Top tips for writing gdd

Give up hope if you are developing a game without a design dock because it is unlikely to live up to release. We explain why and how to write a game design document.

Main features

A design document (abbreviated as design doc) is a document that contains all the information about the game being created. It is needed so that the team that will work on the project understands what should work out in the end.

A well-designed design dock allows you to avoid situations when you want to create a sandbox with an open world, and level designers constantly send locations for a corridor shooter.

The design doc is prepared by the game designer – the person who decides what the game will be like. But this does not mean that after drawing up the design doc, the game designer is no longer needed: he controls the process and makes new decisions if something changes during development.

In this article, you will learn what can be in a design doc and what is not needed there, how to compose it, and what tools to use for this.

Gdd is not:

  • a set of references;
  • technical assignments;
  • game scenario;
  • sketches of levels and characters;
  • phrases like “Combat system like in Dark Souls, character creation like in The Sims 4, destructible like in Minecraft.”

Gdd is a detailed description of all aspects of the game. For convenience, it can be divided into sections: general information, gameplay, plot, visual, and so on. In the general section, you can write the following:

  • Platforms: PCs, consoles or mobile devices.
  • Technologies: will you use a ready-made engine or write your own.
  • Language: Russian, English.
  • Audience: a short description of the people for whom the game is being made. A full description can be placed in a special section.
  • Genre: Open-world, non-linear 3D RPG.
  • Mood: dark, light.
  • Emotions: how the game should make you feel. At the same time, you can try to inspire the players with a dark game or make them feel doomed in a light one.
  • Age Limit: Whenever a game is rated 18+ (or A in the ESRB system), FX designers will know right away that you expect blood from them, not rainbows.
  • Number of users, mode: whether the player will be alone or in a team with other players. Do I need an internet connection?
  • Time, place, and duration: where and for how long a person should play your game in order to get the emotions you want to convey. For example, you can play for three minutes on the subway or inline, or sit down for several hours in the evening at home.
  • Main game mechanics: a short but succinct description of what the player will be doing. In Mirror’s Edge, the main mechanics are running and overcoming obstacles, and in Papers, Please, it’s deciding destinies.

You can add other points, the details will not be superfluous.

Level design

What should be the levels? Do you want the player to explore the world or try to find the right door? See how levels are made in other games and analyze the experience you get when you beat them.

For example, in the Hitman, there is always more than one exit from any part of the location. This allows the player to independently decide where to go and how to achieve their goals.

Balance

This is the hardest part because a good knowledge of math is required from the game designer. The balance is needed so that the passage of the game does not turn into beating babies, because the player has found too strong a weapon. Well, or so that the player himself does not become a baby, because he spent time pumping non-combat skills.

Be prepared that during development you will have to redo the balance because tests have shown that it does not work as you expected.

Artificial intelligence

In this section, you need to work out the game AI: how it should behave, what it should be able to do. AI behavior should be clear and predictable. Even if you plan on adding characters that can go crazy and start wrecking things, the player should be able to understand why this is happening.

If you are planning an AI that will respond to other game systems, then you can create a table similar to the one in the section on game mechanics.

History

As mentioned above, a design doc is not a game scenario. In the section about the plot, you do not need to write the history of the game world. It is enough to describe the setting and important features or moments around which the game events will revolve.

Also in this section, you can describe the main characters and the path that they will go – a bit like a synopsis for the film. Find additional information on https://whimsygames.co/blog/game-development-process/

Conclusion

Every detail is important if you want your team members to understand how you see the game. Therefore, you need to try to describe everything as accurately and in detail.

Even if you are creating a game alone, still create a design doc so you can see more clearly how the project is developing.

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