How to Create a Game Design Document: Idea Development

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The Game Design Document (GDD) serves as the north star for video game devs, or other words, a planned-out map of what a game will be about and how it will be built. As a result, the GDD not only guides the development team, but also ensures that the vision of the game is maintained throughout the development process.
The process of creating a detailed game design document requires thoughtful consideration, organization, and planning. In this ultimate guide, we’ll guide you through a step-by-step approach to creating a GDD that will lay a solid foundation for your game development.

What is Game Design Documentation?

A Game Design Document (GDD) is an important document in video game development that serves as a blueprint for creating a video game. It contains information about the game’s mechanics, storyline, characters, environments, and much more. In addition to providing a comprehensive overview of the game’s concept, a GDD also serves as a reference for the development team during the entire production process.

As part of a Game Design Document (GDD), an important phase is called “Idea Development” during which the game’s fundamental concepts are defined, fleshed out, and documented. A basic idea can be developed into a more comprehensive and viable game idea by going through several initial brainstorming and refinement processes in this section.

Before You Start: Helpful Tips And Tricks

  • Ensure your document is engaging. This will motivate and inspire your team to work on the project.
  • How can you make a GDD interesting to read? Visual data representation is the answer! Show your ideas through graphs, images, and tables.
  • Be ready to adjust and update a GDD at different development stages.
  • You should make sure your game design document is well-organized and concise. Also, take the time to make sure you explain each team member’s responsibilities and goals, as well as how the game design document works.
  • You can use templates to ensure the GDD is clear and readable by looking at some high-quality GDDs.
  • Process, Planning, and Documentation, the PPD framework, helps minimize troubles when working on GDDs.

Set up the Document

Establish a project plan. In the traditional way, a project plan might be scattered across multiple emails, to-do lists, documents, and spreadsheets, making it difficult to keep track of everything. A central project plan amalgamates these scraps into easily accessible places. The result will be an increase in the reliability and longevity of your project.

  • Your ideas
  • World-building plans
  • Character profiles

Brainstorming

You start off with a rough idea or concept when you start a new game design project. Through brainstorming, you will be able to transform that rough idea into something bigger. Brainstorming is an old, innovative way to come up with new ideas quickly. You can use it to explore visual styles and come up with new characters, worlds, or even levels. Your imagination should be sparked when you do this.

Central Concept

Whenever you design a game, the first step is to come up with a central idea or a basic concept. This may be a rough idea, or it could be any topic you wish to explore, but it will help you reach your end goal. To begin, provide a one to two sentence description of your concept.

Add Ideas

Getting creative is now your top priority. Identify different aspects of your story, game plan, animation styles you could use, characters, and try to incorporate as many ideas as possible that go well with the concept of your game development design. Do not worry about assessing future ideas.

Add Images, Motion, and Sound

When it comes to describing an idea with images, especially if you’re trying to express a mood or style, images are helpful. They can define character styles and colors. Fonts, scenes, etc. may become the basis of a mood board as your game evolves.

Organize the Ideas

Next, you need to build connections to bring your ideas to life and move forward. Merge ideas to uncover patterns in your thoughts. Give each group a title so it’s easy to examine. There are no rules about how you do it, so you might find your ideas fall into groups like story, character, gameplay, or levels, but there are no rules about how you do it. As a result, you should now be able to visualize your primary concept.

The structure for your game will be well-defined once your brainstorming session is complete. Innovation and inspiration evolve constantly, as do ideas, so you can continue adding to the brainstorm as new ideas arise.

Mood Board

Inspiration and References

The various elements of your game were visualized during brainstorming. Now that you have visualize your game, it’s time to find visual directions with a mood board. Using a mood board, you can visualize any aspect of your game. You could emphasize how you want the finished design to look. The mood board can also focus on gathering references for the characters or the environment. You can create a mood board for each separately or mix them all together. There are no set rules to follow. In addition to serving as a reference for your whole team, including artists, designers, and programmers, the mood board enhances visualizing how the project will turn out.

Collect Existing Material

Add any existing material you have, including examples from older projects, references from other games, or images you’ve saved as inspiration. They’re still useful even if they don’t make it onto the final mood board.

Add Inspiring Images

Mood boards define your character’s style, colors, scenes, concept art, etc. You can start by searching the search engines for visual elements. Images can define the style of your character, colors, scenes, concept art, etc. There are many great sites where you can get great visual inspiration for free, like Dribbble, Behance, and Pinterest. You do not need to organize the creative images yet. You can skip this step; it will come later.

Transform your Board

After gathering your inspiration in one place, you need to compile your ideas to create the perfect layout. Look for composition and hierarchy to tie your board together. Specify the importance and relationship of the remaining elements by altering their size and position. Place the main element to tie up your board.
The mood board gives you a strong visual reference for your game. Remember, you can create multiple mood boards to explore different directions.

