How Making a Video Game Works

Making a Video Game: Start with the Basics

Many video games combine adventure with characters like Raven, an Xbox character.
© Jeff Christensen/Getty Images

If you want to make a video game, the first thing you need is a plan.

Planning a video game is like planning any visual art form, such as a movie. Productions involve a plot, characters and action. One of the best ways to plan how those three elements will interact is by using a storyboard.


A good storyboard lays the foundation for your game. It should be done before the video game maker even thinks about touching a computer. A game that hasn't been planned well will fall short, no matter how good the graphics.

Storyboarding a game means the maker sketches out ideas for characters and scenes and then places them in order. With a video game, this might include a sequence of screens or scenes in which characters face certain challenges. In order to move forward in resolving the game's object (or the story's plot), the players must master certain skills involved in each scene.

Along with storyboarding, you may want to create a document that describes every aspect of the game. This document, sometimes called a "game design document," details everything from how menus work to character back stories. It will help keep you organized.

Creating characters is an important part of the storyboard process. Since the players will essentially become or interact with these characters, a game maker must make sure the characters are interesting. In some cases, artists work on drawings of important characters, which are scanned into computers and animated. Both the look of the characters and their personalities are important.

The planning process also gives video game makers a chance to dream up and refine the cyber environment in which their story will take place. These backdrops form the physical world in which the characters live, and they are akin to the film sets that movie makers use to frame the action on the screen. Video game creators can add subtle special effects to their environments to make them more memorable or realistic. Such effects include sounds as well as sight. Hearing a character's footsteps as it moves through the environment is one example. Changing the sound of those footsteps to reflect the surface they're running on -- crunchy leaves or echoing in a cavernous hall -- can add a great sense of realism.

What happens after the storyboard is created? How do video game makers determine what software to use? Read on to find out.