Game Design Documents – What Are They?

Game Design Documents (GDD) are very specific living documents for describing the mechanics and systems of a game. Created and refined by a team, the GDD provides unambiguous insight and explanations about the gameplay, systems, visuals, audio, interface, plot and timeline information which the entire team will rely on. The games’ industry itself has no set form for GDDs, only that they are readable by everybody, and specific enough as to require little to no explanation. Throughout my projects, however, the GDD is one of the first and most important documents there is but I haven’t been specific enough in my execution of these, resulting in my teammates requiring direction and suggestions about my ideas that I should have explained better in the first place.

User Interface and HUD

I have no gone into enough detail about the specifics of my HUDs and Interface specifications. I tend to only create rough designs, not tough on visual elements, and I don’t go into enough detail about menu navigation. As such, the Interface is one of the last pieces of the puzzle and tends to be an afterthought.  Naturally, I should go into far greater detail in describing the exact look, feel, navigation systems, structure, and behaviour of my Interface elements, for them to be more specific and less of an afterthought or last-minute creation.

The Game Minute

As the centrepiece of my designs, I don’t use imagery and diagrams in my descriptions of the Game Minute. With only text, it’s hard to visualise the exact situations and minor details of my game’s systems. With Triage, describing exactly what happens wasn’t entirely clear, without flowcharts and diagrams to assist. I should make a greater effort to include flowcharts and images in the game minute, describing the flow of play, and the various stages the player will go through as they play.

Art Style

This full section should really be put in an Art Bible, but in my GDDs I have done a poor job of describing the clear visual look of the game. I don’t go into enough details about the exact colour schemes, visual aesthetics, lighting, colour grading, etc. that bring together Triage’s and PR Nightmare’s visual aesthetics. I should make creating an Art Bible a significant priority in addition to the creation of this document, in addition to bringing together knowledge and examples from the art discipline in describing how Compositional techniques will affect the look and feel of the experience

Game Flow Diagrams

Game Flow Diagrams are very important for precisely describing the systems that the player interacts with. Using flow charts, we can establish the calculations that the game makes in response to the player or other systems. As it stands, my previous documents haven’t gone into the necessary detail to fully breakdown every system and its implementation. This should also be an extension of the Technical Design Document, explaining the broader systems at play in the game’s design. I should spend more time working on the Game Flow Diagrams to ensure they match the required quality for my team members to work from my designs effectively and accurately.

My Game Design Documents at the moment are too sparse to be helpful for my teammates. By spending more time on transferring details from the High-Concept Document into the GDD, and by seeking feedback on the phrasing and readability of my documents earlier, I can ensure that I produce comprehensive and informative documents sooner and provide the detail for my team to know their roles and end-goals.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s