The Game Development Method by Mark Cerny

During one hour, Mark talked about his game development approach, setting proper goals and strategy for pre-production, production, and gameplay testing. The core is to define what is publishable first playable for the end of the pre-production and differs macro and micro design.  What is more, he’s arguing with some common myths and mistakes made by developers:

  1. “It’s possible to plan and schedule the creation of your game.”
  2. “Working productively means not throwing out good work.”
  3. “Frequent project review is essential to good management.”
  4. ALPHA = FIRST PLAYABLE
  5. “A canceled project is a sign of bad management or a bad team.”
  6. “The more defined your initial vision, the better.”
  7. “If you want to make a hit, listen to the consumer.”

Three Actionable Learnings for Creative Director

  • Focus on Core Game Elements: Emphasize the importance of character, camera, and control (the three C’s) to ensure engaging and intuitive gameplay.
  • Encourage Experimentation in Pre-Production: Foster an environment where the team can explore and prototype different gameplay elements and styles freely during the pre-production phase.
  • Oversee the Game’s Artistic Vision: Ensure that the game has a unique and compelling look, consistent with the game’s overall vision and style.

Three Actionable Learnings for Game Director

  • Manage the Pre-Production Chaos: Understand the importance of a chaotic and exploratory pre-production phase, and manage it without imposing rigid planning or scheduling.
  • Iterate Through Prototyping: Guide the team through successive prototyping, learning and refining the game’s design with each iteration.
  • Balance Creativity with Execution: Ensure that the creative aspects of the game align with the technical feasibility and overall direction of the game.

Three Actionable Learnings for Technical Director

  • Develop Key Technologies in Pre-Production: Focus on building any technology crucial to the game’s core experience during the pre-production phase.
  • Support Double-Track Technology Development: Facilitate the creation of both cutting-edge technology and a secondary functional technology track for gameplay experimentation.
  • Integrate Technical and Creative Aspects: Ensure that technology development aligns with and supports the creative and gameplay needs of the project.

Three Actionable Learnings for Executive Producer

  • Allocate Resources Wisely: Understand the cost implications of the pre-production phase and be prepared to invest in it adequately to save costs in the long run.
  • Risk Management: Be ready to make the tough call to cancel a project if the first playable isn’t compelling, thus saving resources.
  • Team Composition: Ensure the pre-production team comprises the best and most experienced members, as they will set the direction for the entire project.

Glossary

  1. Pre-Production vs. Production: Pre-production is the initial, chaotic phase focusing on game design and experimentation, while production is the phase of building the game based on pre-production outcomes.
  2. Publishable First Playable: A polished portion of the game developed in pre-production that demonstrates the game’s potential success in the market.
  3. Macro Design: A concise document outlining the game’s framework, completed at the end of pre-production.
  4. Micro Design: The detailed, evolving design of the game created during production.
  5. Gameplay Testing: Regular play sessions with target and non-target audiences to refine and improve the game based on feedback and observation.
  6. Core Team: A small group of highly skilled and experienced members responsible for the crucial decisions in pre-production.
  7. Real Level Prototypes: Prototypes that are essentially complete game levels, used to test and refine gameplay elements.
  8. Three C’s (Character, Camera, Control): Fundamental elements in game design, particularly for character action games.
  9. Milestones: Scheduled checkpoints in production used to track progress and align the team’s efforts.
  10. Holistic vs. Sequential Games: Holistic games have tightly interrelated levels or areas, while sequential games have levels or areas that stand more independently.