If you’re curious to know the various phases through which a game goes during development at Naughty Dog, Community Strategist Arne Meyer gave a nice overview during a livestream from Madrid Games Week.
Meyer explained that during the pre-production phase artists and programmers explore what kind of game they want to create.
The artists create high level concepts, the designers start laying out the levels, and at the same time the writers are creating the script.
“What’s really great for us is creating the level design at the same time as the story. Everything is growing organically.”
Meyer then explained that some games have the story created first, and then the levels are designed afterwards, while others have the gameplay designed first, and then the story is wrapped around it. Naughty Dog does it simultaneously. That way things can change depending on what they’re doing with the story or the gameplay in an organic way.
“During the entire process the game designers kinda figure out the kind of crazy thing they want to do, and the software engineers are building tools or aspects of it so that we can do all these crazy things.”
“And then we spend the majority of our development time basically doing that. And that leads into alpha, which for us means that each level of the game is playable from start to finish without any issues, so that you know where you’re going with the game, even if the art isn’t finished, even if the environment looks very plain.”
“And then we go to beta, which means that everything that you want to be in the game, is in the game. It looks really close to finish so from beta to when you’re gonna go master, everything is bug fixing, polish, making it look as pretty as it can and play as well as it can.”
“And during the entire time we’re doing the performance capture, and we’re taking that tio animation, and finalizing the scenes. So over the entire development time we’re doing cinematics and putting them into the game.”
Considering how successful Naughty Dog’s games are, looks like this process gives really good results.