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How do you format your game design document?

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As a lone developer I like to play fast-and-loose with GDDs.  Since they are usually for my eyes only, I tend to include sketches, graph-paper layouts, and flow chart/design pattern illustrations a la Machinations (http://www.jorisdormans.nl/machinations/) for the specific game mechanisms.  I've been know to staple index cards to pages and include photos of paper prototypes, generally all jammed into a folder.

 

The real key here is that the user ("reader") of the GDD is me, so it only needs what I want in it.  If you are making a GDD to be used by a team, for potential publishers, or for artists/programmers/whoever, you'll need to tailor it for those readers.  Know your audience!

 

Before I sound too careless, I really believe good planning leads to good design.  The GDD is vital, but the format is not.

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I was looking at the GDDs as being a sort of record or formal documentation of the process of making a game for future reference.

But I guess they can be used as a simple guideline as well. Thanks for the tips.

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Ah, OK... I think I misunderstood.  I also keep a design notebook that accompanies my GDD.  In it I record what I work on by the day, problems I run into, solutions I may (or may not) find, and a written record of my thought process.  Maybe that is what you are thinking about?  Something that you can easily organize into a post-mortem when you have a finished product?

 

I go to B&N and buy up all the lined journals they have in the bargain bin.  Each game/design gets its own journal.  Also the act of writing on paper with a pen -- not at a computer -- lets me concentrate more on the task at hand.

 

Hope that helps!

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Ah, OK... I think I misunderstood.  I also keep a design notebook that accompanies my GDD. 

 

I did that once :)

Turns out there was no post-mortem at the end of the project, so I was glad I had my own notes. Definitely recommend it, if you can make time for it.

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Turns out there was no post-mortem at the end of the project, so I was glad I had my own notes. Definitely recommend it, if you can make time for it.

 

 

I really try to make time for non-coding/technical work in my design.  10 hours of unfocused work in Unity barely equals what I can map out with my design journal in 30 minutes.  If I get working with the tools before I have a plan I end up just playing with tools and accomplishing little.  I have made some fantastic looking environmental scenes, though.  I'm the Bob Ross of Unity.

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I really try to make time for non-coding/technical work in my design.  10 hours of unfocused work in Unity barely equals what I can map out with my design journal in 30 minutes. 

 

I generally do that on my android phone when I'm not in a spot where I can work on my projects. Can't afford to waste that precious spare time on my computer... wait... what AM I doing RIGHT NOW? :P

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Can't afford to waste that precious spare time on my computer... wait... what AM I doing RIGHT NOW? tongue.png

 

Me, too! wacko.png

 

I've been getting more serious with using Articy: Draft 2.  I've got to say that now that I've pinned down the way it works, I've been able to use it for everything from broad design to mapping out dialog trees.  I don't think it is for everyone, but it sure hits some sweet spots.

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I am working on a template for constructing my Game Design Document with Editorial.

 

I have a few Workflows already, that will help make it easier (search "Doctor").

 

For anyone that has an iPad, I think this is a good way to create any sort of document. I can even convert it to LaTex if I wanted. 

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I found a really nice example of a game design document:
http://marceltau.com/files/Arcana_Project_GDD.pdf

It's a nice document, as a programmer I would love to work having something like this.

 

But I have some issues:

1) Such level of detail in GDD guarantees there won't be anything unique or original in such game, it will be bland and overused. I mean, if you go fo original it MUST be messy and you can't plan everything, it has to be discovered not written down upfront.

2) They ignored prototype, they didn't have any plans to redesign the game based on the feedback they get from testers/players after releasing the prototype (which frequently results in a mediocre game).

3) This GDD completely lacks the promotional texts. That's the first thing I write down, how I will advertise the game, and then I tend to REDESIGN the game to fit this fun description. It's extremelly crucial and it will benefit the game.

