Friday, 10 October 2014

Unit 1 - Pre-production requirements of a 2D maze game



Unit 1 - Pre-production requirements of a 2D maze game
By Dave Johnson



Game pitch and outline
The game is a deliberately retro top-down maze game in the style of Zelda and early Final Fantasy games. The main character is a brave explorer who enters a hot sweltering jungle and mystical temple to recover a priceless idol. Along the way he will face jungle critters, undead guardians, temple spirits, puzzles, traps and boss fights. The twist is the temple itself will be a character guiding and chastising the player, helping and hindering and presenting the player with a sequence of challenging rooms to navigate. Hopefully this will be voiced by a well know actor (see Voice Actor section below)
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Zelda - An inspiration for the maze game we will create

Final Fantasy - An inspiration for the maze game we will create





Types of production

The type of pre-production for this project will obviously be geared mainly toward a video game. This will involve idea generation, story boarding, concept design, location research, programming and animation, sound, play testing and market research.



However, I would estimate that there will be other secondary types of production involved to support and promote the product that I am making. There will be online, radio and press advertisements, along with animation production for the game intro, cut scenes and end sequence. As the game is of a light hearted cartoon nature, these secondary productions will be of an appropriate style, e.g. hand drawn characters that will be voiced by professional actors. If we secure well known popular and industry actors to contribute and lend their talents, it would create a buzz with any publicity material we release.



Artwork and Point Of Sale merchandising be will need to be produced to publicize and promote the game in stores and in the gaming press. Along with this, online merchandising will be needed such as a website, banners, and viral videos.



Interviews will also need to be given to explain the creative vision and direction of the game. These will be given to the gaming press, relevant industry websites and at trade shows and expos.



Finance

My financial costs are based on the software and equipment needed to produce the game, along with design costs, personnel costs, contributor costs, promotional costs and any relevant business support costs. I have broken them down into sections as follows, estimating what I think I will need to successfully complete production:



Equipment costs

The following is an estimate of each item for the equipment and premises that we will need to produce a high quality game:



Studio premises: These will be used as the base of operations for all pre production and production artwork, design, graphics, sound, coding, play testing, de-bugging and meetings / focus groups. We are aiming to hire a studio space in the Leicester area for around £500 per month. It is estimated that the game will take around 18 months to complete from it is conception through to final release.

The figures for this equate to 18 x £500.00 = £9000.00.


Game Maker will be essential to developing our product




Game Maker: This will be used for all technical coding aspects of the production such as implementing controls, sprites, collectibles, backgrounds, music, menus, intro, cutscene and end sequence / credits.

The current retail cost for this is £500.00.



Adobe Creative Suite will also be essential to the game's success


Adobe Creative Suite: This will be used for all artistic aspects of the production such as creating sprites, collectibles, backgrounds, music, intro, cutscene and end sequence / credits and editing movie clips.

The current retail cost for this is £700.00.





Three Wacom tablets for onscreen drawing: These will be used for drawing sprites, collectables, backgrounds and in game graphics. They allow a much greater degree of fluidity and creativity than drawing with a mouse.The current cost for an A5 size tablet is £30.00.

The figures for this equate to 3 x £30.00 = £90.00.





Three high end spec PCs or Macs and monitors: Preferably we would need three high spec PC's as Game Maker is more readily compatible and has more features on Windows operating system. We would need computers that can run a detailed sound and graphics experience, have the storage space for our software and be reliable machines. We would also need three large monitors so we can see the game that we are building at the best quality and resolution. The PC's that contain the kind of hardware we need retail at around £1500.00 when each supplied with a monitor.

The figures for this equate to 3 x £1500.00 = £4500.00.







Internet access: This is obviously essential for research, file sharing, conference calling and downloading any Game Maker patches or updates. Current line rental rate and broad packages are around £30.00 per month.

Over our projected 18 month development period this equates to 18 x £30.00 = £540.00.



