February 15, 2015

Design Document rules them all

While writing Design Document (DD) you finally realize what kind of game you are creating. There is a difference between the idea (idea how should your game look like, what can you put into it and what not), and between writing down specific ideas. Only after converting your thoughts into written text your game gets some shape, some form - although only the form of few notes on paper. And this conversion of your ideas into text, this primal form of your game, lays the cornerstone of the entire production process and makes you think about the game on a much larger scale than you thought. Everything I have described above are just my insights from creating DD, I'm not saying that this is general true - and in the same spirit will be the rest of this blog post.

So how I started? I googled. At first I was looking for guidance on how to write DD, how to start, what to avoid, what should be the content (for example: gamedev, gamasutra). Through articles which I found I got through to prepared templates (one here: chris_taylor_gdd), then I read DD of already created games (gamepitches). There are really a lot of useful articles on the internet that helped me gain a complete understanding of how to create a DD. From various sources I found out a few templates of DD and piece by piece I put together my template, then deleted something and added something else. So how I continued? I started writing.

And here are some of my insights:

1. Into the first version of the DD write really everything you want in the game and all your ideas that come to your mind at that moment. It is easier to cut unwanted elements in the future than trying to remember what you thought and did not write down before (and yes, keep track of any changes so you can always revert to the previous version).
2. Even putting down such parts of DD as „Why I want to make this game“, or „Summary of the game in one sentence“ which seemed to me being insignificant helped me summarize my ideas more than I thought. I believe it will help you too.
3. It's good to know in what aspect your game will be different from the others and what are its main advantages.
4. Think about each feature in relation to the gameplay, story, the other features and the game as a whole (Will it be a fun for the player? Can I wrap it by the story? Isn't it in the conflict with other features? Does it fit into the game?).
5. You need to know exactly what a player will do in this game most frequently (main mechanics), what will do less often (alternative mechanics), what will enrich the gaming experience (peripheral mechanics) and what will drive the player forward (progressive mechanics).
6. You need to know exactly everything about your game and write it to DD.

Over time my DD has increasingly enlarged and I believe that the number of pages will grow steadily. I already have umpteenth version and I am still working on some details in the story and a few things I'll probably have to cut out. I also don't know whether some of my ideas, mechanics and ways of solving logic puzzles don't look well only on paper, but in the reality (in the stage of prototyping) players won't be bored. I do not have any previous experience in writing DD (and BTW with the production of games too), so we'll see how it turns out! As I think about it, the entire DD will be probably changing under my hands during the production. But I think it's the absolutely necessary basis that will be very helpful to me in the future!