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Game Design Document

game design document gdd game design game dev indie games undead castle
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Undead Castle's Game Design Document
A Game Design Document means a lot to a game. In fact, it IS the game. Without it you can become lost in a big mess of ideas, random sketches, and designs that might all fit very well, in several separate games! So when you're writing a Game Design Document you've got to know it will hold up the integrity of your entire game. I've been learning that a lot lately. Broken Limits Media has been working for 2 years now. We know our first game project Cubicle Chimera wasn't a fantastic game, and we know it's because it was lacking in so many ways. I take it personally, because I was the one in charge of the Game Design Document and in making sure everyone understood it. The document was a mess! Trust me, I just looked before writing this post. It's still a mess!
So what should I do about our latest game, The Undead Castle's Game Design Document? I've been working on this Game Design Document for a long time. I took a class through the writing of this document. Listen, I wrote about 40 pages or so for the game project, the Undead Castle, and then I started the Intro Game Design course at my community college. I rewrote 80% of the Game Design Doc and added about 10 pages! The instructor didn't want to read my draft very much. She was... Overwhelmed...
We're hitting development of the Undead Castle pretty hard in this New Year of 2014! I'm stressing over the Game Design Document and tearing those 50 pages up! I've already written the game once, nay, twice! What more could I do you ask? Well that just it! That's the question I'm going to be asking myself throughout the entire life of development of the Undead Castle game. Game Design Documents are living things that need fresh air, love, and hugs every now and then. They need to be maintained and treated like the team pet or some such being. The Game Design Document for the Undead Castle has gone through birth, childhood, and now we're at the point of adolescence. It's ridiculous at the moment and it's giving me a hard time. But, I still love it. =D
The reason I say the Game Design Document is stressing me at the moment is due to the major changes we're making in the entire game. I'd like everyone who is reading this and interested in Game Design to realize that game projects will succeed if you let them breathe and grow. Don't cloud your mind so badly with the Big Dreams and Goals that you can't see your game suffocating and dying away. Your game may very well suck terribly and you have so much faith in it that you cannot realize the damage you're doing and the time you're wasting on the project. What if no one plays it at all because you've added features you think will take to the market, yet in reality they will sink to the bottom of the ocean and no one will care? That would be very unfortunate and that's why I've decided to completely rewrite our Game Design Document.
I'll explain how I changed the Game Design Document soon after this post, but let me know what you think and if you've ever made such a huge change in development like this. I'd like to know of your successes and failures. We can learn from one another.

Jan 13 2014 08:54 PM

I'm a big believer in Daniel Cook's idea that a classic, monolithic design document written up front is an out-dated practice not well suited to creative teams utilising an iterative development approach.  Daniel's suggested alternative are design logs, which may be of interest to you.


That being said, I still think traditional design documents have their place -- I just prefer to stick to a smaller, sometimes less detailed document that ideally tries to embody the overall ideals, themes and high-level over-view of the game but doesn't get bogged down in details that are likely to need changing during development and testing.

Jan 14 2014 01:31 PM



Thanks for the input! I'm interested in the design logs, however, I'm not at all ready to back away from the GDD. No disrespect, but I don't see structure in that form of development alone. I am still going to employ this concept, through my programming team. Before exposing it to the whole team, I figure the coders and myself (as the game designer) can keep track of the prototype build and such, as described in the article. Then we can think about integrating the process into the whole team. We currently use Assembla, which is a Big help! I'd recommend it to most anyone.

Jan 15 2014 10:33 AM



Interesting read!


Are you familiar with any agile development methods?

Throughtout my university courses, we have made use of "Unified Process" (UP), which is one of them.

There are many good things to say about UP and agile development processes in general in contrast to the more classic "Waterfall model" and one of the things that I have found particularly useful is the concept of "living documentation".


The idea is that no documentation, be it design docs, requirements specs, use cases, test specs etc, is ever "finished" and is constantly subject to change. It works really well with the iterative development cycles that agile methodology is built around. I suggest reading up on agile development if this concept isn't already familiar with you.


This relates to your question, since it is a very static approach to "write a design doc once at the start of development and than follow it." That kind of approach is what is wrong about Waterfall development models, and it is proven time again that it is not suitable for software development, where things do change (and most of the time needs to change to reflect changing needs etc)


Whit a living design document, it might be possible for you to have the design document that you want.

Again, this might be old news to you, and if so sorry to bother happy.png


Related links:

Agile software development: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Agile_software_development
Waterfall model: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waterfall_model
Unified process: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unified_Process
Living documents: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Living_document


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