Effective game design documents are imperative for successful game design processes. People who do not invest resources on good documentation at the start of a development cycle often land in a myriad of confusion when things begin going a bit astray. The article helps in understanding importance of game design document and share a template for developing your own game design document.
A game design document, sometimes referred to as a GDD is an in-depth software design description for video games. It aids the technical team in keeping track of the game development cycles. A GDD is the product of extensive discussions between the developers, the artists, and designers, who use it as a guide throughout the development phase.
You can develop a game design document yourself or hire a professional game producer to develop one for you. It costs between $2,000 and $8,000 based on the game concept and the desired level of details required. However this helps in getting more reliable estimates from game development firm. The document also serves as bases for engaging a game development firm on fixed cost assignment. You can read more about how to engage a game development firm.
There isn’t a generic format but this article does elaborate few important sections. You can download a template.
Considering the importance of documenting your game design process, we have put together the reasons for dedicating time and efforts on an extensive manuscript such as a GDD, followed by a guide to help you create an efficient one.
Table of Contents
Need for game design document
GDD helps in documenting and clearly defining expected game functionalities Since game development is a creative process, it requires more effective communication channels to deliver the concept to various team members.
Ingredients of GDD
Since the document serves the game development team, it should address core game concepts, art guidelines, functional specifications, animation references, game mechanics and the intended platform for development.
With the help of a GDD, the game designer can analyze game design and mechanics, pinpointing the areas which need further enhancement. Artists can design game characters and environments based on art guidelines. Developers can create game play, enemy AI and levels based on the guidelines, Quality assurance team can test game based on guideline mentioned in the document and publishing team can prepare marketing strategy based on monetization strategies defined in the game,
Use it as your ultimate checklist. Once the targets in a GDD are achieved, you can begin with the celebrations!
What to consider when writing a GDD
In the previous post, we discussed ways of coming up with a game idea. The next phase in a game development cycle is writing a game design document. Composing lengthy, comprehensive texts can be boring and feel like a monotonous exercise to some. If you don’t have a game design document, you can always invest in developing a game design document. For others, who wish to embark on this project, we have put together ways of devising a good document for consideration during the developmental cycle process.
Keep it flexible
Changes to various sections of the GDD should be allowed throughout the process. This helps ensure that creativity doesn’t die down. Another way to keep ideas flowing is by encouraging your team members to put relevant thoughts to discussions, knowing fully well that most of them will not become a reality.
Make use of visual aid
It is often effective to make use of graphs and visual art to deliver efficient concepts. You can always put references from web to better demonstrate your liking or concept to developers. If you have a reference game, it should always be included in the document as reference. Clear references are extremely important for successful execution of the project.
Play the game in mind
Playing the game in your mind can further enhance imagination for the game. The better you can imagine, the better it will be documented in form of game design document. Try to document each and every detail that you can think about.
Set realistic goals
While you can be sway away with the features and excitement, it always a good idea to keep budget and time expectations in mind as well. You can always add priority against the features and divide various features across milestones. This helps in validating the product earlier and get feedback for the beta version.
How to write game design document
We understand the aspects that should be taken into consideration when designing a GDD. This section provides a brief walkthrough regarding the steps required in writing a GDD :
Give a short project description without delving into the game mechanics intricacies. After going through the project description, the reader should have a basic idea regarding the game that is being developed like social or hardcore and the game genre like puzzles etc. Games are usually based on a storyline, so it’s a good idea to define the story line and context in detail. It helps in aligning all activities of the game development process based on the story line.
Introduce the game characters before the story. If there are no characters or a story, you can jump directly to the game play section. It’s always good idea to define characters that can help in understanding their personality and share references.
- Should clearly document the states that the character can go through.
- Additional weapon or add ons that the character can acquire through the game progress
- Enemies and their states
Once the game characters have been introduced, you can talk about the events that will take place within the game. When describing the story of your game, it will be beneficial to talk about the overall theme of your game design. Tell the reader if its fantasy, comedy or just real life
The most important section of a good GDD is the gameplay mechanics.
Let’s talk about different gameplay aspects in this section:
- Goals: Why is the player playing your game? Talk about the end goals for various stages
- User skills: you should know what type of audience you are trying to target – especially respective to their skill set. For example, if you are trying to develop a game for kids, it shouldn’t get too complicated or get beyond the skills possessed by the relevant age group.
- Game mechanics: this is the place to define your game mechanics. The reader should have less to no confusions when reading what the game should be about. You can include some artwork or prototypes in this section.
- Items and powerups: you can add items to your game to enhance gameplay mechanics. Powerups provide more fun and empowers the player. In this section, add all the items and the powerups the players will encounter, use or buy to establish in-game progress.
- Challenges and level progression: in this section, you can indulge in increasing level progression for your game, providing the player with the necessary tools to catch up.
- Losing conditions: should be incorporated – like low energy, player health etc. Define the terms which will result in the player losing the game.
- Game controls : GDD should clearly identify user controls in the game design document.
- Camera Angle : GDD must clearly identify the camera angle to be used for game play
This section talks about the graphics and game design in your game. Since, pictures depict scenarios in a much better way, you can make use of visual art to help make the viewers understand the game art design. The GDD must contain a reference to camera angle, art style and reference image.
GDD must mention various level progression items or basics for AI in the open world game case.
Music & sound
You can define the sound and music types for your game. This section can be elaborated as you progress through the game or hire a sound developer to design specific sounds for your game.
Although, technical details are incorporated in a separate Technical design document (TDD), you can add a few broad specifications in this section just to give your readers a heads up regarding the technologies or the platforms being used in the game..
Although often considered a laborious task, a well-planned GDD often serves as an ultimate savior in times of confusion. It is a bank, full of ideas that can be referred to at any point in time. Investing in a GDD project and enhancing its quality can often reflect an improvement in the core developmental process of your game design. It helps in establishing firm, well-thought game mechanics to bring about a successful gameplay experience.
GenITeam is full stack game development firm and can help develop a comprehensive game design document for your game.