If you are familiar with game development and programming, the concept of a Game Design Document (GDD) should not be unfamiliar to you. The GDD's main purpose is to provide a full-scale description and specifications for a game concept or idea. This kind of document or something like it is crucial for the planning and design phase of game development. Without it, there is no way to solidify a concept and take it from conception to completion.

But it tends to happen that the GDD is written once, abandoned and other documents are used in its stead. I've been a part of teams where a GDD is devised, "completed", and then a similar document with more technical specs is built in its place. It is the recommended practice to keep a GDD as the living document of the project, but this tends to be the case less and less.

And I understand that it's hard, at the conceptual phase to build structure, content and features that make sense for the scope of the game. But just because the GDD is the starting point of most games does not mean it is a stepping stone! It is my belief that the initial GDD should be the system of record, or the most up-to-date source of information regarding a project.

Here is a copy of a GDD provided on google drive. You will find that only around half of the document surrounds gameplay (Sections 1, 2, 4, 6, 7). The rest involve UI, technical specifications, art, content and GTM plan. This document is more than just a starting point, it's main purpose is to take you through the pipeline to near completion. Surely other documents will come into play, but to recreate what is already encapulated in this document would otherwise be a waste of time.

I do not think I can do this concept more justice than is done here on Gamasutra, a post called "The Anatomy of a Design Document" by Tim Ryan. The document serves a multitude of purposes none of which is more important than the other. Some examples being:
  • Elimininating the hype* - setting a clear scope and direction for the grandiose ideas
  • Detailing things clearly* - making what seems abstract in concept more clear from a development standpoint
  • Testing against a rubric - what caused this game's conception? 
I hope that I've pushed the point enough - the GDD needs be a part of the development process from start to finish. Keep it up to date. Refer to it regularly. Add bookmarks for clear delineation. 

Now that that's out of the way, I am excited to inspect the non-dev related segments of the GDD in a following post (legal considerations, cost analysis, go to market strategy, art and content).

-stencil chris
Welcome, wary blog reader! You have stumbled upon my personal journal of notes related to game development. Here I will share inside information into my experiences as a hobbyist game developer, programming tips and practices that I employ, as well as miscellaneous and slightly off-topic tidbits and links.

As this is my first post, I find myself in need of explaining my purpose for writing this blog. I am in no dearth of responsibility during my day-to-day, so adding this on top of it is likely not wise. There is a very good reason for it nonetheless. I feel the need to keep this blog as a means of creating a project-wide post-mortem.

Yes, this is against the very definition of post-mortem. Post-mortem is a practice of divulging information about a project and the process for the sake of examining it post-release. Why, then, do I find the need to conduct post-mortem across the pipeline? It is for the very simple reason that there is a lack of documentation and reflection within many indie dev spheres that I wanted to address... and I am no exception.

For those who have not read a post-mortem, see link here: http://www.gamasutra.com/features/postmortem/ It is typically the case that post-mortems will focus less on anecdotals of the past and more on present and future direction. While I cannot blame them, what purpose does a post-mortem play if you are already done with refining the process? In this new age of continuous delivery where even 2D nostalgia-ware games update their game regularly (as more than just bug-fixes) we should think toward all creating a post-mortem for games in progress.

It is my hope that this blog will become such a medium for myself, and a useful and enjoyable outleft for others.

-stencil chris

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