What makes a good design document?

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Post: #1
With the recent start of uDevGames, I suspect a lot of people are writing up their plans in design documents. What makes a good design document? As I understand it, I think a good design document helps you limit the scope of your project while outlining your goals for the project.

That said, I'd be very interested in seeing other people's design documents, especially ones that people have considered good examples.

Howling Moon Software - CrayonBall for Mac and iPhone, Contract Game Dev Work
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Post: #2
Ideally it should be a single page that makes you want to get the game working so you can play it. Anything else is just filler and will get changed as the project goes on anyway Smile
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Post: #3
I agree with Aaron. My design documents are usually 1-3 pages of brainstorming, laying out key game concepts and some high-level mechanics, and identifying areas I need to explore with prototypes or more detailed design sessions.
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Post: #4
Two sentences, absolute tops, if it helps you focus.

Anything else, you're kidding yourself. Stop wasting time and start prototyping.
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Post: #5
Interesting Keith. I did make a one sentence overarching goal.. But then I went ahead and kidded myself for another page or so. Rasp Anyway, it would look suspicious if I was prototyping at work.

Howling Moon Software - CrayonBall for Mac and iPhone, Contract Game Dev Work
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Post: #6
A good design doc is always just long enough to keep everyone involved in the project on the same page.

When I work on projects alone, my "design doc" is a spiral bound notebook. When I design stuff it goes in the notebook, and I keep notes on what's been implemented and what hasn't. Kill Dr. Cote in 2004 took up an entire notebook, and longer projects since then will take up several.

While it's not a formal design doc, it's an effective enough system for me. If I'm dealing with producers or publishers, or any other party with an interest in the game, I will definitely have a much more formal doc. 3-5 pages for pitch docs, and as exhaustive as possible for designs. Otherwise, failure to communicate ensues.

Justin Ficarrotta
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"It is better to be The Man than to work for The Man." - Alexander Seropian
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Post: #7
I am definitely not into lofty design docs. I'll do little notes to help me remember some odd idea here or there, but that's about it. My loose rule is whatever fits on one page in a default window size in TextEdit, or preferably less. Once I've either implemented the idea or nixed it, I delete it from the page, which leaves room for new ideas. The page is sometimes blank.
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Post: #8
I used to keep a sketchbook where i noted various gameplay ideas as i had them, not to forget. I also take a few notes of stuff to do is uselful otherwise you might forget.

For an arcade game a design document might be limiting. The magic of arcade games is that you don't know if they're fun before you do them

For something like a turn based rpg or something with a complex,static structure (i.e. a turn based game where you control mages, each one with a list of spells, powers, how stats affect your character, which spells are good against other spells, how attacking works, how defending works...) you shouldn't start without a good design document, as the game will simply be the implementation of that, and you can likely tell if it's going to be fun before starting it.

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Post: #9
I think my design doc is about 2 sentences. There are then about 3 pages of random brainstorming and doodles, but those are just there so I don't forget the ideas. Even the first two sentences are subject to change.
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Post: #10
Najdorf Wrote:For an arcade game a design document might be limiting. The magic of arcade games is that you don't know if they're fun before you do them

For something like a turn based rpg or something with a complex,static structure ... you shouldn't start without a good design document, as the game will simply be the implementation of that, and you can likely tell if it's going to be fun before starting it.

I think that's a really good point, Najdorf. Different kinds of games do call for different types of design documents- even if the document is just for personal use.

I'll post the design document I wrote up in a seperate thread. I've written a two line summary and then gone into details about both what I want to do, and what I won't be doing in my game.

Here's the doc, in a new thread: http://www.idevgames.com/forum/showthread.php?t=16238

Howling Moon Software - CrayonBall for Mac and iPhone, Contract Game Dev Work
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Post: #11
Games with rules, such as puzzle type games, certainly need more than just a sentence or two.
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