Cloud storage space for file sharing: We could use free online alternatives as Drop box or YouSend It which would make this costless.





Personnel costs

The following personnel and staff will be required to successfully meet the creative vision for this game and produce a quality product:



Game designer & director

The game designer will be designated the task of coming up with the concept for the game, producing ideas for characters, designing levels and writing the script and story. It is a vital job, for without the initial creative spark that sets the game in motion, there can be no movement forward for the production team. Once underway, the game designer is often charged with the task of leading the project and directing the team's creative vision for the product. It is essential role and with regard to any timescales that have been set out, it is the designer / director's job to ensure that all milestones are met.

The average starting salary for a game designer in the UK is £20,000 per year.





Graphic designer / concept artist

The graphic designer and concept artist produces visual imagery and ideas based on a brief supplied by the director. Using the initial guidelines of the story that have been set out, the artist goes away and finds visual reference material via libraries, periodicals, the internet, photography, movies and television. Using the source material produced, the artist then combines this accurate visual information with their own creative ideas. This should lead to original ideas, fresh thinking and an output of visual solutions for each given element of the game. The game designer / director will then approve or ask for elaboration on these designs, moving the game's visual direction ever closer to the original vision. For example, the maze game that we will be producing will be set within a strange jungle temple that is full of creatures, monsters and traps. It would be expected that the concept artist researches real world jungle and temple locations, being inspired enough by what they see to produce a design of their own that is believable enough that it could exist. The concept artist will work steadily supplying sprites and characters throughout the entirety of the project, right up until it's completion. It is also expected that they provide designs for menus, screens, the Heads Up Display, the packaging and any online marketing materials associated with the product.

The average starting salary for a game designer in the UK is £25,000 per year.





Animator

The animator would take the sprites and assets created by the graphic designer and concept designer and add motion to them. They will be bringing characters, collectables and scenery to life. This is achieved with the use of computer modeling and animation software during the production stage. This role requires closely working with the concept designer and director to ensure that the animation effectively conveys mood, emotion, feelings and the overall narrative for the game. In terms of this project, the animator will be responsible for imagining and capturing the movements of people, insects, monsters and any physics within the temple. These physics could refer to temple traps, lighting and water effects, trees, fire and wind as the game features all these proposed elements.

They will also have the responsibility of creating more movie like elements such as the intro sequence, cut scenes and end sequence. These will be produced by creating detailed storyboards that will show the director the way that the narrative is intended to unfold. It is envisaged that these elements will be produced using 3D rendering software such as Z-Brush and 3D Max. The finished movies will then be edited using Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro.

The average starting salary for a game animator in the UK is £18,000 per year.







Programmers

The programmers must produce the coded logic and framework that will create the structure of the game. The work they do will establish a smooth running and consistent flow of gameplay, allowing the player to perform actions with designated results. The programmers have the key task of combining of all the assets produced by the concept designer and animator into the framework main game. They will be responsible for maintaining a high level of attention to detail and sharp eye for any code errors.

Programmers often come with a specialism in a particular field. This could be developing graphics, artificial intelligence (AI), or gameplay software.

They will effectively build an engine that allows the game to run to such a smooth degree that it does not ruin the player's experience with the game.

Our game will feature many variable actions that the player can perform to progress. Environment interactions will include walking, running, pushing, pulling, swimming, fighting and many more. Each of these actions should produce a result when performed in a particular part of the game. For example, using a gold idol on a pedestal will cause a door on the other side of the room to open. The programmer must maintain the illusion of the game world by creating a complex set of logic choices within the game code.

The average starting salary for a game animator in the UK is £40,000 per year.





Website designer for marketing purposes

The website designer is not involved in the making of the game, but they will certainly have the role of creating hype and a buzz around it during development. Assuming that timescales are adhered to and milestones are reached, by the time the game is completed a website will be online to advertise it. Through this website the developers will also be able to update players on new content, improvements, share artwork, game related products, new games that will be coming soon and much more. We will also be able to collect player data such as the collation of an emailing list and player suggestions, all essential marketing efforts. Our game is intended to potentially be used on Android and iOS powered devices, so there is a strong chance that players will be able to download the game from the website.

