No matter you’re working alone or in a group, the very important thing to have on hand is documentation. Enter the game design document (GDD). Have you ever been a part of any game development group? If yes, then, at some point you’ll end up into a discussion about whether people should use a GDD or not. At this point, you might be asking yourself the same thing. If you really require one especially when you’re a solo developer?
The answer is Yes. You should certainly have a GDD. It doesn’t have to be 100 pages long, but a good GDD is a lot more than just guidelines for your game.
Organize Your Ideas
Studies show that our memories aren’t very reliable. While this study focuses only on our recollection of events, it’s also true of our own ideas. You may need to come up with a brilliant idea in the shower, but as the days or even weeks go by without writing it down, the less you’ll remember. A GDD is an excellent way to keep track of your ideas on paper.
More significantly, it’s a way for you to reference some features or aspects of your game. When you’re working with a team, a GDD provides all team members with a deep understanding of the game’s overview and how it works. This actually helps in communicating between different departments hassle-free and reduces confusion and the amount of back-and-forth saving you a lot of time. If you’re a solo developer, a GDD is still useful because it serves as an excellent reference. Neither of us has a memory of 100% so it’s likely you’ll forget some details. With a GDD, you need not to worry about that (unless you somehow delete it).
Keeps You Focused
We see that quite a few developers are racked from feature creep while others don’t have enough features. A GDD could solve either option. When we talk about feature creep, a GDD keeps you focused on your goal. Whatever the features you need are already in place and you’ve already laid out how everything interacts with the various systems. You can look at the GDD and ask yourself if that feature you want will really add to the overall game or if it’s fun but unnecessary. More often than not, it’s the latter.
The best GDD can also disclose missing features and functions in the game. Perhaps you have a platformer game but you didn’t include a jump feature. Unless that’s part of a conscious design decision, it’s definitely something you should add.
The GDD should serve as your master checklist. Checking off the various items on the list can be hugely motivational because it means you’re one step closer to finishing your game.
Sets a Schedule
Assigning a deadline is always beneficial, setting milestones for each item might force you to really think how long a task would take and where exactly you wanted the game to be in one month, six months, a year and so on. It’ll make you more aware with the interaction of each separate task from art to sound to programming.
While not everyone will feel the same way, we think it’s worth a try, especially if you find yourself starting game projects but never finishing them. Just carefully take a good look at all of the features in your GDD from the art assets to programming and honestly think how long each task would take. Which means you need to factor in other things like your day job, family and other items, then give yourself even more time. If you believe that something will take one week, give yourself two or three weeks and so on. Development always takes longer than you think.
Great for Marketing
GDD works like a goldmine for PR and marketing if it is done well. It has all of the distinctive features of your game, concept artwork, general theme and more. From it, you or whoever handles your marketing can put together screenshots, trailers, press releases and more. And as we know that a great GDD usually has some information on the target demographic, you or your marketer should know exactly how to create these items to make sure it catches their attention.