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Selling complete design documents?

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This is a fairly short question, but I need to know the interest of the particular matter before I'll elaborate the whole thing. Is there a market for selling complete design documents for low-budget games to indepentent game developers

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I doubt it, for three main reasons:

1- In the case of a low-budget game, the budget would be spent on the most cost-effective products: graphical or audio assets, and programming libraries, because these are generally the most difficult to come up with. A lone programmer can do game design quite well, but he can't get the art or sounds right on his own.

2- A design document, alone, is almost worthless. A lot of things that sound fun on paper are actually quite unfun when being played, and a lot of the fun in a game comes from tweaking the parameters of the game once it's running. Only a small portion of a design document makes it in the final game, when compared to the amount of design work done during playtesting. People usually need a professional designer not for the initial groundwork (which is both easy and non-essential), but for making the actual on-the-field decisions once half the initial ideas turn out to suck completely.

3- Most of the time, indie developers work for the pleasure of implementing their game idea. Coding isn't fun — it's the realization of one's vision that really matters. Few indie developers would do all the implementation work themselves and pay someone to have fun designing the game.

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Quote:
Original post by ToohrVyk
I doubt it, for three main reasons:


Quote:

1- In the case of a low-budget game, the budget would be spent on the most cost-effective products: graphical or audio assets, and programming libraries, because these are generally the most difficult to come up with. A lone programmer can do game design quite well, but he can't get the art or sounds right on his own.


That is true, no deny in that.

Quote:

2- A design document, alone, is almost worthless. A lot of things that sound fun on paper are actually quite unfun when being played, and a lot of the fun in a game comes from tweaking the parameters of the game once it's running. Only a small portion of a design document makes it in the final game, when compared to the amount of design work done during playtesting. People usually need a professional designer not for the initial groundwork (which is both easy and non-essential), but for making the actual on-the-field decisions once half the initial ideas turn out to suck completely.


Yeah, but even though you have bought a design document you are still able to change/tweak the entire concept.

Quote:

3- Most of the time, indie developers work for the pleasure of implementing their game idea. Coding isn't fun — it's the realization of one's vision that really matters. Few indie developers would do all the implementation work themselves and pay someone to have fun designing the game.


I know, I was in the phase of starting up my own company devoted to indiegames myself but it's rather harsh to get a company up and running with low financial assets. Buying a complete design document that I like, might save me and the company one or maybe two monthts and that is a very important timespan in the startup-phase of a company.

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Quote:
Original post by Wixner
Yeah, but even though you have bought a design document you are still able to change/tweak the entire concept.


So, in essence, I'd be buying a large design document, then throw away 90% of it and then spend time re-designing major portions of what's left? Why not start the design directly?

Quote:
I know, I was in the phase of starting up my own company devoted to indiegames myself but it's rather harsh to get a company up and running with low financial assets. Buying a complete design document that I like, might save me and the company one or maybe two monthts and that is a very important timespan in the startup-phase of a company.


There are important distinctions to be made. A typical design document contains concept art, story information, and game design information. Concept art and story information are kept almost in their entirety, unless something goes extremely wrong. However, most indie games do not have large amounts of graphical assets, and the story is generally limited, which means that the vast majority of the design document, for a low-budget game, will be the game design itself.

As I said earlier, initial game design will not save you months. You only need a few day's worth of initial design to get rolling out prototypes. Once the prototypes are done, you generally realize that most of the initial design ideas are abysmally boring or frustrating, even though they sounded fun on paper. Most of your initial design went down the drain, so you had better not paid a lot for it...

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Any good game design is based on the vision of a person or small group of people. This vision can't be "transferred" in a document, the only thing that can be documented is a set of rules and some art that try to convey that idea to others as well as possible. Usually this person/people will be around until the end of the project to act as the vision holder, and continue to make sure the project is unique to the original vision. So the best thing a person would be buying is either a game design with no vision, or an idea. And everybody has ideas that are equally as good as yours, some better.

Commonly, the people who do what you're describing are actually "Design Consultants", who will not just sell a document but will work closely with the team throughout the prototyping phase and then periodically throughout the life of the project. To be taken seriously as a consultant, you generally have to have an impressive resume of game designs and a very strong personality.

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You'll never be able to sell a design document- to anyone. Why should a company be interested in your ideas? Everything a company comes up with will be based on market reaserch, and in the case of Indie developers, as said, they'll want to implement their own vision into the game. There is literally no market for this kind of thing. Besides all that a design document is a living, breathing thing. It will change and be updated by all team members as work on the game progresses- not be written and then looked at as reference like you seem to intend.

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That point about prototyping is so true. I only have time to code when I'm on holiday. So, four times a year I churn out a prototype for a game that's been bouncing around in my head for the past 3 months, only to find out that it's not nearly as fun to play as it was to come up with.
If I'm lucky, it's fundamentally flawed and I can just shrug my shoulders and move on.
If I'm unlucky, it's off because of balancing issues. I have to sink time into fixing the balancing issues in the prototype before I can even judge if it's fundamentally flawed or not.
And in 4 weeks time I'm set to repeat the cycle again. Oh well, coding engines is fun.

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In addition to the reasons above you targeted "low-budget". Even if they did want it they probably wouldn't have any money to pay for it.

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Just look at the Help Wanted threads.
People are struggling to find others to work on their ideas for FREE, now you want them to even pay for it? ;)

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Now, selling a design doc and a fairly complete prototype with few built in assests might be something you could maybe do with luck. Something that would basically allow a group of semi-professonal artists to take and turn around after just a few months of basically finishing the work.
However, such a prototype could likely be easier to 'sell' as something for people to invest in a startup company, or taking to a publisher and saying "Hey, I have this done so far, stable and without art or polish, but look at this demo level, and take a look at some of these tools I've made/aquired for it. Give me some money, time, and some art guys, and we can turn around and sell this as a B game"

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