The World of Computer Gaming
Production involves the actual design and creation of the video game. During this stage, the specifications outlined in the design document are turned into moving, controllable characters, and the programmers turn computer codes into interactive entertainment software. Production can last anywhere from a few months to a few years, depending on the size and budget of the video game. During production, hours are long, stress is high, and creativity and managerial skills are put to the test.
Testing is an extremely important part of the production process. It is so important that a large portion of the production schedule is based upon testing deadlines known as alpha and beta.
Testing begins as soon as there is a playable version or portion of the video game. Testers are brought in to play the video game and search for bugs (problems in the code that cause the game to act differently than intended). The testers then report the bugs to the programmers, who then do their best to repair them. Because of the large amount of written code in a modern video game and the complicated nature of game designing in general, it can take months—if not years—for a video game to be considered bug-free and ready to ship out to buyers.
In order to structure the testing process, there are two main testing deadlines. These are the major milestones in the game's production that let everyone know how far along they are in the process.
At the alpha stage, a playable version of the entire game is tested. All of the artwork might not be implemented, and the sound effects and score might be missing. Even a few characters might be out of place. The term “alpha” also refers to this rough draft of the entire game.
At the beta stage, a much more polished version of the game is tested. All of the artwork is in the game, as well as all of the sound effects and music. For all intents and purposes, this is the game as it is meant to be seen and played. At this point in the process, the game is often released to a small section of the public to help the development team and the testers search out any remaining bugs.
Once the game has spent some time in beta, and everyone on both the development and production teams agrees that the game is ready to be shipped, it is sent off to a distributor (a company whose job is to get the video games into the actual stores) and then sold to the general public.
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