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5 Best Practices for creating the perfect Game Design Document (GDD)

5 Best Practices for creating the perfect Game Design Document (GDD)

 

At SCREEMO we help brick and mortar retailers to connect their physical consumers who shop in-store, to their omnichannel (e.g. e-commerce site or app) using digital experiences that run in-store. Part of these experiences includes a 5-30 second mobile game to incentivize the physical consumers to connect to the brands omnichannel. OneCode, one of SCREEMO’s partners, are helping us with the game aspect of the experience for our global customers, specializing in cross platform game development.

In order to create these games we work with our customers on a central document called a Game Design Document. The game design document (GDD) can be the document that makes or breaks your game. This one document will be the uniting soul of the game ensuring that all entities are on the same page. It’s where the customer will be able to exert the most influence over the outcome of the game and where they will express their wants, needs and goals of the project.

Working with a GDD is one of OneCode’s expertise and here are their 5 best practices for creating this holy grail document:

“While working on a project with a global customer like Walmart we really try to understand exactly what the end product is that they require and then work backwards from there using the GDD with a clear goal in mind.”
Keren Tsamir, CEO of OneCode

Use Visual Aids

While most GDD’s are text based it can benefit everyone involved to use imagery to demonstrate your vision. You can use visual references to clarify your intentions and to explain concepts that don’t translate so well textually or verbally. Having a GDD that combines text and image can speed up the process of aligning the team’s expectations, inspirations and implementation.

Be Detailed

“For me the more details I can find on the GDD, the easier my job becomes. In order to give the customer a final result that they are happy with I need to be able to get inside their head. In order to get inside their head I need them to be clear and specific with their vision.”
Ronen Tsamir, CTO of OneCode

Make the document as detailed as possible. The less details there are, the more open to interpretation each sentence becomes to each individual. Use spreadsheets, tables and charts to break down specific parts of the game e.g the scoring. Include in your descriptions the flip side to each game component – what happens when the player does vs what happens when the player doesn’t. e.g the candy will drop each time the player taps on the screen. If the player does not tap on the screen in time they will lose and will see the final result screen.

Set deadlines

With so many moving parts, aligning the team to work at the same pace with the same end date of completion is only possible with the use of deadlines. Not just one final deadline for the team to aim to complete the entire project by, but a deadline for the completion of each and every task. If the project is clearly scheduled and each team member hits their deadline for each part of the game then it will increase the likelihood of delivering the game on time to the customer.

Prioritize

Understanding the level of importance placed on each task by the customer is essential for a game development company. Development company One Code recommend to all their customers to mark each task with one of the following tags:
Indispensable
Important
If possible
Using these details alongside the deadlines for each component helps us to stay streamlined, focused and aligned with the other team members on the project.

Make it readable

“In order to hit the ground running when developing a game I need to be working with a document that’s easy to understand and has references and keys for when I need further information.”
Lior Trau, Programmer at OneCode

The document should be easy to read for all. Use large fonts, headers, clear and relevant spacing and numbered pages. Use a consistent formatting style and be uniformed and strict in your approach to the document. Use a hierarchical format with headers that clearly structure the document and tasks. Create a key to explain the highlights and tags to reduce the chances of miscommunication. The design and format of the document can be easily intertwined with the development and implementation stages and deadlines of each component of the game.

In today’s world where global companies offshore, it’s common that the customer, designer and programmers will all work for different companies, potentially in different countries and possibly even in different languages. Bear this in mind when creating your GDD and stay focused on what you are trying to achieve rather than how you are going to achieve it.

Dotan Kopolovich

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