4) That game is pretty simple, and honestly, you don't need any GDD to write something like this in the first place :) They could have just written down "let's make a game like XXX except [put a feature here]", yet again, it has some uses. If you go for unoriginal mass produced casual games that GDD is perfect to send to your programmers, they will love you for it :)

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I'd use it more as a starter template, and derive my own template from it (which is what I am going to do).

The video I linked to actually encourages not being too detailed in your GDD.

I totally get what you mean with your first point. Having strict guidelines takes away the free-form nature of creative design. When I draw, I don't make guidelines and markers for the location of every part of the drawing, neither can I use those same guidlines for a completely different drawing.

I'd feel restricted.

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I have a couple of questions also for anyone that could provide some input:

With Editorial (as it stands) I am able to:

* Type a document using Markdown
* Insert images into the document using Markdown links
* Use HTML and CSS to lay out and style the Markdown document
* Convert the Markdown document to PDF, LaTex, DOCX, HTML
* Insert Links to Youtube Videos via Markdown Links
* Use Python and a new UI module to actually create an in-app app
* Use a provisioning profile that uses a URL scheme to launch that in-app app from an icon on the homescreen (just made it today)
* Make a sort of private GDD wiki using Markdown links
* make regular expressions to quickly find/edit text in the GDD.
* Automate all of the above

So in summary:
I could amlost make a private GDD automator (template at least)

The thing is:
There is a lot that goes into a game as the sample GDD I posted displays.
And it is a lot to manage.

Question:
1) What would be your ideal needs for such a program?
2) How would you have it operate
3) What export formats would you need?

Text-wise and image-wise I could do the attached pretty quickly:

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So in summary:
I could amlost make a private GDD automator (template at least)
It's your first game. Forget about all this, it does not matter, it's irrelevant, it only distracts you, it will make you fail. Make a clone of some game you like (and maybe improve it, but only after you got the core gameplay working). Believe me, with your first game it will be hard enough without all this originality thing. You are not at the level to worry about "GDD automator" (whatever it means :)), worry about simplier, much simplier things. Save all this for your second game.

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Hehe. I know it isn't that neccesary, but I need to get more organized, because I dont have any structure to my workflow. So, I haven't gotten much done anyhow.

I have however, just finished up the beginning of a simple

Game Design Document Automator:
http://www.editorial-workflows.com/workflow/5549020571238400/_Ay8twW29QM

Right now it helps me to quickly create headers and content for my document, as well as insert images into it.

This is all I need right now, but I could use more input on how I could develop it further for future (perhaps more advanced) games.

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A GDD for a someone who is working alone is really just a place to work on the project and organize your tasks for when you can't dedicate to the tasks themselves. I don't see one format of GDD suiting everyone.

 

Think of all the assets you're going to need and where to get them. What challenges or dilemmas could you face when you're creating your AI, pathfinding or inventory for example. I believe every game developer asks themselves these questions sooner or later. Hard things can prove quite easy when you lift it on the table and start writing things down. Or vice versa. A GDD is nevertheless a place where you can start answering your questions and regard yourself better prepared than prior to writing it :)

 

In team projects it has more important job of communicating between members, things have much more strict schedule and priority order so that every member can progress fluently and purposefully within their field without having to wait other assets that haven't been finished or designed yet. In commercial projects it also links to the bureaucracy and budget: how the spent and spare resources are in balance compared to the budget and schedule.

 

Also a pointer about the detail level: it doesn't matter but don't plan too much ahead. There's no use designing every number and feature in detail before you've done rudimentary playtesting to see if the concept will fly at all. Expand on "width" axis meaning it's better to design 7 enemies on crude level (and scrap 3 of them later if they don't work out at all) than trying to polish 2 enemies in detail before you have anything playable.

 

TL; DR: It's for you, make it as it suits you, but understand what it's for :)

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It took a bit of frustration, but I created another extension to Editorial that automatically converts my GDD into a checklist (Taskpaper style). (Mark To Task)

That's all I need for now. I'll refer to this post for ideas when I need to. Thanks.

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