So far we’ve had a game dev post about what it means to be a games coder, and we have upcoming posts on being an artist or a producer. We haven’t covered designers because I’m hoping you can pick up an idea of what their role is through all the game design posts I’m making here.
So I thought I’d use this post to quickly run through some of the other key roles that feature in game development. I’ll be skimming over these, not because they’re any less important, but because we don’t have full-time people performing these roles here at Well Played Games. That means I can’t sit down with them and get their insight into what that role entails, so instead I’ll just give a designers perspective of what they do!
By the way, we still need these jobs doing at Well Played Games, so we either contract the work or someone here picks it up in addition to their other jobs. For example, I write all the in-game text in Combat Cards, because I’ve written scripts for lots of games – meaning we don’t need to hire a scriptwriter. One day I’ll do a post on being ‘T-shaped’, because its one of the most useful things people looking to join the games industry can do to make themselves hireable.
Audio tends to focus on three areas – sound effects, music and voice over. On top of helping to deliver critical information, each of these is key to establishing a game’s tone and mood. In addition, audio staff have to help balance the game’s volume levels depending on what needs to be called out right now, so you don’t end up with a cacophony of noise.
Basically, this revolves around either hand animating the things which move around in the game, or motion capturing actors carrying out the action and then applying that to the in-game characters. Animation helps bring the game to life, and there are a lot of clever tricks used to give subtle clues about a game object’s weight or intent.
Turns out, people make mistakes, so it’s Quality Assurance’s job to find and report the problems so the relevant people can fix them. This is a critical but often unsung role in development, because people only see the bugs that get through (no-one sees the many bugs that were caught and fixed, do they?).
Story heavy games need a writer to produce the text or dialogue, which includes working with the team to integrate plot and gameplay, dealing with voice recording sessions, helping to localise everything into multiple languages, and lots more.
Speaking of localisation, most game studios tend to outsource this to specialist companies. It’s not just about translating language A into B, its adapting what’s written or said so it means the same to each languages’ audience. For instance, jokes and puns are notoriously difficult to translate, so tend to be rewritten for each language.
Basically, there’s no point making a game if no-one knows it exists. This is the area most small studios fail on – making a great game that gets completely lost in the market. Marketing can involve setting up campaigns, dealing with the press and influencers, being active on social media, attending conventions, and a million other things.
A relatively new role to most game studios, analysts have become highly sought-after now that games are made to live for years (rather than being bought, played and replaced). Analysts look at stats and help the team spot trends and focus their effort where players want it. They also help balance the game’s numbers and systems.
As you can see, there are a lot of roles involved in making games, and deciding which roles to fill in a studio (and which to outsource to others) is one of the key decisions we had to make when setting up Well Played Games.
From huge studios with ‘floating staff’ which jump from project to project when needed, to one-person indie studios, the companies which make up the games industry are as diverse as the games we make. This means there’s no ‘correct’ way to structure a studio, and the staff you have often affect the games you make as much as the other way round.