hire a celebrity or well known video games voice to endorse the product. This would be expensive, but would hopefully be recouped by good sales upon release. In all likelihood, there would not be the time to arrange clearances for this due to the short timeframe. Therefore any additional voice work will be done by classmates by me helping them in return.

I think that if time runs short I may need to purchase music or musicians rather than recording it myself. I will be able to source these people on sites such as People Per Hour and ODesk. These people will negotiate a reasonable fee that should fall well within my remaining budget.  However, the main thing for me on this project is to produce graphics and programming that are all my own work. Therefore I am looking to keep as much work as possible produced by myself. Music and sound will be more time consuming, and will require a level of expertise that will need to be handled by an expert. This will require a large portion of the budget to be reserved for the use of hiring a sound engineer and a recording studio.  Any sound effects or music can easily be bought in by outsourcing them.

As it stands, I do have web design skills, so will probably produce a small micro site to publicize the game. This will require domain name purchase and hosting, which will be around £60.  I plan to spend some money on printing to produce posters and packaging to support the game in local schools and colleges. The aim is aimed at grade C GCSE students, so I know that this is where my target market is to sell to. This could be as much as an additional £100.

A schedule is a written document that outlines the length of time that the company will be spending on producing each part of the game. It is a set procedure that provides a guideline for a sequence of tasks. This procedure will provide a deadline for the project, along with deadlines for staff and contributors.
The game’s production will work to a deadline set by my tutor Wayne Gallear who has given a timeframe of around 4 weeks to produce the game. For my part I will need to assess each of the procedure tasks and estimate a reasonable length of time to work on them. Once I have identified my timeframe and workload, I will then divide my time up by working on the tasks sequentially. It would be advantageous to aim to finish ahead of the dead line so as to have the time to fix problems. This spare time would also allow me to allocate more time to any others section of production that require attention.

My schedule for the four weeks of November 2014 will be as follows:

Week 1
1st November - Develop story outline and establish what sprites / sounds I will need
2nd November - Develop game maps and game play
3rd November - Design and draw sprites
4th November - Design and draw sprites
5th November - Design and draw sprites
6th November - Design and draw sprites
7th November - Design and draw sprites

Week 2
8th November - Design and draw sprites
9th November - Game programming on GameMaker
10th November - Game programming on GameMaker
11th November - Game programming on GameMaker
12th November - Game programming on GameMaker
13th November - Game programming on GameMaker
14th November - Game programming on GameMaker

Week 3
15th November - Game programming on GameMaker
16th November - Record music, voices and sounds
17th November - Record music, voices and sounds
18th November - Record music, voices and sounds
19th November - Implement music, voices and sounds into the game
20th November - Implement music, voices and sounds into the game
21st November -  Implement music, voices and sounds into the game

Week 4
22nd November -  Implement music, voices and sounds into the game
23rd November - Implement music, voices and sounds into the game
24th November - Refining programming, play testing, bug and glitch fixing
25th November - Refining programming, play testing, bug and glitch fixing
26th November - Refining programming, play testing, bug and glitch fixing
27th November - Refining programming, play testing, bug and glitch fixing
28th November - Refining programming, play testing, bug and glitch fixing

Week 5
29th November - Spare time to refine any other elements
30th November - Spare time to refine any other elements
1st December - Submit the game to Wayne for evaluation
Whilst the game undergoes development I will need to be vigilant towards any hazards that may affect someone’s health or safety whilst in the workplace. These hazards could be, electrical hazards, trip hazards or hygienic hazards. The correct steps and checks will need to be taken to ensure no accidents occur, and that the company is protected from lawsuits or damage claims. This will involve Pack testing all electrical installations to make sure the equipment does not represent a hazard to users.

I also need to research issues such as epilepsy and whether the lights and colours could be construed as a health hazard. The game will need to be checked extensively for high levels of photosensitivity or anything else that could trigger attacks or fits.
My own personal code of practice is to produce a game that is educational and fun, but definitely one that does not have blood and violence within it. As a game developer, I want to keep the clients and audience firmly in mind in all aspects of production. The game will be aimed at Grade C GCSE math students, and will likely be a program bought by schools and colleges. Therefore I think it would be unacceptable to have violent scenes and anything that may cause shock or offence. The game will need to be rated and certified so will need to be PEGI and ESRB checked and approved.
My game should be suitable for the ages of 7+ as there will be gameplay and puzzles that would prove challenging to younger children. The maximum age group is actually adults as many take GCSE Math to improve their skill sets. However as the game will be marketed and sold to schools, I would imagine the average ages of players would be 14 - 16 year olds.

Therefore :
For a PEGI rating , this would be the age rating of ‘7’. This will be displayed on any printed media and displayed prominently on trailers.

For ERSB this would be the age rating of ‘E’, meaning ‘Everyone’.

There should not be any copyright issues as all graphics, sound and design will be my own work. I will however need to copyright everything to ensure my intellectual property rights are protected.

I would also need to arrange an insurance policy to cover:

- Myself as an employer and contractor
- Any problems that cause a serious impact on the delivery date of the project
- Anyone injured on my premises during the development of the project
- The intellectual property of my game ideas

Any project risks at this stage are speculative but could involve issues such as running over budget, or hardware or software failure. The other issue is of course the risk that I could run out of time, forcing me to submit a compromised version of the game. It would be wise to plan for this eventuality, and think about how gameplay can be scaled back but still be acceptable if this should occur.

The most likely risk is that the possibility that I will lose all my work due to a server or hardware failure. Therefore it would be wise to consistently back up all my work in at least three places - a USB stick, Google Drive, and a compressed folder emailed to myself. This should enable me to pick up where I left off should anything untoward occur.

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