World Building

Environment

Think about your game’s major concept: the environment. Using these details, your team can design appropriate backgrounds, buildings on each level, and clothes for the character. Where does your game stand at the present? What are the climate and geography?

Inhabitants and Culture

As you create your characters now, take some time to think about the culture of the game world. Consider the fashion and dress the people wear, the technology they use, and the weaponry they use.

Visual References and Examples

It is important to gather visual references as soon as you have a sense of how the rules work. These can serve as excellent starting points for level design, or character development.

Share it with your Team

World building involves a lot of team members. Everyone contributes, from design to art and programming. This makes it the perfect time to split your board and get your team’s approval. Ask your team members about their thoughts about your primary idea; find out what they think of it.

Level Design

Map out the Journey

You can make your players feel incredibly excited and fully occupied in your game if you design a significant level. In addition to the level map, power-ups, obstacles, and milestones they encounter along the way, level design is all planned. Level design serves as more than just a framework for creating something new; it’s a handy tool that helps your team understand how large and how ambitious your game is.

Concept of your Level

As a starting point, think about the level concept. For example, will this be an underwater level where your character must dodge sharks? Does it take place at night? In the forest? Description in one or two sentences is a good start.

Add a top-down Map

A top-down map of the well-planned stage of the game will be created once the rough concept of the level has been developed. There’s no need to make it perfect. This is just a starting point. You have to determine where your level started, where it will end, and what you want the player to experience along the way.

Challenges and Rewards

It is important to create good levels that have a balance between challenges and adventurous quests, as well as motivating rewards. As you progress through your game, add obstacles and puzzles, such as finding a switch, opening a door, or defeating enemies. Add mini-victories along the way to encourage players.

Add Visual References

When you have a rough idea of how the level fits together, it’s time to think about how the scenes might look. You can use Pinterest or Google Images to grab free reference images. Refer to your mood board for game design inspiration or gather images that represent specific parts of your level.

Character Profile

Describe and Visualize your Characters Properly

The character profile is a fundamental framework for developing distinctive characters that feels like part of the game’s world while still being distinctive and fascinating with its own traits and personality. Characters are defined by the character’s background, general strategy, appearance, and gameplay style, which game designers and writers use to develop distinct characters.

Start with the Basic Concepts

Characters are often created from a collection of random ideas, traits, and plot points from your game concept, so bringing them together in one place is crucial.

Build their Backstory

In the same way that people are made up of their past experiences, imaginary characters are too. They are made up of their past aspirations and main objectives. Some aspects of the characters’ backstory might not make it into the game, but they can help your animators create a believable character.

Add Visual References and Examples

The next step is to sketch and refer to images to create a visual representation of your character. You can find a lot of free visual inspiration on sites like Dribbble, Pinterest, and Google Images. To help you explore all aspects of the character’s appearance, you can also make a character mood board at this stage. 

Define their Gameplay

Consider how they move, attack enemies, and save themselves now. You need to pay attention to their weight, speed, and style. Are they heavy or agile? Do their movements match their appearance? Do they possess superpowers, or do they have special powerups that can alter their abilities?

Organize and Refine

After you have everything you need, organize the content into logical topics. The goal is to represent your team’s character in a concise and inspiring way.

Create the rest of your Characters

A key point to remember is to avoid giving too much authority to one character for the dramatic functions of your game. It would be better to create additional characters according to traits displayed by the main character.

Why Is a Game Design Document Important?

Organize your Ideas

In addition to keeping track of your ideas on paper, a game design document can be used to reference specific features or characteristics of your game. A game design document is a great tool for working as part of a team. It provides an overview of the game’s functionality for all team members and enables them to communicate more efficiently. Even if you are a solo developer, a game design document still serves as a valuable reference.

Keeps you Focused

Feature creep occurs for some developers, while lack of features is a problem for others. A game design document can solve both of these problems. In the case of feature creep, a game design document helps you focus on your objective. You can also identify missing game features by using a good game design document.

Sets a Schedule

Check out how fast each feature takes to load in your game by sitting back and reviewing it. In order to determine how long it is going to take to complete these tasks, write down the timing of each task on the design document, examine art assets and programming, and add an extra week. Development takes longer than you think, so keep an extra week handy. 

Great for Marketing

You can use your game design document for PR and marketing. It contains all of the substantial features of your game, such as concept artwork, general theme, etc. With the trailers and screenshots on hand, you can create hype among players and let the market know when you are releasing your game. A game design document usually contains some information about your target demographic. You or your marketer should be able to create these items so that they attract their attention.

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