Better Reviews in Game Dev

Geoff Ellenor
5 min readApr 18, 2022

I’ve been to a lot of review meetings. It’s a huge part of my job to play [game] and give notes, feedback, and help with tasking. Today, I’m going to write some quick guidelines on what makes a good review, the kind that leads to good follow up tasks and next steps.

Have an understood definition for “level of quality”

This means your team have done some work in advance of the meeting. Is this a feature moving from “prototype proof of concept” to “Quality1”, hoping to ship at “Quality3”? Your pipeline should define clear quality metrics and to-do lists for each step in production.

This is true for features, missions, and game levels. It’s a huge up-front undertaking to have everyone know and understand the same language for different steps in the approval pipeline, but this investment really pays off in reviews and tasking.

Backstory to a bad meeting:

  • Sam the Art director is proud of what their team has created for first-pass art for Dungeon1. All dev textures have been eliminated, and basic lighting for navigation is complete. Landmarks have been integrated, and the silhouettes show great promise. They are confident about approval at Quality Step 2, because they wrote the art approval criteria.
  • Terry the Creative Director has heard the art is “first pass”. He has no experience with an art pipeline, and is surprised when most areas look generic and empty. He’s not ready to approve because he wants it to look ‘better’. He doesn’t really know the approval criteria for this step.
  • Sarah the Level Design director is happy with the gameplay which has been integrated, but is frustrated by a number of assets that clip through the camera and make testing gameplay less fun. She hasn’t had time to speak to the art director about it, but she isn’t ready to approve. She helped write the criteria for gameplay fun-factor.

If you don’t have level-of-quality definitions for each step in production, you’re not really ready for an organized review. People who have different expectations aren’t prepared to review together. Building this shared language takes some time (minimum investment: two day workshop) but is really worthwhile.

Have a goal for the review

Using the language from my hypothetical pipeline above, let’s imaging that I’m walking into a review meeting where I know from the…

--

--

Geoff Ellenor

Game Director, WB Games Montréal. Video game nerd. Designer. Tech head. Views expressed here are my own.