Why you should make a Game Design Document


There are a lot of new videogame indie developers
entering the industry at the moment, and most of them have great ideas that, well implemented, could bring players around the world a lot of fun. It is well known that Indie Developers have changed how videogames are made, teaching the big guys how to develop simple ideas with few resources. Examples like Minecraft, Stardew Valley or Undertale started as a one man project, and they became well-known to gamers around the world.

But it’s easier said than done. Let’s start with the obvious question:

What is a Game Design Document?

A Game Design Document is a document which describes all the characteristics of the game, like features, locations, story, characters, design, graphics, sound or music. It is used as the bible of the game, the one and only place to look at when we want to work on the project.

Here are some well known examples of Game Design Documents:

Why should I make a Game Design Document?

Making a game design document could help you in many ways, but there are two worth mentioning:

  • To have a goal or direction.
  • To be able to communicate your idea to the team and contractors.
Like everything in life, if you don’t have a clear goal of where you want to go you end up wandering around. If you don’t have a clear idea to pursue, a mission, you will probably end in a position you didn’t expect.
Our goals can only be reached through a vehicle of a plan, in which we must fervently believe, and upon which we must vigorously act. There is no other route to success” – Pablo Picasso

Even if you are a solo developer, it’s paramount to organize your ideas as much as you can, to organize yourself to achieve what you want. It is quite common among new videogame indie developers to just start putting stuff together and then wonder why things didn’t work out.

Also, most newcomers to don’t realize the full artistic spectrum of a videogame, thinking that with programming skills, some graphics and sounds you will be alright, but videogames are much more than this. They include story-telling, world and culture design, music and sound design and many more (which is why big companies have different departments). This is why most indie videogame projects end up hiring more people to deal with specific issues like the ones mentioned above. And what’s the best way to work with them to achieve what you have in mind for your videogame?

You’re goddamn right, a solid Game Design Document.

Your team will read and see all the information you have condensed in this document, and even help you develop it with their specific skills. You will all nurture it and feed from it when new assets need to be created.

Obviously the document will never be rock solid, it’s fine to add features when the game design has been established (in the end we are creatives and have great ideas worth implementing all the time) but always updating the Game Design Document and checking that the new additions don’t clash with the previous ones, and always keeping in mind the big picture of the project, what is the main idea that we want to develop.

Most people in the industry will ask for a Game Design Document when they join a team. It’s the standard we all use to get to know the project we are going to get involved with, it’s how we immerse in the world we are trying to make stuff for, so we can create assets that truly fulfill their role in the project. It’s the only way we can go, together, as a team, to the same direction. It’s also what game publishers normally ask for.

Conclusion:

A Game Design Document is needed to organize yourself and your team to achieve what you want. It’s the core of the project, it’s the compass for you and your team. Without it, chances are you will probably end up wasting time and assets forgetting about what the game it’s supposed to be.

Relevant info and articles:


Do you have a Game Design Document for your game? Did you find this information useful? Let me know in the comments.

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