Game Design DOC
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I am in the process of writing a game design doc.. And I was wondering if anybody knew of any sites that I may use as a reference in how to set up the document properly. Basically what to include, how detailed it should be etc.

1. Look at They 're putting some articles of gdmag on their site.

The article's title about game design documents is " Creating a Great Design Document " By Tzvi Freeman , August, 1997.

2. Check out "Inside Electronic Game Design", Arnie Katz, Laurie Yates, Prima publishing, ISBN 1-55958-669-9

Complete manual to write a game proposal + tips + general game design issues + more

> I know this has been discussed before, but I couldn't find any references
> in my archives: where can I get a sample (or real) game design document?
> Any examples or suggestions would be appreciated (this might also be a
> good topic for the FAQ).

It's true, I don't know of where you can find any. But they might not be of a lot of help anyway.

As I understand it (and as I've found), game design docs vary widely depending on genre, resources (if you're using a pre-designed engine or system of some sort, much less has to be designed), and designer.

Obviously, a game design doc for a skill-based tabletop RPG will be of little help to a flight simulator designer. Just as a design for a side-scrolling action game won't help a collectible card game designer much.

Basically, be as structured as you can, as logical as you can, and as complete as you can. Don't code any algorithms for your design document, but be as specific as possible about everything you design. In a hack-and-slash RPG, sketch out monsters. In a tabletop wargame, describe what the counters will look like (e.g. what numbers will be included, and where).

Communication is key. It is enough to be the keeper of the vision if you're a novelist. You don't need people skills. But game creation, like film-making, is a team sport. There is enough room for artistic latitude for everyone involved. The hierarchy must be clear however. And there must always be a final voice. This sure strikes a familiar note, doesn't it? Back to that GDC roundtable about fascism vs. communism in game design? But as I said then, artists on film crews compartimentalize. They've understood hierarchy and happily worked within one for decades. An Art Director or Cinematographer concentrates on his or her area of expertise, and can be personally gratified and publicly awarded for success apart from the success of the complete product. In this unstructured morass we call a gaming "industry" everyone not only wants to be the keeper of the vision, but they're encouraged to be -on every single product they work on-. And this isn't art. It's anarchy.

Brian Upton wrote:

> "Brandon Van Every" wrote:
> >Recently instead of desiging 3d graphics technologies I found myself working
> >on a bona fide game design. Boy, it was/is a lot of work! I was surprised
> >at how much work it took. To arrive at a good game design, I found it
> >taking as much time as to plan a 3d collision engine, invent an algorithmic
> >scheme for polygon visibility, etc. More experienced game designers among
> >you might say "well duh, what did you expect" but heretofore I always
> >thought game design was the relatively easy part of the job. I realize now
> >that it's a position one could be paid to do fulltime, because it's that
> >much work.
> >Does anyone have any keen insights into the lifecycle of the game design
> >process? How long it'll take you? How you know when you're stuck, and how
> >to overcome it? When you can know the answers and when you can't, i.e.
> >you're waiting on some other aspect of the game to become clear?
> Right now I'm working on defining Red Storm's default production
> pipeline. It's a template for how the average project should run and
> is intended to provide a framework for planning.

You're wise in what you're doing here Brian. I've found this to be extremely important in the process of producing a quality product. If you don't, 'others' in the company will determine the timeline and it _won't_ be based upon design needs. Designer will then find themselves struggling to design game components after the coders come asking for them. NOT the way to get a cogent design done.
> We're allocating three months preproduction for the average project.
> The bulk of the game design is done during that time (along with the
> technical design, the style guide, the budget and the schedule). It's
> assumed that the designer will continue to contribute to fleshing out
> and tuning the title as it progresses but will also have time to
> initiate the process of other projects.

Three months should be enough for all games except perhaps some of the highly detailed simulations. The research for them may take a bit longer. Make sure the designer has access to the team members during this time so the game design fits within the technical capabilities and to get ideas from them. There's usually more than one way to skin a cat and if the programmers who's going to do the code has a method that results in the same outcome then incorporate that into the design. It will help reduce the questions and misunderstandings further down the road.

I'm a firm believer in the designer staying involved in the project right to the end. A designer is the 'keeper of the flame' and will be able to spot divergences from the design quicker than anyone else.
> It's hard to describe how I know I'm stuck. It's like handling a
> wooden ball and feeling a rough bit. A good design feels smooth no
> matter which way you turn it.

Well said.
> >I would also add that coming up with an idea for a game is NOT game design.
> >That's only the 1st step. Game design is taking an idea for a game, and
> >turning it into a fully specified system of rules that results in a "fun"
> >game.
> Hmmm ... would you say the "fun" is *emergent* from the rules ... ?
> :)
> >What are your favorite game design tools? Mine are pencil, paper, and
> >modeling clay.
> A whiteboard.

Indispensable!! ;-)

Jim Harler

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Date this article was posted to 8/6/1999
(Note that this date does not necessarily correspond to the date the article was written)

See Also:
Design Documents

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