[Archive] Games Developement production cycle by Tuomas Pirinen

tvandyke:

I found this old writeup that Tuomas wrote back in Sept of 2000 about what goes into Games Development.  He wrote it up for the Direwolf forum we were all a part of.  I thought you might like to read it:

OK, as promised, here is my write-up of the full production cycle. You’d
better write lots of comments -this was hard work. :slight_smile:

Tuomas

TO MAKE A TABLE-TOP GAME PRODUCT
OR THE HEROIC MEMOIRS OF A GAMES DESIGNER

This is a short explanation on how a process of making GW product works. For
what the actual design involves, I believe I’ve already posted an article
about my games design methods. Note that other game companies (including the
one I work for now) have very different methods. Things might have changed
since I left.

AND SO IT BEGINS…

It all starts with an idea.

Sometimes it starts as a perceived need of a product by the Sales managers
(such as GorkaMorka) or a heroic games designer such as yours truly. At
other times, product is planned in as core support, like most army books.
The idea is submitted to the Director of Product Development.

This idea is then dissected, and broken down into required product support
(models, printed paper, mag articles) and submitted to the mysterious entity
know as Cabal (consisting of Design Manager, Product Development Director
and Art Director). They will decide whether the idea is viable, or whether
it needs alteration. In many cases, the decision to make the new product is
done already, especially if it is a new army book as planned in the 4-year
product plan.

Directors for sales and Product development will make an estimated product
range. This will detail the amount of plastics tooling, sculptor time
schedules, design time schedules and art schedules, as well as casting,
moulding, translating etc. Designer is often involved to some degree in this
process. I fought many a time to save troops/creatures that I felt were
essential for the success of a product. Unfortunately, sometimes I failed.

This is then submitted to the appropriate Powers That Be (ie. Executive
Board). Often they will cull the number of miniature codes, and determine
the number of pages and colour pages the project requires. Basically, they
give a budget to the project.

THIS IS IMPORTANT! There is not enough room in the shops, or in the
retailer’s shops, for GW to simply produce everything that the designers
come up with. Logistics of shipping, translating, casting and packaging mean
that there is a maximum output of product per year. It must be broken down
to sellable bits, so retailers will order it, and WD can support it).

BACK TO WORK!

Once this is done, the designer responsible for the product gets a brief.
Brief will determine the number of models, page count of paper product,
release date, schedule and He will work a very basic manuscript with basic
background info, rough army lists and rules (if applicable) and a rough page
planner. This is called the first draft.

Concept artist will get involved at this stage. He will make a number of
style sheets, large collections of quick sketches that establish the style
of the project. CA will also produce several specific sketches for new troop
types/creatures etc. To act as rough brief for these, alongside with the
brief descriptions from the games designer.

Designer will then discuss the required models with the main sculptors of
the project. They will look a the concept art, and if some ideas will not be
practical (too large, too many parts, not viable as a product -like
tank-sized kits for fantasy -simlply not enough sales to justify the cost of
making out of plastic), or if they would be awkward to use in the game (not
ranking etc.). This was one of my favourite parts of my work. I still miss
my discussions with Trish Morrison.

Designer will try to amass as much reference material as possible. This
includes pictures, films, books, artefacts etc. He will inform the team of
the existence of the stuff, and put photocopies etc. on the walls to get
everybody interested.

The first draft is then developed further either by the author or another
member of the games development. I personally find that changing hands is
good for a product, but of course the enthusiasm of a developer suffers if
he is not working with his own idea.

Now the work begins. Designer will work on army list(s) and rules and layout
simultaneously, preparing diagrams and sketches for editorial and artists,
and holding continuous design and production meetings, answering all the
questions of the design team, as well as communicating with the
international studios, web page guys etc. He often runs campaign at the
Studio, and generally tries to make everyone enthusiastic.

BRING IN THE REINFORCEMENTS

The designer will then sit down with the art manager and they will look at
the Style sheets, discuss what the overall look of the product will be like
(look at Mordheim -we strived for a very consistent visual look). This will
then determine the amount of artwork required, and inform the layout design.
Art manager will decide which artists suit the roles of the project
(full-pagers, fillers, borders etc).

If there are capable freelancers (like Bill King) these will be drafted in
at this stage. Most of the stuff I saw however, was substandard drivel by
wanna-bees. Therefore the designer will end up writing much of the
background himself, artist do their own art, and sculptors sculpt. One thing
I was in middle of before I left was trying to build a good freelancer pool
before I left. I wish Jervis the best of luck in his similar efforts. This
is harder than it sounds as most people who are actually good enough to be
published/produced ask 100-250 UK£ per day and/or royalties for their
services. Believe me, I know. Finding established, good creatives who are
cheap is no mean feat. I snatched up everyone I could. :slight_smile:

Once there is a workable army list, it will be submitted to the
playetesters. They will read the material, give comments, play games and
report the results and tell what they think works and what does not.
Unfortunately, giving exact deadlines to the playtesters proved difficult,
as this was secret information, and any leak would have killed the
playtesting. Also, many times the deadlines were changing all the time,
making it difficult for even a designer to plan his time, let alone the
playtesting.

