This is How Games are Made (and It's Beautiful)

Making video games is an incredibly lengthy, detailed and technical process. It would be impossible to visualise all the code that goes into one without being some kind of omnipotent being. Unless you're watching this video.

Put together by LittleBigPlanet developers Media Molecule, this is a "code swarm", a graphical representation of the work of the game's programmers, artists and designers.

And it shows the creation and finalisation of LittleBigPlanet 2.

Every little sackboy you see floating around on the screen is a Media Molecule staffer. And all the points of light around them are files created or edited by each person during the process of developing the game. All the moving around is the result of the developers sending and editing each other's work.


You'll also see files come and go as they're created and deleted.

Amazing, no?

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Interestingly enough, that does show typical game development cycle, albeit most people won't actually pick up on it. (Except for the fact that, even though there is a lot of overlapping names making it difficult to decipher, it looks like the *entire dev team* was only ~20 people, which I have a very hard time believing, but that might just be because I work exclusively in MMOs with teams close to or over a hundred people.)

I also like how they mention this isn't from the start of development to the end. This is from the start of *a single build* of the game. For reference, our team is on build number 400,000 something (that's over the course of 4+ years and counting failed builds).

A 'real' full development cycle goes something like this:

Year 1: Team consists of only high-level designers, coders, and the art director (along with executives/managers). 99% of dev time is spent doing "theoretical" work in word docs, meetings, and, most importantly, goofing off.

Lead Programmer: "So, are we going to license an engine or should we start building one?"

Producer: "We'll probably just license one but it isn't finalized yet, I'll get back to you in a month."

Lead Programmer: "Cool, cool, so ... wanna play some WoW?"

Producer: "Sure, let me login."

Year 1 (6 months later): Team has expanded by high-level designers, coders and the art director pushing for the hiring of their closest friends (who may or may not actually have the skills required for the job they are being hired for). Design is still working word docs, Art is still doing concepts, and Code is mostly playing ping-pong.

Producer: "So ... that engine licensing deal fell through because we didn't want to pay that much."

Lead Programmer: "Well, crap, what are we going to do now?"

Producer: "Fuck if I know."

Lead Programmer: "Why don't we just get one of those cheap or free ones and modify it?"

Producer: "Whatever you want to do, man."

Year 2: Friends of friends start getting hired on (still may or may not be skilled workers). Design has written 200+ documents that no one will ever read or give a shit about, Art has made 200+ concepts that Design has turned down because they were made without any direction and aren't applicable to the game now, Code is starting to realize the free engine they're using is utter garbage and won't be able to do half of the planned features.

Lead Designer: "So, we have this great idea for this really cool feature ..."

Lead Programmer: "Sorry, the engine can't do that."

Lead Designer: "But, you said you guys would modify it to do whatever we needed."

Lead Programmer: "Well, yeah, but, you see, that would be a lot of work with this engine, and, umm, I just don't know about the ROI."

Lead Designer: "Oh, ok, I guess, we'll come up with something else."

Year 3: Producer begins to realize that half the team is dead weight but doesn't have the balls to fire friends and friends of friends. Instead, team balloons in size to compensate, this time with actual skilled workers who come into the project simply amazed by the incompetence.

New Designer: "Are you fucking serious? This is what we have to work with after 3 years? What the hell were they doing?"

New Artist : "You think that's dumb, you should see the several TBs of useless art assets we have."

New Coder: "I have you beat, our Lead was in console development before this and doesn't have a fucking clue how to do a engine for a MMO."

New Designer: "LOL, seriously? Hahaha, ok, you win buddy."

New Artist: "So, what do we do about this shit?"

New Designer: "Eh, nothing we can do now, I suppose. Whatever, it's a paycheck."

New Coder: "Ain't that the truth."

Year 4: Massive shitstorm of doing 4 years worth of development in the final 12-14 months.

Year 4 (6 months later): Launch incredibly buggy product with 1/3 of the promised features, 1/8 of the planned features, and an engine that can't really expand the game without serious overhauls (which we'll just call "expansions").