Clan Combat Draft
INFR 1330 (2014) Basic Introduction to Game Design

Communication and Game Design Documents

Welcome to week seven in the course: Basic Introduction to Game Design. Make sure to read the syllabus and course information before you continue. In this post, we discuss communication and game design documentation. While most textbooks discuss creating game design documents in some way, I feel that, given the scope of a game design class, no truly complete introduction exists for the creation of game design documents. Currently, there is a significant discussion about the worth of design documents for a game design team (such documents are criticised, because nobody ever reads them). The one-page design documents that have become a little bit more popular help to address many of the shortcomings of traditional design documents. However, with games, before making the transition from brainstorming ideas and concepts to writing a design document, you always need to answer these questions first: What is your player going to do? What is the player’s role, and what are the actions available to them?

What is a game design document?

Game design documents have a bad reputation in the games industry. Jesse Schell discusses many myths regarding game design documents (The Art of Game Design, p. 382-383). One these myths is that design documents are a somewhat magical tool for designers to communicate their ideas to the team, on the condition that they are formatted properly and are using the right concept template. However, as he notes, different games require different documents, and it is a rare occurrence that one template will fit all the requirements of your game. The purpose of design documents is twofold:

  1. Memory aid. Many important design decisions define how a game works in detail. Usually, development of a game takes a significant amount of time, so you are likely to forget some early design decisions if they are not written down. Designers use design documents to record their design decisions as they are made. This way, you do not have to solve the same design problem multiple times.
  2. Communication tool. Since you are often working with many people on a team to develop games, you will need an effective way of communicating design decisions. The communication with a design document is not one-directional, and establishes a dialogue between you, the designer, and your team. By creating a document that will grow over the development process and that is easy to annotate, you are creating a foundation for improved communication within the team.

The example below shows a character overview that one of our (UOIT) student teams built for their design document, which was submitted as part of a game design competition. The concept visuals clearly communicate ideas regarding the characters, and the stats help the rest of the team to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each character.

Clan Combat Characters

Main characters and their attributes in the UOIT game Clan Combat (finalist in the Ubisoft Academia competition).

 

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Conceptualization
INFR 1330 (2014) Basic Introduction to Game Design

Conceptualization and Idea Generation

Welcome to week six in the course: Basic Introduction to Game Design. Make sure to read the syllabus and course information before you continue. In this post, we will discuss the conceptualization process in game design. This text follows closely from our textbook (Game Design Workshop, Chapter 6). After having discussed game systems, and the roles that skill, probability, and chance play in games, we are shifting our focus to the idea of concept generation. We need not define the act of gathering together game concepts as a fixed process. In fact, often, it is not. However, there are some methods and techniques that will help you become more structured in creating your game ideas.

Where do you get your game concepts from?

Similar to most creative processes, your game ideas can be inspired by anything and anyone around you. Ideas are everywhere. Being curious helps; so does writing things down. It is a good practice to carry a small notebook with you to jot down game design ideas (rough ones) as they come to you. You can always elaborate on them later, but you will be prone to forget if you do not record them. To help codify a more formal game conceptualization process, our textbook discusses five stages of creativity:

  1. Preparation. You study a topic or set of problems deeply and gain deep understanding  of your chosen area of interest.
  2. Incubation. You keep the subject matter in your mind for a while, but are not consciously working toward any particular idea.
  3. Insight. Your aha-moment, when your idea starts making sense and works itself into a concept.
  4. Evaluation. You evaluate your idea in terms of value of pursuit, that is to say, on the basis of originality, feasibility, and any potential market value.
  5. Elaboration. You formulate your idea completely and turn it into a solid concept. This is the hardest part of ideation.

The stages of this process are not always linear, and can be revisited in iterative cycles. The speed at which an idea turns into a concept depends on the person and any applicable environmental factors, such as the availability of informational resources or helpful colleagues. Also keep in mind that many game designers are inspired by other media as well as their environment. The things around you can trigger several iterations of the creative process to occur every day, and it is up to you to turn those ideas into realities. Continue reading

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