In addition, the web designer will be responsible for Facebook, Twitter and You Tube activity, providing current and potential players with news and updates on the game.



Most importantly the maze game should have the longevity and ingenuity to become a franchise or spawn sequels. A website is the most logical and effective way of communicating directly with a fan base and making the kind of games that they want to play and see. The collection of primary research can be conducted by an online forum that the website designer will naturally moderate.

The average starting salary for a game animator in the UK is £18,000 per year.





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Voice over actors

This role is vital to giving any in-game characters life and personality. They will be needed to bring sound and emotion to the game world, helping to connect with the player and move the narrative along. They will work work directly in contact with the game director, animators and designers to understand the tone of voice and character that they will need to adopt. Being a creative role, the developers fully expect the voice actor to want to input their own ideas to guide the character's direction. In order to perform this work, the hire of sound recording facilities will be required which will obviously require an additional cost.



Generally speaking, voice actors in video games are paid an hourly rate. Voice actors are usually paid £100.00 - £120.00 per hour which will involve doing three video game voices. Talents that have built up a substantial fan base through their previous game work can negotiate a larger fee. Similarly any well known movie actors can command a larger fee than anybody else on the project, often just to play bit parts. This results in unknown voice actors who play principal characters receiving a much lower sum of money, as most of the budget is used to secure well know talent. However, with the gaming industry currently earning $18 billion a year in the US alone, developers can have an easier time justifying the extra expenditure to secure a celebrity endorsement.



The average starting salary for an unknown voice talent in the UK is £100.00 - £120.00 per hour.



The average salary for a known video game voice talent in the UK is £200.00 per hour.

Estimate cost for a voice actor on this project: £2000.00.



The average salary for a well known actor in the UK can be negotiated at around £26,000.



For the purposes of the maze game that is being produced, the idea of a deep, commanding voice within the temple, instructing the player to act is required. The voice of Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellen would be perfect as they have the right baritone, gravitas and presence that the voice of the temple requires. Patrick Stewart has worked on 'The Elder Scrolls IV : Oblivion' for which he received much acclaim. Ian McKellen has continued the popular movie franchise 'Lord Of The Rings' by helping it to branch into video games. He has supplied the voice of the wizard 'Gandalf' in all related games so far.



Either of these actors would be perfect for the voice of the temple, requiring us to source other actors to characterize the main player and monsters.


 
Patrick Stewart

Ian McKellen






Musicians

The soundtrack of a video game when produced correctly can rank as one of the most iconic elements of a the product. The role of a composer in video games is to understand the characters, story, atmosphere and narrative, producing main themes and incidental music to help tell the game's story through sound. They can help the player to feel a range of emotions during play and help the game to live long in the memory after completion. In some cases the musicians are also charged with producing relevant sound effects too.



In terms of what a video game composer can earn, they are usually paid an agreed fee to per minute of music. In the UK this can be £620.00 - £1550.00, depending on the composer's reputation, CV and previous work.



In the case of our maze game, the soundtrack will require an eerie jungle, tribal track that builds up in layers as the game progresses. That is to say that level one, outside the temple will feature just a drum track. By the time the player reaches the final stage, the drum track will still be present but will have numerous layers added to it to sound fuller and more orchestral. The game will also need a main theme for the menu screen, ambient background music for the cut scenes and a triumphant end theme. This will more than likely equate to around four pieces of music that will need to be produced.



Many large games need 80 – 100 minutes of music. For the purposes of the maze game in question, 15 minutes for all tracks should be enough as themes will repeat.

Working to this, and to the lowest possible rate the maze game should equate to:

15 minutes of music at £620.00 per = £9,300.00


Transport costs

The following will be required to travel between staff and contributor meetings and attend industry events to publicize the game:



Van to transport equipment to trade shows for public demonstrations of the game

£2000.00 for a reliable and spacious vehicle.



