Designing games might be the hardest part of making games, but it’s also the most critical part. That’s why here at Mohavi Creative every project we tackle begins with us filling out a GDD (Game Design Document). In this post our Lead Programmer, Severi Jokiperä, discusses the importance of creating a GDD before any game project.
A Game Design Document is a template containing the base information and rule set for a project: a bit of visual style, basic mechanics, possible story, target group etc. GDD is written before any work is started and is read and approved by the whole team to make sure everybody knows what the project is aiming for.
I’ve personally worked on many projects where a GDD didn’t exist or it was quickly and loosely made during production. Trust me, this is almost never a good idea. The only possible exceptions are game jams where you make a project in one weekend, but even game jams benefit from a well-written GDD.
Working without a Game Design Document distances everybody from the project. The team sets their foot to make a game they all want to make, individually. There is no uniform vision on the project, meaning the end product is going to look drastically different than everybody thought. The artists doing different art styles, the game mechanics canceling each other out, it’s pure madness! At worst, people will start to argue with each other and possibly drop out, because everyone in the team is making a different game. When there is an argument about mechanics, refer to your GDD. When art styles differ, GDD should have the base artstyle guidelines written. GDD should cancel all the big arguments the team might have about the core functionality of the project. Some finer details can and should be discussed, but not the core of the game.
GDD also makes a project manageable. Without writing things down, ideas get easily forgotten or even worse, more features are added during the development. For example, let’s imagine you set out to make a cool and simple platformer where you run and jump. But then someone suggests the player character should have a weapon. And another person suggests it would be cooler to have a jetpack. Suddenly, you have a game with a character flying around and shooting lasers while dodging bullet hell octopi from outer space even though you set on to make a copy of Super Mario. 😵
Stepping stone for any project
If you’re an indie developer, your ideas are easier to sell when you have everything written on a Game Design Document. As well as any other official looking document. Or just, anything written down to be exact. Were you given an opportunity to talk with investors or anybody else interested in the project, it’s far more simple to share a written document you can show them, rather than boasting about your game idea. Having a GDD makes you seem professional and proves that you’ve fully thought out the ideas of your project. Making a GDD is the starting step of any successful project.
Without limiting the design of the game’s core mechanics right at the start of the project, things start piling up immensely. This not only applies to games, but to customer projects as well. The name of the document can be slightly altered, but the core concept remains the same. Planning a GDD makes sure the cost of the project stays down, ensuring the customer is happy with the end product all the while their money isn’t used on any unwanted or unnecessary features.
Let us help you!
So as you can see, GDDs are essential, and that’s why all of our game projects begin with working on one. We always send these documents to our customers for approval. This is partly due to customers tending to only have a loose idea of what they want and not knowing how to design it. So, if you have an idea, we can design the game either for you, with you, or if you’re handy with your hands, you can write a GDD yourself.
Because we believe in sharing useful knowledge with others, we have our GDD template available for download and it can be used in any way you want to.