Design Processes

Sage
Posts: 1,066
Joined: 2004.07
Post: #1
How do you design a game? Obviously it starts with an idea that you have and elaborate in your head, but how do you convey this idea? Do you draw flowcharts, write a story, write an outlined explanation, etc? How do you all do it?

I personally like writing a story and outlining but this leads to a lot of dead ends for me. I'm just trying to make the process more efficient. Thanks for comments.
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Post: #2
What I usually do, once an idea has been brewing in my head for a while, is sit down and write out everything I can think of. I look at the document as if someone else is reading it, and try to answer any question that could possibly come up. This usually weeds out bad ideas, and gets me thinking in the right way. I'll split the document up into several different sections; how the controls work, how the game looks, how individual gameplay elements behave, etc. Then, if possible, I'll show it around to a few people to get feedback. I find that after going through 5 or 6 people, new people who read it don't usually have any questions, because the document already answered all of them.

I'll also occasionally do some design sketches, of how the interface works, how things look, flowcharts, etc. I try not to go too crazy on these, because they're often quite time-consuming, and for most things text works just as well.

Alex Diener
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Member
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Post: #3
Look for some game design document templates through Google, and you'll find an answer to your question.

Here's my game design process:

-An idea pops into my head.
-I imagine in my head how the game would play and look.
-Then, I sit with pencil and paper in front of my desk.
-I think more about if this game is even possible to do, is original, and if it's any fun. Ideas will get scrapped here or go all the way.
-I start sketching concept art and screens that would be in the game. I jot all sorts of notes on the story, gameplay, and controls.
-I keep writing and drawing on many pages for a couple of hours.

Now, the next step for me is to write the actual design document. Of course, I never really go this far because a) most of my ideas require a dedicated commercial-size development team and b) it'll take more and more hours of my life.

But, when I design a game that I think I can realistically gather a team here and develop, I continue by typing up a psuedo-design document. I break it up into sections. Story first, gameplay, and then everything else will be explanation of things most important to the game (like special objects, items of importance). I definitely recommend having diagrams and flowcharts explaining things. It helps to capture the image.

A good book I recommend. Besides giving you a plan on how to get into the game industry, they also teach you how to write up a design document. I won this book in uDG last year. I found it a good read. I'll test it out when I'm ready to join the workforce. Rasp
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Post: #4
applekid Wrote:A good book I recommend. Besides giving you a plan on how to get into the game industry, they also teach you how to write up a design document. I won this book in uDG last year. I found it a good read. I'll test it out when I'm ready to join the workforce. Rasp

What to write a short review of the book?

Justin "LordFire" Baldock
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Max
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Post: #5
The design document... itís worst than a thesis! Write hundreds of pages to explain how you got the idea, why you think itís good, your research, the targeted players, etc... Blink

Anyway, when I design a small video game, I usually begin with the gameplay mechanics. If itís good enough, I make a story. Most developers start like that. You donít need to write a design document: itís for the publisher, the producer and the various team leaders. I doubt you have, or will have, any of those. Wink But I recommend you write down your main ideas, or your best ones, so you donít forget them. Rasp

Hey, this document might help you. Itís a GameBoy Advance Snowboard game design test. (Word format)

Freelance video game artist and video game compliance tester at Enzyme Testing Labs.
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Member
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Post: #6
Baldock Wrote:What to write a short review of the book?

Actually, I am writing up reviews for the things I received through uDG. But, it's hard for this book since I'm not actually at the age and in the hunt for a game development job. There's also my Java3D book to review, but Java 3D on the Mac seems to be a bit flaky from what I've done so far.

Nevertheless, I'll get around writing reviews for the other prizes I've used for a decent amount.
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Post: #7
You might find this website informative:

http://www.ihfsoft.com/designdocuments.htm

The template isn't too bad.

-Jon
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Post: #8
I do spend a lot of time thinking about things in advance, but I tend to want to write code sooner rather than later. I start from a particular idea about how the dynamics of the game will work, then I write a crude test piece to see whether it'll be fun or not. It's only after I've established that the fundamental gameplay is going to be OK that I start to worry about storylines and so on. Once you've got a playable you can work on the program and design the game at the same time, and you'll have a much more realistic idea of what will work than if you design without coding.

