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Bob found and typed up an old article from early 1994 about the design process of Privateer. It provides an interesting insight in to how games went from an idea in an Origin designer's head to a finished product. It also features comments from some of the many people who worked on Privateer.
Game development at Origin Systems follows a fairly structured and organized approach. When a designer comes up with an idea for a game, the designer submits his idea to a review board. The review board evaluates the idea and decides whether or not it is worth investigating.

If a game design is approved, the designer gets a software engineer (programmer) to help develop the idea further. What follows is a period of research and development where the designer and programmer work closely together to build the basic framework of the game.

Just think, it doesn't matter if you've designed games which have sold a million+ units. You get in line and beg for the money like everyone else.
Some initial ideas never quite made it into the final game. One such idea involved player finances. The game initially enabled players to get loans from banks or other (less reputable) characters. In this scenario, you might run into debt, and be pursued by creditors or bounty hunters which were after the price on your head. Privateer took about a year and a half to make, and so during this period, many such ideas were dropped while others were developed and added to the game.
You can read the entire article here.

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