Game development—very much part of Creative Philippines

Video-game development is the process of creating a video game. The effort is undertaken by a game developer, which may range from a single person to an international team dispersed across the globe. Traditional commercial PC and console games are normally funded by a publisher, and can take several years to reach completion. Indie games can take less time and can be produced at a lower cost by individuals and smaller developers. The independent game industry has seen a substantial rise in recent years with the growth of new online distribution systems, such as Steam and Uplay, as well as the mobile game market, such as for Android and iOS devices.

Mainstream PC and console games are generally developed in phases. First, in preproduction, pitches, prototypes and game design documents are written. If the idea is approved and the developer receives funding, a full-scale development begins. This usually involves a team of  20 to 100 individuals with various responsibilities, including designersartists, programmers and testers.

Development teamDevelopers can range in size from small groups making casual games to housing hundreds of employees and producing several large titles. Team size can vary from 20 to 100 or more members, depending on the game’s scope. The most represented are artists, followed by programmers, then designers, and finally, audio specialists, with two to three producers in management.

These positions are employed full-time. Other positions, such as testers, may be employed only part-time:

                Designer—A game designer is a person who designs gameplay, conceiving and designing the rules and structure of a game. One of the roles of a designer is being a writer, often employed part-time to conceive game’s narrative, dialogue, commentary, cutscene narrative, journals, video game packaging content, hint system, etc.

Artist—A game artist is a visual artist who creates video game art. The art production is usually overseen by an art director or art lead, making sure their vision is followed. The art director manages the art team, scheduling and coordinating within the development team.

Programmer—A game programmer is a software engineer who primarily develops video games or related software (such as game-development tools). The game’s codebase development is handled by programmers. There are usually one to several lead programmers, who implement the game’s starting codebase and overview future development and programmer allocation on individual modules.

Level designer—A level designer is a person who creates levels, challenges or missions for computer and/or video games using a specific set of programs. These programs may be commonly available commercial 3D or 2D design programs, or specially designed and tailored level editors made for a specific game.

Sound engineer­—Sound engineers are technical professionals responsible for sound effects and sound positioning. They sometimes oversee voice acting and other sound asset creation. Composers who create a game’s musical score also comprise a game’s sound team, though often this work is outsourced.

Tester—The quality assurance is carried out by game testers. A game tester analyzes video games to document software defects as part of a quality control. Testing is a highly technical field requiring computing expertise and analytic competence.

Outsourcing—Several development disciplines, such as audio, dialogue, or motion capture, occur for relatively short periods of time. Efficient employment of these roles requires either large development house with multiple simultaneous title production or outsourcing from third-party vendors. Employing personnel for these tasks full-time is expensive, so a majority of developers outsource a portion of the work.

Game development in PHL Game development existed in the Philippines as early as 1992, with the entry of console and arcade game content development for Japanese publishers such as Sega. Several Philippine-based developers were established at this time, including Micronet Software Manila and Japan Media Programming-Cebu. Micronet Software Manila  was established as a subsidiary of Japan-based Micronet Co. Ltd. to produce exclusive game content for various console platforms such as the Genesis, Sega CD, Game Gear, Super Nintendo and PC Engine.

1 Japan Media Programming-Cebu (JAMP-Cebu) was set up by a Japanese businessman in 1997 to produce games for the merchandising company Sanrio of Japan. Since most of the content developed by these companies was for the exclusive use of their Japan-based holding company, much of their achievements had not been heard of in mainstream media. In a way, these companies pioneered the concept of offshore outsourcing in game development.

In mid-1997, however, a small company called Id Software launched a game called Quake into the Windows platform. Id Software was an independent developer and unlike previous games, Quake was developed, published and marketed by the same small company. By 1999 Id Software had demonstrated that small independent developers can produce, promote and market their own products to the global market with very little advertising and promotional budget.

The emergence of local start-ups

The success of Id Software created a widespread emergence of independent developers in the succeeding years, such as Bioware (published by Black Isle Publishing, developers of the popular Baldur’s Gate and Neverwinter Nights games), Blizzard (developer of Starcraft, Warcraft and Diablo), Valve Software (developer of the widely popular Half-Life games) and Digital Extremes (developer of the Unreal games, which was published by GT Interactive). By 2000, the success of these start-ups had inspired other independent developers, including in the Philippines.

By 2007 the major game development companies who were also part of International Game Developers Association  established the Game Developers Association of the Philippines (GDAP) in order to further expand the global exposure of local game developers and improve their promotional capabilities. The intent was to consolidate the efforts of individual companies in promoting the capabilities of Philippine developers toward servicing the requirements of international publishers such as Electronic Arts. GDAP’s founding members included Anino Entertainment, Anino Mobile, Flipside Games, Glyph Studios, Matahari Studios, PixelStream, Skyrocket Interactive (now defunct—it’s founder, James Lo, launched a new company named Indigo Entertainment, which eventually joined GDAP)  and Secret Six. The successful promotion of the local game development sector via GDAP’s participation in the September 2007 Game Conventions Asia in Singapore confirmed the viability of sustaining and expanding the collaborative environment of the association. This resulted in GDAP’s commitment to attract other game developers to join the association and to continue the organization’s medium-term development plan. GDAP was also successful in obtaining more than $0.9 million in contract proposals from the same event, further indicating the viability of GDAP as a legitimate industry association.

Where does the local game development industry go from here?

The global market of game development was valued at $45 billion in 2011,  at that time, the local market share was about 0.03 percent.

GDAP envisions to—eventually—achieve a 1-percent global market share. That would translate into a multibillion-dollar business in the Philippines.

It’s high time to take this industry and its potential in terms of employment and contribution to the Creative Philippines’s economy seriously.

Comments are welcome—contact me at [email protected].


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