In preparation for my month long game jam, I have started writing my game design document. Game design documents are essential for organization and planning on larger games. These can come in many shapes and sizes, but a good GDD can make the development process sail smoothly while a poorly designed one can cause more damage than good. There are some key qualities that should always be present.
By descriptive, I don’t mean that it should describe every last pixel of the game and explain every single feature to be added. A well designed GDD will be descriptive in terms of being able to convey the feeling of playing the game. By reading the document, I should know what the game will look like, what it will sound like, what it will play like; I should already be able to feel the experiences I will get from playing the game. Of course, it could outline different things like characters, environment, level design, marketing, and so on, but the most important part is getting across the feel of the game.
Although it is good to get the details hammered down, it is also very easy to get lost in detail. Any good painting is not completely detailed, the artist brings attention from the viewers by putting more detail in important parts. This can be applied to almost anything else, and that certainly includes design documents. Not only does this help keep the goal clear for yourself, it also helps everyone understand it better under a team setting. Keeping most details short and concise helps mold the game towards its final product more naturally by giving it a general shape but also allowing room for change.
This is probably the most important part of a design document for me. As someone who gets easily distracted by other projects, having deadlines helps me stay on top of my work and makes the whole process a lot smoother.
This is the development schedule I have planned for my game. Although it is free and somewhat vague, it helps me keep track on what I should be working on and what I should be done. Also, when working in teams, a schedule like this makes it a lot easier for people to work in parallel because they know what each other are working on.
While having a design document planned out for myself is extremely useful for developing my game, I also do it because it’s a very enjoyable task. Being able to plan out my own game and envision it in my own perspective is exciting and in the end ( or beginning? ), it is a statement and a promise to put in sweat and tears to build a game that I will love and enjoy.
Hack n Plan - A good tool for planning game development and setting deadlines