Fuel costs

Budget for the 18 months development = £1000.00



Travel to meetings and publicity events such as magazine interviews and Q & A sessions

Public transport - budget for the 18 months development = £500.00



Location costs

Much of the game will feature hand drawn environments and no physical travel to real locations will be necessary. However, research will need to be carried out online to source location ideas and inspiration. This will require access to the internet and online stock image libraries as well as books and periodicals. It is likely that simple manipulation of photos may be used for concept art purposes, marketing materials and in game graphics. Therefore access to high resolution quality imagery will be essential to the visual success of the project.

Internet and Broadband package at £30.00 per month for 18 months = £540.00





Materials

We will need the following to successfully a produce and market the game. Please see above in the equipment costs to understand why we need each material and it's associated price tag:



Industry standard design software (Game Maker and Adobe Creative Suite):£500.00 & £700.00 respectively.


Minimum of 3 Wacom Graphics tablets: £90.00 combined cost.


Minimum of 3 High end PCs for animation and development:£4500.00 combined cost.


Cloud storage space for file sharing:Free.


Advertising and marketing artwork and Point Of Sale material (Please see other research paper and personnel costs for why this is vital):Provisional budget of £50,000.00.


Packaging &Manual:Provisional budget of £50,000.00.


Online marketing materials:Provisional budget of £5,000.00 to spend on advertising, Google ad words, viral marketing, site hosting, purchase of domain names, etc.


Facility Hire

We will need the following to successfully a produce and market the game:



Sound recording studio (all recording to be done locally in Leicester):

Leicester Vocal Tech recording studio current rate = £20.00 per hour.

Website at www.leicestervocaltech.co.uk

Estimated cost for this project £2000.00



Studio environment for pre-production artwork, game programming, animation and music, web marketing:

Estimated development time of 18 months at £500.00 rental per month = £9000.00.





TOTAL ESTIMATED COST FOR ALL FINANCIAL ASPECTS : £265,800.00

Optional Crowd funding and publisher contributions

Some of these could be optional, but most of them are absolutely essential to meeting the creative vision for the game.


Kick Starter crowd funding has a history of helping games
achieve and exceed their projected budget




Kick Starter

Optional Kick Starter funding to raise additional income: Crowd funding rewards could be built into the game that are equivalent to how much has been donated. These could be pre-release copies, in game appearances of actual people who donated, exclusive suits, weapons, levels and gameplay content, limited edition packaging, physical copies of the soundtrack, art book, etc.
Offering these rewards and gaining extra funding to vastly improve the kind of game that is produced. It could help make it bigger, better, longer, technically more powerful and help it to appear on more platforms. This would help its public presence and potential as a franchise.



We should aim to try and raise half the £265,000 budget while completing production. This would place the estimated Kick Starter raised at £132,900. This is certainly possible when looking the success of companies such as Double Fine Games who regularly exceed their much greater total budgets with crowd funding. For reference, their website is: www.doublefine.com/games


Additional up-front publisher contributions

Optionally securing funding up front from the publisher would definitely affect the length of time we could give to the project, and the level of talent we could hire. It would also affect our marketing budget, product reach and the subsequent effect on sales. This would undoubtedly affect the final product. Assuming the game is a commercial success this may influence the publisher in future when pitching a sequel or any follow up games.



Clearances

We will to arrange clearances and arrange time schedules to successfully produce and market the game:




  • Voice actor availability
  • Musician availability
  • Cut scene animator’s availability
  • Publisher availability
  • Developer appearances at trade shows and events to ensure game exposure
  • Artwork for marketing purposes must be approved for release
  • Interview dates with the gaming press must be agreed to ensure a ‘buzz generation’ and game exposure.








