Finding Your Own Process

Over the course of making Capuchin Capers, I have tried very hard to document as much as I can. I do this so that I can refer to these documents after the game is done and have a better picture as to what it takes to create a game design document. Now, if you go to Gamasutra, you can find articles on various developers views as to what needs to be in a game design document and how it should be formatted. But, does their design documents really fit the way that you create video games?

There is some information that needs to be in any game design document, of course. Anybody creating a design document knows that the levels themselves need to be described. Characters or creatures, including monsters, need to be detailed. There are elements that should be included, but does your design documents formatting need to adhere to the same template that I might use? Absolutely not. At least, that is how I feel about it. If you’re submitting a proposal to a publisher, things change. They have their own expectations for what needs to be in place in a proposal and/or design document. You would need to follow those guidelines to ensure your game was given the best chance to succeed and get published. But when you’re developing your own games as an indie developer, nobody outside of your small team are ever going to see these documents. They can be formatted in any manner that makes the most sense to you as a team.

When I started Capuchin Capers, I wanted to have a roadmap for the game. I wanted to know what assets I needed to create, and the overall architecture of the game. I wasn’t even close. If you view the Trello board for this game, which can be found here, you will see that I resorted to creating a ‘General’ card just to cover some of the more egregious things that I missed when first planning this game. As I discovered the many parts of the game that I had failed to plan out at the beginning, I started to write those documents post-creation. I did this, if for no other reason, to have a clearer picture of what I needed to plan for the next game. During this process, I discovered some things about the way that I create documents and what I end up putting in those documents. My documents aren’t formatted or structured the same as the documents featured in some of the aforementioned articles.

I would have worried about this when I first started creating whole games, instead of modifications to pre-existing games. But I’m not worried about this at all now that I have a little more experience. We all think differently, and that’s a good thing. So, why should my documents follow a template that another developer might use? Is my way the best way, or even a good way? It clearly isn’t the best way, since I overlooked so much; it may not be a good way for you, either. It probably isn’t, to be completely honest. But, it is a good way for me and that is what matters.

When I am done with Capuchin Capers, I will take the documents that I have generated, along with the topics that I know that I missed, and I will combine them into a single file. This will give me a good starting point for our next game. Will it be complete? No, it won’t. Will it be the right way to write a game design document? Yes, it will. Because it will be the right way to write a game design document for me.

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