BTW, establishing playtest groups was the one thing in my GW legacy that I
am most proud of. Remember how I used to complain about the lack of outside
playtesting? Well, I fixed that now. BTW, I just wish that you would not
give them so much hard time. Especially Brian Lang saved you from SO many
problems that you wouldn’t believe. BTW, I’ve talked to so many games
designers of all various companies that I know full well that the myth about
game system with no holes is just that -myth. But playtesting does help
enormously.

Once the manuscript is finished and the deadline looms, the editing of the
product starts. The designer will liaison with the head of the editorial
dept. This is the most hectic time as the art, layout, editing, photography,
miniature painting and all the rest of it comes together. This is also the
time when the briefs tend to change. :slight_smile: Very awkward. The stalwart designer
will bend over backwards to please everyone, but (if he is good) he will
always think of the gamers first, even if it meant defying the dreaded PTB.
Designer will also try to check base sizes, packaging and printing.

In addition there is all the internal promotion. Designer with assistant
designers will run demo-games for sales people and guests, as well as the
senior managers.

Once the product is finished, it is submitted in to the GW businesses (UK,
US, AUS, GER, ITA, FR etc.), who decide what they want to release and what
price they want to set to the product, and when they want to release it.

Now the designer will start thinking about the product support. He must
write/commission a number of articles for WD to support the product. He
often also thinks about long-term support. Look at the Town Cryer -Mordheim
now has at least some support, including lots of new miniatures.

HERE WE ARE

That’s it in the tiniest nutshell I can imagine. I left huge amounts out as
well, since many things are still confidential info. Remember also that at
any given time designer will be involved with several different projects
like the one described above.

I hope this enlightens the curious minds. It should also show why working
with freelancers only would not work -not to mention that of course GW wants
their top key creatives work only for them. On contrary to the popular
belief, there is only so many good sculptors, designers and artists around.
Once company has them, it does not want them to leave. Hence the
non-competition clauses.

Tuomas (who always finds the claims of ‘oh, I could do the job of designer
-it’s REALLY easily’ very, VERY amusing)

Lead designer, Elixir Studios

tvandyke:

I found this old writeup that Tuomas wrote back in Sept of 2000 about what goes into Games Development.  He wrote it up for the Direwolf forum we were all a part of.  I thought you might like to read it:

OK, as promised, here is my write-up of the full production cycle. You’d
better write lots of comments -this was hard work. :slight_smile:

Tuomas

TO MAKE A TABLE-TOP GAME PRODUCT
OR THE HEROIC MEMOIRS OF A GAMES DESIGNER

This is a short explanation on how a process of making GW product works. For
what the actual design involves, I believe I’ve already posted an article
about my games design methods. Note that other game companies (including the
one I work for now) have very different methods. Things might have changed
since I left.

AND SO IT BEGINS…

It all starts with an idea.

Sometimes it starts as a perceived need of a product by the Sales managers
(such as GorkaMorka) or a heroic games designer such as yours truly. At
other times, product is planned in as core support, like most army books.
The idea is submitted to the Director of Product Development.

This idea is then dissected, and broken down into required product support
(models, printed paper, mag articles) and submitted to the mysterious entity
know as Cabal (consisting of Design Manager, Product Development Director
and Art Director). They will decide whether the idea is viable, or whether
it needs alteration. In many cases, the decision to make the new product is
done already, especially if it is a new army book as planned in the 4-year
product plan.

Directors for sales and Product development will make an estimated product
range. This will detail the amount of plastics tooling, sculptor time
schedules, design time schedules and art schedules, as well as casting,
moulding, translating etc. Designer is often involved to some degree in this
process. I fought many a time to save troops/creatures that I felt were
essential for the success of a product. Unfortunately, sometimes I failed.

This is then submitted to the appropriate Powers That Be (ie. Executive
Board). Often they will cull the number of miniature codes, and determine
the number of pages and colour pages the project requires. Basically, they
give a budget to the project.

THIS IS IMPORTANT! There is not enough room in the shops, or in the
retailer’s shops, for GW to simply produce everything that the designers
come up with. Logistics of shipping, translating, casting and packaging mean
that there is a maximum output of product per year. It must be broken down
to sellable bits, so retailers will order it, and WD can support it).

BACK TO WORK!

Once this is done, the designer responsible for the product gets a brief.
Brief will determine the number of models, page count of paper product,
release date, schedule and He will work a very basic manuscript with basic
background info, rough army lists and rules (if applicable) and a rough page
planner. This is called the first draft.

Concept artist will get involved at this stage. He will make a number of
style sheets, large collections of quick sketches that establish the style
of the project. CA will also produce several specific sketches for new troop
types/creatures etc. To act as rough brief for these, alongside with the
brief descriptions from the games designer.

