How To Write A Game Design Document (GDD)

By Bolaji Rasheed

What is the best way to handle the development process of a game? This is a common and important question among all indie game developers. Not to worry, the answer to this question is quite simple!   

In order to manage your indie game development process effectively, having detailed documentation is a must, and the famous game design document (GDD) is the best way to do this.   

But first, you need to understand why it is so important for the completion of your project. 

A GDD is a highly descriptive design document that is created from the collaboration of designers, programmers, and artists. This document serves as a guide throughout the game development process. Indie game development processes are often hampered by placeholder arts, malfunctioning code, and clashing mechanics among others. In times like this, having a good GDD will serve as your lifeline.

 

Tips for Writing a Good Game Design Document (GDD)

Write in Stages

Normally, your mind is filled up with different ideas and concepts when starting a GDD. The best thing to do at this stage is to create a comprehensive template for your document. This template should contain Backgrounds, intros, and major descriptions. Each phase of your development process should follow this template. This will help to keep your GDD organized as the development process becomes more bulky and complex. Having a complete GDD before starting the development process is not compulsory, however, the GDD should be at least two weeks ahead of your team’s current state of work.

Make Room for Changes

During the different stages of indie game development and sometimes in the final days before release, several changes and modifications will have to be made to the GDD. Always have discussions with your team members and never discourage them from submitting new ideas even if most of it won’t make it into the game – who knows what idea will be best for the game. That’s why it is important to make your GDD flexible enough to accommodate changes and new ideas.

However, only one person should be in charge of making changes to the GDD itself. This person should focus on including only the key ideas and cutting the less important ones.

Pay Attention to Readability and Language

Readability is a very important factor that can determine how good your GDD will be. Your headers, font style, formatting, indentation, and punctuation should be uniform and consistent. Using keys and legends to explain some technical or complex parts of the GDD will help reduce confusion.

Also, your GDD should be written in simple, concise, and clear language. The simpler it is, the easier it will be for everyone to read and understand it. Your GDD should reflect your team’s culture and team members should give feedbacks about the readability and clarity of the GDD.

Use Visual Aids

The GDD is a very important document and everyone should be able to fully understand its contents. You should take advantage of visual aids such as concept arts or graphs to quickly explain some very technical or difficult concepts in the GDD. With this, every member of your team will fully understand the information conveyed to them and the development process will move a lot faster.

 

Online document editors like Google Docs are great for GDDs because you can add links to visual aids and other documents!

 

Set Priorities and Realistic Goals

When building indie games, you can’t implement all the ideas you or your team members will propose; you’ll have to cut some. Then, you need to set the priorities of the remaining ideas and come up with a reasonable deadline for the implementation of these ideas.

Complex enemies, mechanics, level behaviors, all look good and exciting on paper, but you should have it in mind that making them a reality can disintegrate the greatness of some game elements. Always play new ideas in your mind before putting it in the GDD. This will greatly help to keep your goals embedded in reality.  

Conclusion

In the course of your indie game development, there would be lots of difficult things to do and a lot that can go wrong. Having a good GDD means you have something to fall back on when something goes wrong or some mechanics just don’t work out.

The GDD is a detailed journal of all your struggles and victories and some sort of behind-the-scenes of a complex and rigorous process to produce a game to be enjoyed by all. The GDD says a lot about your game, and it is a testament to your hard work, so you should put a lot of passion into it. Good luck!  

Get Started on Your Own Game Design Document

If you’re not sure where to get started, there are plenty of templates online! Here is one made by Benjamin Stanley. If you know of any resources that can help developers make their own GDDs, please share them in the comments!