What Types of Project Work do Game Design Students Complete?

In game design school, students spend the first years learning essential techniques before working on a series of game design degree projects the final year. The final project consists of a complete video game from the market research and conceptualization phases to the beta testing, refinement and post-production milestones. Students use all the game design industry knowledge they learned throughout college to produce a professional finished product that includes original game assets, music, artwork, game programming and mechanics, physics engines, level and character design and all other aspects of a polished, marketable product.Game Design Project

The final project typically spans several semesters since the game production process involves many development milestones. In the video game industry, game production usually takes two years or longer and follows software development conventions such as agile development, iterative prototyping and Personal Software Process (PSP) and Team Software Process (TSP) methods. The choice of production method depends on the stage of the game development life cycle. For example, game asset creation can be efficiently completed using the cascading waterfall design model, while programming and gameplay require iterative design methods to get right.

How to Prepare for a Final Game Design Project

The entire time you’re in game design school, you will be preparing for the final project, which can take three semesters but may begin even sooner. For the final project, students focus on their areas of specialization while experiencing the entire process from start to finish, which is a little different than the way game design projects work in industry. The first semester of the final project covers the conceptualization and market research stages, culminating in a game prototype called a vertical slice. The vertical slice is the first major milestone in the production process and gives team leaders – in this case instructors – a first look at a working product. After a prototype has been evaluated, students implement the critique they receive by working on an alpha release.

At the alpha stage, the game project includes all the features it will have when complete, but the game hasn’t been polished or extensively tested for bugs. Students spend the entire second semester getting the project ready for alpha testing and further feedback from instructors. The next semester of the final project is spent getting the game ready for the next milestone, which is beta testing. This semester involves a lot of hard work and long hours concentrating on removing bugs and implementing suggestions from instructors since most of the creative work is done in the early stages. The beta testing stage is usually the final phase of the project since the game isn’t really destined for store shelves.

Game Design Job Outlook and Salary

Due mostly to independent projects and mobile game design, the video game industry is expected to grow much faster than average over the next 10 years. In 2013, the median annual salary for game designers was $72,000, and the top-earning 10 percent took home around $117,000. Jobs are expected to increase by 27.6 percent over the next decade, with most jobs requiring in-person attendance and close communication with a team.

The game design industry is extremely competitive since most game designers consider it their dream job, but there’s enough work for passionate, creative, driven people to find employment if they’re prepared to work hard. You can get ready by pushing yourself to produce your best work during your final game design degree projects.