Designer will then discuss the required models with the main sculptors of
the project. They will look a the concept art, and if some ideas will not be
practical (too large, too many parts, not viable as a product -like
tank-sized kits for fantasy -simlply not enough sales to justify the cost of
making out of plastic), or if they would be awkward to use in the game (not
ranking etc.). This was one of my favourite parts of my work. I still miss
my discussions with Trish Morrison.

Designer will try to amass as much reference material as possible. This
includes pictures, films, books, artefacts etc. He will inform the team of
the existence of the stuff, and put photocopies etc. on the walls to get
everybody interested.

The first draft is then developed further either by the author or another
member of the games development. I personally find that changing hands is
good for a product, but of course the enthusiasm of a developer suffers if
he is not working with his own idea.

Now the work begins. Designer will work on army list(s) and rules and layout
simultaneously, preparing diagrams and sketches for editorial and artists,
and holding continuous design and production meetings, answering all the
questions of the design team, as well as communicating with the
international studios, web page guys etc. He often runs campaign at the
Studio, and generally tries to make everyone enthusiastic.

BRING IN THE REINFORCEMENTS

The designer will then sit down with the art manager and they will look at
the Style sheets, discuss what the overall look of the product will be like
(look at Mordheim -we strived for a very consistent visual look). This will
then determine the amount of artwork required, and inform the layout design.
Art manager will decide which artists suit the roles of the project
(full-pagers, fillers, borders etc).

If there are capable freelancers (like Bill King) these will be drafted in
at this stage. Most of the stuff I saw however, was substandard drivel by
wanna-bees. Therefore the designer will end up writing much of the
background himself, artist do their own art, and sculptors sculpt. One thing
I was in middle of before I left was trying to build a good freelancer pool
before I left. I wish Jervis the best of luck in his similar efforts. This
is harder than it sounds as most people who are actually good enough to be
published/produced ask 100-250 UK£ per day and/or royalties for their
services. Believe me, I know. Finding established, good creatives who are
cheap is no mean feat. I snatched up everyone I could. :slight_smile:

Once there is a workable army list, it will be submitted to the
playetesters. They will read the material, give comments, play games and
report the results and tell what they think works and what does not.
Unfortunately, giving exact deadlines to the playtesters proved difficult,
as this was secret information, and any leak would have killed the
playtesting. Also, many times the deadlines were changing all the time,
making it difficult for even a designer to plan his time, let alone the
playtesting.

BTW, establishing playtest groups was the one thing in my GW legacy that I
am most proud of. Remember how I used to complain about the lack of outside
playtesting? Well, I fixed that now. BTW, I just wish that you would not
give them so much hard time. Especially Brian Lang saved you from SO many
problems that you wouldn’t believe. BTW, I’ve talked to so many games
designers of all various companies that I know full well that the myth about
game system with no holes is just that -myth. But playtesting does help
enormously.

Once the manuscript is finished and the deadline looms, the editing of the
product starts. The designer will liaison with the head of the editorial
dept. This is the most hectic time as the art, layout, editing, photography,
miniature painting and all the rest of it comes together. This is also the
time when the briefs tend to change. :slight_smile: Very awkward. The stalwart designer
will bend over backwards to please everyone, but (if he is good) he will
always think of the gamers first, even if it meant defying the dreaded PTB.
Designer will also try to check base sizes, packaging and printing.

In addition there is all the internal promotion. Designer with assistant
designers will run demo-games for sales people and guests, as well as the
senior managers.

Once the product is finished, it is submitted in to the GW businesses (UK,
US, AUS, GER, ITA, FR etc.), who decide what they want to release and what
price they want to set to the product, and when they want to release it.

Now the designer will start thinking about the product support. He must
write/commission a number of articles for WD to support the product. He
often also thinks about long-term support. Look at the Town Cryer -Mordheim
now has at least some support, including lots of new miniatures.

HERE WE ARE

That’s it in the tiniest nutshell I can imagine. I left huge amounts out as
well, since many things are still confidential info. Remember also that at
any given time designer will be involved with several different projects
like the one described above.

I hope this enlightens the curious minds. It should also show why working
with freelancers only would not work -not to mention that of course GW wants
their top key creatives work only for them. On contrary to the popular
belief, there is only so many good sculptors, designers and artists around.
Once company has them, it does not want them to leave. Hence the
non-competition clauses.

Tuomas (who always finds the claims of ‘oh, I could do the job of designer
-it’s REALLY easily’ very, VERY amusing)

Lead designer, Elixir Studios

MLP:

AQ really interesting read, thanks for putting this up.

Obsidian:

Read it before, fun read. I wonder if they still adhere to this way these days.

tvandyke:

Read it before, fun read. I wonder if they still adhere to this way these days.

Obsidian
Well, they certainly don't use outside playtesters anymore so that's one, major change.