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  • Taisiia Dobrozorova

How To Make An Effective Game Design Document (GDD)?

Updated: Mar 13

Ever pondered the best approach to documenting your game design? Faced with the overwhelming task of sifting through a multitude of search results online, we can relate. In this post, we'll discover the secrets of creating stellar game designs.


But before delving into the details, let's address some key points. As industries progress, so do their methodologies. The game industry, being relatively young, constantly adapts its processes and metrics. Whether you choose to label your documentation as a GDD, Wiki, or Board, what matters is having a comprehensive description of your game project before diving into production.


What is a Game Design Document GDD
What is a Game Design Document (GDD)

At HitBerry Games, we prefer using GDDs alongside task management boards like Trello, dividing our projects into two-week milestones reminiscent of Scrum. However, we don't maintain a monolithic GDD throughout development; instead, we use it as an initial guide, making corrections based on team feedback during the Game Design phase.


In summary, whether you opt for a GDD or an alternative, our advice to budding Game Designers is to document your ideas in a readable and understandable format.


How To Make A Good Game Design Document (GDD)?


1. Project Description


Begin with a concise overview of your game without delving into intricate mechanics. This section should convey the game's type (Social, Casual, Hardcore) and genre (Puzzle, RPG, FPS) in one or two paragraphs, offering a high-level understanding.


Example: "This game design document describes a multi-platform, touch-based 2D puzzle game with innovative mechanics and an original story featuring characters known as Zorblats. While resembling other match-3 games, it introduces unique elements."


2. Characters


Introduce characters before delving into the story. If your game lacks characters or a story, skip to the Gameplay section. Provide brief character descriptions, and consider including artwork.


Example: "Zorblats, the central figures in this tale, are jubilant and prosperous beings with a Zoological heritage. Every hue signifies a particular temperament, each carrying exclusive characteristics and skills. To illustrate, Azure Zorblats are zealous and inclined towards creating chaos."


3. Story


Following character introductions, detail the events that unfold in the game. Include a theme to convey the narrative's essence.


Example: "Zorblats, joyfully frolicking in their citadel, draw the interest of Glitch the Glum. An enigmatic character hands Glitch a key, setting off a sequence of incidents involving abduction, imprisonment, and an escape to a secluded island."


Example Theme: "This game delves into themes of melancholy and adversity, portraying the emotional journey of our characters as they navigate through the challenges presented by Glitch the Glum's intrusion into their once-happy world."


4. Gameplay


Undoubtedly the most critical section, delve into your gameplay mechanics. Break it down into subsections, such as Goals, User Skills, Game Mechanics, Items and Power-ups, Progression and Challenge, and Losing conditions.


Example Goal: "Overall (long term): Assist Zorblats in finding their way back to their homeland. Gameplay (short term): Overcome adversaries, progress to the subsequent level, and more."


Example User Skills:


  1. Touch Interaction: tap on the screen to initiate various actions.

  2. Gesture Control: utilize drag and drop gestures for manipulating in-game elements.

  3. Memory Recall: exercise memory skills to remember crucial information and solve challenges.

  4. Puzzle Solving: engage in solving intricate puzzles to unlock pathways and unveil the story.

  5. Piece Rearrangement: rearrange scattered pieces to reveal hidden clues or create solutions.

  6. Resource Management: efficiently manage in-game resources to overcome obstacles and progress.

  7. Strategic Thinking: develop and implement strategic plans to tackle enemies and challenges.


Example Game Mechanics:


  1. Teleportation Portals. Navigate Zorblats through teleportation portals to explore different realms and overcome spatial challenges.

  2. Enemy Encounters. Engage in real-time battles with adversaries using a combination of tapping and strategic gestures.

  3. Memory Quests. Participate in memory-based quests where players must recall and apply information to advance in the game.

  4. Puzzle Chambers. Encounter puzzle chambers that require rearranging pieces in a specific order to unlock hidden passages.

  5. Resource Gathering. Collect and manage resources strategically to unlock new abilities, power-ups, and story elements.

  6. Dynamic Environments. Experience dynamic changes in the game environment, requiring adaptation and quick decision-making.

  7. Interactive Story Choices. Introduce branching storylines with user choices affecting the overall narrative, encouraging replayability.


5. Art Style


Describe the visual style of your game, incorporating concept art if possible.


Example: "This is a 2D isometric game with high-quality sprites, drawing inspiration from Studio Ghibli's character design. Expect vibrant colors, lively animations, and layered backgrounds."


6. Music and Sounds


Define the auditory experience, considering the impact of music and sound effects on player engagement.


Example: "The music, in a retro style, should evoke 8-bit nostalgia with high-quality execution. Sound effects should provide immediate positive feedback, induce tension when necessary, and complement the overall emotional tone."


7. Technical Description


Provide a high-level overview of the platforms you'll target and the tools you plan to use during development.


Example: "Initially, the game will target mobile platforms like iOS, Android, and Windows Phone. We're considering expansion to PC, Mac, and consoles, exploring engines like Marmalade, Unity 3D, and Unreal Engine 4."


8. Marketing & Funding


While optional, consider outlining your marketing strategies and funding sources early in the process.


Example:

  • Prototype the first level and launch a Kickstarter campaign.

  • Explore publishing deals.

  • Investigate government funding opportunities.

  • Create a press kit for gaming news websites.

  • Establish a YouTube channel for development diaries.


Example Demographics:

  • Age: 12 to 60

  • Sex: Everyone

  • Casual players mostly


Example Platforms & Monetization:

  • Free Android app with in-game ads, and a paid version without ads.

  • Free iOS with ads, and a paid iOS version without ads.

  • In-game purchases.

  • Considerations for Windows 8, Windows Phone 8, XBOX Live, and Nintendo e-shop.


Example Localization:

  • Initially English/Spanish.

  • Future updates with Italian, French, German, etc.

  • Explore collaboration with an Asian publisher for localization in Asia.


9. Other Ideas


An optional section to capture any additional ideas or features that may not fit neatly into the existing sections.


Example:

  • Level designer

  • User-rated levels

  • Achievements

  • Leaderboards

  • Multiplayer mode considerations


Wrapping Up


In closing, we hope this game design document template will be valuable for you and your future projects. Remember, a well-crafted GDD is the key to unlocking your game's full potential. Reach out to us to develop a game together!




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