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Sliverspark

Game Design Document Inquiry Regarding Detail

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When writing a game design document, how far into detail should one go? I realize that it must include everything in your game, no problem, BUT; do I need to go as far as to work up mathematical equations and algorithms on how the combat works, precisely? Because I am far from a programming genius, or even a math genius. I personally don't think it needs to be addressed; just the idea and how it should work. I wanted some official input on the matter however.

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Your game design document only needs to be detailed enough to communicate your concepts. Beyond that, a GDD is worthless because as you actually begin building a game everything changes.

A GDD is really just a list of assumptions. You might say, for example, that you want to create a combat hybrid between Zelda and Mario Galaxy. Yet, when you actually implement that and try it out, you find that it's no fun. So that idea goes away. However, in that process of discovery, you might have found a thing or two about your combat that is really fun, and so you focus on those things and embellish them to the point of excellence. That becomes your game, not your original idea.

Game development is a living breathing process and most game design docs get thrown out in the first six months because they fail to remain relevant over time.

If you write your GDD after you've already done all of your pre-production work and you actually know what your game is going to be, that's a different story. But that's not what you're talking about.

So, keep it brief, use lots of relevant examples, and focus on trying to communicate an idea as opposed to massive amounts of micro data. That would be my advice.

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There isn't really a perfect design for a Game Design Document (GDD). It is going to be influenced by you're technical writing style, the team you are working with, and the publisher you are working with.

Say for instance you're making a baseball game and everyone on your team has made a baseball game before. In this situation there is a lot of stuff that just doesn't really need to be in the GDD. Anything that no one on the team is going to bother to read doesn't belong in a GDD. The last game I worked on had two hundred page GDDs for the two different platforms. I went through and gutted out the unnecessary crap that was just making it longer for people to find stuff and I merged the two documents into one. Those 2 hundred page docs became a single seventy page doc.

This is part of the reason why when you are drafting the GDD it is so important to get feedback from your team leads. Everyone should take a pass at it and let you know what is unnecessary, what needs more detail, and what makes no sense. The point of a GDD isn't for getting your "grand vision" across to everyone, that can be done verbally. The GDD should be written to be the guidelines for constructing the game.

In general it makes sense for things that you see for certain changing (such as statistics, awards, and whatnot) to be placed in their own documents or spreadsheets and reference them. That is not to say that core elements won't change, because chances are a couple of them will once you have the game up and running. In this case you should note it in the ChangeLog for your GDD and make the changes, so that everyone can have the most recent version of the design.

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I think the concept and goal of the game must be very clear. I also like having details about the game content that need to be created - textures, sound effects, visual effects, sprites, etc. That way you get an idea of how much work is involved in creating the game content and also if you have the skill to create the content needed.

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