Executive Insights on the State of Game Dev

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Executive Insights on the State of Game Dev

Game development industry experts weigh in on the skills game devs need to be successful, trends that will define the future, and more.

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This article was featured in our first ever DZone Guide to Game Development. Get your free copy for more insightful articles, industry statistics, and more! 

To gather insights on the current and future state of Game Development, we talked to ten executives involved in game development in some form or another. Here’s who we spoke to:

  • Sid Sharma, Lead Developer Evangelist, Agora.io

  • Joseph Lieberman, Director of Marketing, Antlion Audio

  • Otakar Nieder, Senior Director, BISim

  • Perry Krug, Principal Architect, Couchbase

  • Patric Palm, CEO and Co-founder, Favro

  • Doug Pearson, CTO, FlowPlay

  • David Lord, CEO, JumpStart Games, Inc.

  • Brian Monnin, Co-founder and CEO, Play Impossible

  • George Buckenham, Lead Programmer, Sensible Object

  • Grant Shonkwiler, Commander and Shonk, Shonkventures

Key Findings

1. The three most frequently mentioned keys to developing a successful game are: 1) stability; 2) scalability; and, 3) social interaction/community. Performance with the ability to get players on board quickly with a fast, responsive game. High availability with no downtime due to maintenance or outages. Stability and scalability so people can play/train for several hours at a time and so the developer can keep up with changing technologies and the game industry.

Social features and communities can create gaming experience with more interactivity with friends and gaming partners, including meaningful opportunities for face-to-face play and periodic events or tournaments. This increases the amount of time played and stickiness of the game – we saw this with the original Xbox.We want to get players to become emotionally connected to the game, and creating more engagement with people and the community helps accomplish this.

2. AR/VR are the most significant changes in game development, even though it’s still early in their development lifecycles. More powerful tools enable developers to create more immersive experiences with AR and VR. Unreal Engine VR and Unity EditorVR are great examples. VR has broken through in the art community and now has its own category at Cannes. Apple is including AR capabilities with the new iPhone, making it easier for game developers to hack away at cool apps and games.

Mobile was the “game changer” before that since app stores determine the success or failure of a game. We’ve moved from thousands of channels to promote a game to just two or three.

We’re also seeing more interactivity among gamers in poker, first-person shooter games, and role-playing games. You must be able to see facial expressions when playing poker. Up to now, there were device limitations. Now we have more powerful devices with little to no latency. The technology and evolving user experience is ever-changing and improving.

3. The most frequently mentioned game development platform is the Unity game engine, and the most common language is C++. Unity allows for cross-platform distribution on PC, mobile, and consoles. Microsoft Azure Cloud is a popular choice for a backend gaming platform because of its global footprint, reliable scale, technology diversity, development synergy, and deep commitment to partnership. Haxe is being adopted by some developers that were working with Flash.

4. Our respondents’ games are as diverse as the industry, spanning genres like murder mystery, survival horror, first-person action adventure, and multi-player racing. Social gaming has been huge in the Asian market for some time. We’re just beginning to see the rise in social interaction and community games in the U.S.A, where a combination of digital and physical play creates unique challenges for the players and ensures no two games are ever the same.

5. The most common hurdles affecting game development are: 1) “game glut;” 2) building out the game; 3) latency; and, 4) engagement.

The independent game development bubble is gone, so smaller developers have a lot of visibility issues to contend with. While the overall games market continues to grow, it is being outpaced by the production of new games at an ever-increasing rate.

“Game glut” has driven down average prices, decreased the time you have to shine, and made it more difficult to be noticed. It takes something really special to jump to the top and be a hit, and your game MUST be a hit to win. As the game landscape gets more crowded, it’s more difficult for the end user to discover your game.

It’s always challenging to get your idea through production with workflow, testing, fixing what doesn’t work, and planning modifications. You only get one launch, so a lot of testing needs to take place to validate your idea and your game prior to launch. It can be easier for developers to use out-of-the-box solutions so you don’t have to worry about latency and performance.

Like all products and services, games need to make an emotional connection with the players. Smart organizations are collecting and analyzing data that will provide insights into how to provide a more personalized and relevant game experience.

6. The future of game development is AR/VR. It’s huge and it’s here to stay since it offers a more immersive experience that engulfs the player. AR/VR has created huge hits like Pokemon Go, which has paved the way for a Harry Potter-based AR experience to be released in 2018, and more AR devices are becoming available.

Keep your eyes open for the next big distribution opportunity. It’s been years since major twists like Steam and the Apple App Store, so we are due for disruption over the next three to five years. This new distribution will reach new audiences and demographics that haven’t played games before. VR should be ready for prime time by then.

7. A couple of concerns with the state of game development today is the fear of smaller developers getting pushed out and the ethical choice of “slot machine” (or "gacha") economics. How should games be monetized, and how do we get more paying users for non-ad-supported experiences?

When it comes to the general gaming community, players are constantly looking for the next best thing. While being able to provide content in a timely manner is important, it’s also critical to create cutting-edge features for the game that engage players. We need to be able to produce what players, and non-players, want so we can grow the market.

8. As usual, respondents had several different suggestions for skills that developers need to be successful in developing games. The only suggestions mentioned more than once were knowing the Unity platform, the different levels of programming and design, and other cross-platform solutions. That, and a lot of patience and persistence. Successful game development is a lot like becoming an overnight rock star who was discovered after 20 years of playing small venues for little to no money.

As always, great user experiences (UX), fun games, and execution are the key drivers of success. Developers need to be able to deliver that experience, and that means being a key part of the game development team, be game players, and understand current trends. Understand why a trend became a trend and why its appealing. Get under the hood and think about the game from a player’s point of view or just as entertainment.

9. Some final thoughts from our contributors were: 1) gaming is a highly competitive industry with a lot of different roles and opportunities – none of which are easy to be successful in; 2) know the business model for monetizing your game up-front, since this will affect the design progression; and, 3) think about the business aspects of your game – especially how to gain an audience that is willing to pay and play.

This article was featured in our first ever DZone Guide to Game Development. Get your free copy for more insightful articles, industry statistics, and more! 

augmented reality, game dev, game development with unity 3d, virtual reality, web dev

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