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Game Development Is More Than Programming

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2006 Annual Conference & Exposition


Chicago, Illinois

Publication Date

June 18, 2006

Start Date

June 18, 2006

End Date

June 21, 2006



Conference Session

Software Engineering Teaching Methods and Practice

Tagged Division

Software Engineering Constituent Committee

Page Count


Page Numbers

11.660.1 - 11.660.10



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Paper Authors


Bruce Maxim University of Michigan

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Professor Maxim is Associate Professor of Computer and Information Science at the University of Michigan -Dearborn. He has taught game design, artificial intelligence, and software engineering courses for 20 years. His current research interests include software usability, accessibility issues, and software quality assurance.

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NOTE: The first page of text has been automatically extracted and included below in lieu of an abstract

Game Development is More Than Programming


Game development generates a great deal of excitement among undergraduate computing students. Many students are disappointed to find that they will not learn how to build computer games in their required computing courses. The author created a two-semester sequence of courses focusing on the application of software engineering principles to the design and implementation of computer games. These courses build on the material covered in the first course on software engineering taken by junior level students. This paper summarizes the content of these courses and the author’s experiences in teaching game design during the past six years.


The annual revenue generated from the sales of computer games in the United States alone exceeds $7 billion dollars. Statistics indicate that the revenue generated by the computer game industry will continue to exceed that of the motion picture industry.7 Computer game development is big business.

The development of computer games is labor-intensive. Today, game developers rarely build computer games on their own, as they did 15 years ago. Many best-selling computer games contain thousands of lines of code and have multi-million dollar development budgets. Modern game development requires the effort of a team of skilled professionals to integrate multimedia content and complex computer software. Game development projects have a reputation for late delivery times and cost over runs. In December 2005, consumers observed hardware failures in the first Xbox 360 consoles delivered to consumers and the recall of a popular Nintendo Game Cube software product. The minimum costs incurred by a failed game development project ranges between $150,000 and $750,000.13 Producing high-quality software products by large teams requires high levels of communication, organization, and planning to avoid costly delays and failures.

Game developers are beginning to understand that it is important to treat computer game design in the same way that other software engineers approach projects involving a large number of people and a significant investment of time.13 Game developers are likely to benefit from using evolutionary software process models to mange their development risks and reduce their project completion times. The process of determining the technical requirements for a game software product is similar to that used to specify any other type of software product. However, unlike most software products, games have an entertainment dimension. People play computer games because games are fun.8

The International Game Developers Association (IGDA) proposed a curriculum framework for university level training in game development.5 The core topic areas from the IGDA recommendations appear in Table 1. Many of these topics involve the application of skills taught in software engineering courses.

Maxim, B. (2006, June), Game Development Is More Than Programming Paper presented at 2006 Annual Conference & Exposition, Chicago, Illinois. 10.18260/1-2--452

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