Timescales

The following issues need to be taken into account and a realistic amount of time designated to them. Each task should be given a good amount of time to ensure the work is of a high quality standard and that the publishing deadline is met. The development time is currently speculated to be 18 months. Broken down equally according to each stage:


Stage 1 - Initial design stage

Idea generation for game concept.
Pre-production artwork and sketches.
Storyboarding for game, intro, cut scenes and end sequence – requiring hire of development studio.
Production of game sprite assets and texture design – requiring hire of development studio.
Production of music, voice acting and sound effects – requiring hire of sound editing and recording facilities.

Estimated timeframe for this stage of 4.5 months.

Stage 2 - Prototype build stage
Building of working prototype for publisher approval.
Developer play testing and de-bugging.
Publisher play testing period for approval and focus groups

Estimated timeframe for this stage of 4.5 months.

Assuming these milestones are completed satisfactorily, move on to stage 3:

Stage 3 - Working build stage
Review of publisher and focus group feedback.
Further concept design of additional gameplay, features and content based on feedback.
Development, building and integration and expansion into game of further concept design.
Production of intro, cut scenes and end sequence.
Production of further voice acting and sound effects – requiring hire of sound editing and recording facilities.

Developer play testing and de-bugging.

Publisher and focus group play testing period for approval.

Estimated timeframe for this stage of 4.5 months.

Assuming these milestones are completed satisfactorily, move on to stage 4:

Stage 4 – Publisher feedback and de-bugging
Review of publisher and focus group feedback.
Further amendments to additional gameplay, features and content based on feedback.
Development, building and integration and expansion into game of publisher feedback.
Developer play testing and de-bugging.
Cross platform integration.
Delivery to publisher.

Estimated timeframe for this stage of 4.5 months.


Assuming these milestones are completed satisfactorily, move on to stage 5:


Stage 5 – Publisher game release and distribution






Personnel

In order to successfully produce the game, the following roles will need to be designated to suitable professionals (Please see above in the Financial / Personnel sub section for a breakdown of what each team member is expected to do and cost):




  • Game designer
  • Graphic designer / concept artist
  • Animator
  • Programmers
  • Website designer for marketing purposes. 
  • Online freelance to outsource any of the above roles to ease the workload (Will search on People Per Hour, O- Desk, E-Lance, and similar)







Contributors


  • Developers (Design staff, artists, programmers, and play testers)
  • Voice actors
  • Involvement of a classical actor such as Patrick Stewart or Ian McKellen to help endorse the game (see voice actor section in Finance / Personnel)
  • Musicians
  • Animators
  • Cross platform experts (Game to be released on Nintendo Wii U, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and Nintendo 3DS consoles – further expansion to Android and iOS platforms at a later date).









Codes of Practice



Copyright
There must be a period of research to make sure that the studio is not intentionally or unintentionally taking another game developer’s intellectual property. Everything produced in house must be of an original quality and high standard with proof of concept. This is vital to ensure that we as a developer can be seen to be a credible source of original technology and ideas. This applies to all graphics, sound, audio and marketing materials that we produce.

Similarly we must register all website names, characters, locations and game related information with the relevant copyrighting authorities at as early a stage as possible. This is to ensure protection of our own intellectual property.



Health & Safety

Any premises we hire and the installation of any equipment must meet the highest safety standards to ensure our developers and staff can work in a safe environment, free from hazards. Additionally the game we produce must be thoroughly tested so as not to induce sickness, nausea, fits or epilepsy from the general public. The game must therefore meet medical standards that will not harm the users.

Additionally the game will be sold as physical copies as well as digital downloads. The physical packaging must meet high safety standards that will not present a hazard to any small children, e.g.: choking or any sharp edges. In all honesty it is highly unlikely that this will be an issue or a problem since the packaging for the industry is set by the console manufacturer. However in terms of other safety, there do need to be warnings printed on the box packaging referring to issues such as cartoon violence or a suitable age rating for players.




