Programming video games for a console is a convoluted and tedious process involving many hours in front of a computer screen. There are 7 stages of the development aspect of programming. Such as, prototyping, game design, production, testing, nearing completion, maintenance, and duration. There are also many tools and special languages needed, which could take years of schooling to perfect. Programming can be done on a hobbyist level or a professional level.
All games are approached differently, sometimes there is already a storyline written or other times there will be just lots of experimenting trying to find something with a spark. The first stage in the process is game design. This is not necessarily the programmers job unless theyre doing it alone. They will contribute to the overall design as to lean towards their own programming strengths. This is where people will experiment the most if there isnt a clear cut design.
The second stage is production. Where the programmers will pump out a lot of source code to help the game come to life as close to the game design as possible. This is a living document of sorts; it can be changed as seen necessary for the programmers strengths or for resourcefulness. This stage is where the programmers and artists will work together the most, to make sure the code will coincide with the backgrounds and blend with the characters to make sure nothing will be slow, or buggy. There are often times more than 1 type of programmers especially for console games. There will have to be a background, lead, 3D, 2D, AI, and more programmers all needed for individual talents. Many tools are developed in RAD languages because they are faster for development and they can be tossed out after the game is done.
Third stage is testing. Where the entire game is complete and professional testers run through the entire game to find bugs or places where there is a code or memory error. They then write it down and report it to their lead programmers.
Fourth is Nearing Completion. Where the programmer will fix the found bugs, and polish the game off making last minute additions. When it is finished it will be sent off to the publishers of the game. He will make one of the final decisions for the programming aspect.
Next is maintenance. Once the game ships programmers wait for a public outcry of bugs and start working on patches to fix it from home.
Lastly, we have duration. Most games, depending on the size and intricacy, obviously, will take up to 4 years to complete especially if its a major title release.