I think this is a smart route to follow, especially for novices or part-timers like myself. In particular, it helps you avoid getting so carried away with your design, story and graphics that you never get around to making the game.

Neil Carter
Nether - Mac games and comic art
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ibullard
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Post: #9
I agree with NCarter. Get enough on paper to get started then work out the details once you have something working. What's "fun" on paper rarely is fun when implemented. Getting a huge design document together about every detail of the game will only waste time when you find out later that it doesn't work. This goes double for user interfaces, if I had a dollar for every iteration of UI's for some of the games I've worked on I'd be able to buy a pretty expensive coffee. Grin
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Post: #10
All my ideas start as chicken scratch in a notebook. I jot down everything I come up with. I carry a tiny notebook with me pretty much everywhere I go, and if I think up something cool, I can make sure I write it down before I lose it.

When I flesh out my designs I agree with Max Inc... gameplay, then story for my projects. When I start rolling with an idea I get a bigger notebook just for that game.

For solo projects, I typically go right from the notebook to a prototype. I typically go BACK and make a design doc afterwards, in case I want to use it for a portfolio.

For group projects, I love having a design doc. It functions both as a reference for when someone can't remember whether the alien plant people from the planet Romulux have green leaves or red, and as a sort of constant checklist that we can use to gauge our progress and stay motivated.

Justin Ficarrotta
http://www.justinfic.com
"It is better to be The Man than to work for The Man." - Alexander Seropian
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Post: #11
I saw this great article on gamasutra a couple of years back that had a great method for defining a game idea. Basically it was to write a pitch document to explain what the game was, what genre, what graphical style and also how it was different from anything else.

I have a printout of it buried in a file cabinet at home, but i can give you a quick run-down of what it was. I use it to refine my game ideas:

1) One or two sentence "punch statement" - basically what would a blurb on the front of the box say? (eg. Space Farmer is a fast paced, futuristic gardening simulator. Players must juggle proper fertilation, water, or sulphuric acid for the more exotic species, and watch out for garden pests that can take the hoe out of your hands and beat you with it)
2) Genre - (eg. Real time resource management simulation)
3) System requirement (eg. Mac OS X 10.3 or better, or a Symbian cell phone)
4) Basic gameplay in story form - this is the interesting part, tell a part of the gameplay in a dramatic 2nd person form (eg. You look over your carefully tended crop of deep space rutabagas, which you've genetically engineered to survive the daily rains of toxic acid that cover your plot of land. These rutabagas will allow you enough money to buy that expensive machine gun attachment for your series 5000 Scarecrow. With that baby, you can grow the difficult and lucrative exploding corn that's so popular with the kids these days. If you can manage to keep the feral gopher people from taking too much of your crop, you may even be able to afford a new tractor as well.)
5) Technologies to use - don't get into how you'll use them, just list the things you think you'll need (eg. Torque game engine, OpenAL, force feedback)
6) Similar games (eg. SimCity, SimAnt, Sim*, Space Colony)
7) What makes your game different (eg. The fusion of simulation, farming and science fiction sets this game far apart from al of the others)
8) Art style - I try and come up with some rough drawings of what it will look like along with any helpful descriptions (eg. isometric view with a hyper realistic look, very sci-fi in a lost in space kind of way)

That's what I use. If you can get all of this stuff on paper, you've got the ground work for a game design
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Member
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Post: #12
You know, "Space Farmer" actually sounds like a pretty cool game!

- Iain
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Post: #13
GoodDoug secretly just outlined his uDG entry.
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Post: #14
IBethune Wrote:You know, "Space Farmer" actually sounds like a pretty cool game!

Now you can "Harvest Moon"-- literally!

GoodDoug has a really good outline. I use something similar, minus the techie details. The only tech thing I typically worry about in a pitch doc is the platform, since that typically influences the controls. (Or vice versa.) I also like to have a list of USP's (bullet list like you'd see on the back of a game box) and a target market.

I have a Microsoft Word doc of a pitch template. I have it in my Templates folder and I can use it to hammer out a pitch in an hour or two. If anyone's interested they can grab it here.

Justin Ficarrotta
http://www.justinfic.com
"It is better to be The Man than to work for The Man." - Alexander Seropian
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