Insurance

As a game developer we need to make absolutely sure we acquire public liability and completion insurance. We need public liability because we will be selling a physical and digital product to the public. Digital downloads could potentially cause problems due to attached viruses or corrupt data. If this harms the user’s machine any way, we need to make sure that we can cover ourselves for any property damage. Similarly if the user is in the small percentage of people who suffer from fits or epilepsy, we need to make sure that we can provide medical compensation if the worst case scenario should occur.



Completion insurance should be acquired so that if we should fail to meet any allotted timescales or publisher deadlines we can cover ourselves financially. If the game is advertised with a definite release date, and we fail to meet that, any proposed legal action from publishers, manufacturers or distributors needs to be accounted for. This could potentially be caused by loss of client’s earnings, unforeseen extra costs being required or penalties for failing to supply the product on time.



We also need to make sure that the game and additional marketing materials adhere to standards set out by the governing bodies below.







Regulatory bodies

It is vital that all our output as a developer is approved by the following regulatory bodies. This is so the game does not cause harm or offense to any members of the general public. Failure to do so could result in penalties, legal action or product recall.



The regulatory bodies concerned with the advertising and media industries are:



OFCOM – The Office of Fair Communication

PCC – Press Complaints Commission

ASA – Advertising Standards Authority


The regulatory bodies concerned with certification are:



PEGI – Pan European Game Information

ESRB – Entertainment Software Rating Board



Our game is envisaged as being suitable for all ages. The content will be of a fantasy, animated nature with a mild use of cartoon violence. However, there may be some spooky or eerie sound effects that could be considered as frightening sounds to very young players

In terms of PEGI rating, this places it at 7. According to the PEGi website (www.pegi.info):


The PEGI ratings system

The PEGI ratings system rates our game '7'



PEGI 7
“Any game that would normally be rated at 3 but contains some possibly frightening scenes or sounds may be considered suitable in this category.”



Audio content will feature a tone of voice and language that is suitable for a universal audience, so we need to make sure that we follow this ethic throughout all scripting, storyboarding and recording. It is a legal requirement that our game content is verified, certified and rated by PEGI.





In terms of how the Entertainment Software Ratings Board view the game, I think it would be rated at an 'E' for Everyone. Based on the envisaged mild cartoon violence and fantasy setting, this is how the ESRB would rate the game on their website (www.esrb.org):



The ESRB ratings system

The ESRB ratings system rates a game 'E'



EVERYONE “Content is generally suitable for all ages. May contain minimal cartoon, fantasy or mild violence and/or infrequent use of mild language.”



It is a legal requirement that our game content is verified, certified and rated by the ESRB.



It would also be a prudent move for the developers to become associated with the following groups. They are all trade unions and will supply support and advice for the company if any untoward or legal problems arise. There will possibly be a cost involved in becoming part of these groups but it would be worth it if they can provide help in the worst case scenarios.

As members of these unions, they will also be able to advise on the best course of action in marketing and distributing our product. Additionally if any copyright infringement or intellectual property theft should occur, these bodies will be able to provide legal aid and practical, relevant advice.






TIGA – The Independent Game Developers Association

ELSPA – The Entertainment and Software Publishers Association

BIMA – The British Interactive Media Association







Bibliography

http://electronics.howstuffworks.com/video-game-designer3.htm

http://www.inputyouth.co.uk/jobguides/job-computergamesdesigner.html

https://nationalcareersservice.direct.gov.uk/advice/planning/jobprofiles/Pages/computergamesdeveloper.aspx

http://www.prospects.ac.uk/animator_salary.htm







http://www.doublefine.co,/games/




DISCLAIMER FOR THE PURPOSES OF SOUTH LEICESTERSHIRE COLLEGE :
I DECLARE THAT THIS DOCUMENT IS THE SOLE WORK OF MYSELF AND I UNDERSTAND THAT ANY PLAGIARISM WILL RESULT IN PENALTIES OR NON ACCEPTANCE OF THE DELIVERED WORK.

SIGNED: 10TH OCTOBER BY : DAVE JOHNSON




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