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.”
  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.


  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.