Differences Between Game Design and Game Programming

The difference between game design and game development may seem slight and blurred. The reason is pretty obvious: many game dev studios used to combine the services they offer as well as many game creators used to mix their fields of work. 

Although game development involves both game designers and programmers working closely from the start to the release day, defining these terms is very important. First, it helps to assign and prioritize tasks correctly. Second, it allows spending time and budget carefully and accordingly. 

What does a game programmer do?

After the game designer has prepared sketches and specified all the requirements regarding the art, sound, and object interaction, a game programmer steps in. His task is to translate all the material into a playable game with the help of math, logic, and computer languages. Basically, game developers use programming languages (C++, C#, or Java), scripting languages, and API (application programming interfaces). 

Here are the key points of a game programmer workflow:

  • Creating the environment (mapping locations, implementing physics)
  • Developing AI for NPCs
  • Setting connections between player’s actions via the controller to the events occurring on the screen.

It is crucial for any game programmer to have a proficient level at one popular language at least. Knowledge of different engines, AR/VR, blockchain, and other technologies is always a plus. Most professional programmers in the gaming industry have a portfolio including samples of the projects they worked on. It is good if they can show a few games which are already published and attract some attention.

Read also about TOP-7 Video Game Design Companies

What does a game designer do?

Game designers are known for their creativity and ability to draw amazing worlds and characters with the help of different tools. They have to see the whole picture and be aware of gamers preferences and latest trends. 

Here are the key points of a game designer workflow:

  • Creating the vision of the gameplay (how will it look and what rules should it follow)
  • Developing the concept, storyline, layout, and promotional teasers
  • Working on level design, object placement, mechanics, soundtracks and effects
  • Managing product documentation

A lot of customers and users consider game designers to be all about the graphics. But it is not right. The design team normally handles much more tasks related to target audience, technical requirements, milestones and deadlines, budgets and promotions. They are fully involved in the process right from the concept to the after-release updates and UX improvements. 

How game development and design experts are paid

Game developer vs Game designer (salaries)

Job Title Median Annual Salary Job Growth Through 2026 
Software Developers, Applications $102,28024% (much faster than average)
Multimedia Artist and Animators$65,30010%, slightly faster than average

In some cases, game designers act as game programmers simultaneously or vice versa. It particularly explains why many people are often confused and can’t spot the difference. However, game design and game programming are considered to be different fields of work that require different knowledge, tools, and technologies. To optimize collaboration, it is recommended to hire a team that has both skilled game programmers and designers. Melior Games is the right choice for those who need to turn a game concept into a real masterpiece.