Alright, so you have completed a game. The credits start to roll. Unless you decide to hit that ‘skip’ button (and if the game allows you to – looking at you Assassin’s Creed 3), chances are that you will see both game designers and game developers listed here.

Now, contrary to popular belief, these are not actually the same job. Both have majorly different jobs when it comes to the development of a game.

Let’s look at the differences between game developers and game designers. To do this, we are going to need to take a look at each role individually.

What is a Game Designer?

Let’s start with game designers.

Game designers are going to be among the first people brought on during the production of a new game. Before any other staff are hired, often a year or two before, game designers will be chipping away at the actual design of the game.

The goal of a game designer is to determine several things. This includes:

  • Aim of the game 
  • Basic story (this task can be handed off to story developers)
  • Look and feel of the game
  • Gameplay e.g. any specific mechanics
  • Design of characters
  • Puzzle, quest development etc.

Basically, the game designer is going to be responsible for what makes the game unique (or not so unique, in some cases). Everything that you love or hate about a way a game plays will be put together by the game designers. As we said, this is all going to happen before they let any developer touch the games. 

Because game designers have to generate a lot of ideas, they have to have knowledge about certain things in game development. A lot of this is to make sure that their ideas can be brought to realization.

For example; a game designer will have to have a general knowledge of coding and art, even if they never plan on doing anything related to that with the game. This way they are not coming up with crazy, amazing ideas that are just not practical to make come to life.

What is a Game Developer?

Once the game designers have come up with a plan of action for the game, game developers can be brought in.

The game developer will probably not have any impact on the creativity behind the game. This means that they will have no say in the way the game looks or feels. They could probably tell the game designers if something isn’t working, but often the game designers are going to be so set in their ways after years of design that they probably won’t listen unless it is a major problem.

All the game developer needs to do is to knuckle down and code the game. They are basically bringing together everything the game designers planned out. Think of it as the game designers giving the game developers a recipe, and the game developers are actually making this recipe. 

What are the Differences Between a Game Designer and a Game Developer?

You have probably picked this up already, but let’s just really drum the point home.

The purpose of a game designer is to design the game. The purpose of a game developer is to make the game.

Games cannot be made without game designers or game developers. Even if a game goes through development after it has been released, it still needs developers. Those are the guys that help plan balancing, or introducing new concepts to the game. Developers can’t do that on their own. They do not have the required skills and training.

So, what does this mean? Well, it means that the next time you have a suggestion for a game you are playing, you probably shouldn’t go to the developers. You should contact the designers. They are the only ones that can get that change made…that is if they will listen to you in the first place!

Can the Two Roles Overlap?

Absolutely!

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While in AAA game development (I wrote about AAA games here), it’s likely that the two positions will be distinct from one another, those rules are thrown out when it comes to indie game developer.

We have seen some games developed by minimal staff. This means that certain staff members will have to wear many different game production hats. Although, even if the two roles do not have any overlap during game development, it is still important that a game designer and game developer understand each other’s role. It makes for a far, far better game. You don’t want there to be any disconnect there.

Remember, it doesn’t matter whether somebody is a game designer or a game developer. Despite the differences between the roles, they both have the same end goal.

That is to give you the greatest game that you have ever played.



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