Tips for Game Makers: 4 Steps to Designing a Game


Imagine the game development team as a human body, which part of it, do you think, a Game Designer would be? My hint is ‘brain and heart’. 

What leaves no doubt is that Game Designer is one of the key figures to the project. 
First comes an idea, then he sculpts a solid vision of what a game should be and masterly communicates it to the ‘arms and legs’ (programmers), ‘eyes and ears’ (graphic and sound designers), ‘lips’ (scriptwriters) and the rest of the organism working as a whole to produce a game. 

Here are 4 steps we’ve conventionally divided the process of designing a game into. This cheat sheet can be useful to designers of any games of any genres.

1) Concept Development

Think out your future dream game as thoroughly as if you’re a prisoner planning an escape, with only one shot to try. First rule here: put the idea into words and write them down.
You can start with either a one-sentence description of a project, or a set of keywords which would convey player’s actions and emotions he’s supposed to experience while playing. 

Then carefully add layers of information on the yet bare concept. Be careful while setting the priorities: game mechanic is the base, it is a tune that sets the tone of your soon-to-be title. Along with genre and mechanic, decide on basic tech-related stuff (controls of the game, release platform). Now complement it with a storyline, invent a plot that would be a perfect fit and proceed to visual design. Only after bringing all these 3 components in harmony and making sure they fit the overall vision of game, you can go further.

2) Visualization and GDD

Game Design Document is a guide to your game that programmers and rest of the development team will refer to while implementing code, writing script and creating graphics. 
Provide all the minute details, but don’t just pile them up. Make your GDD well-structured, clear and understandable. The main goal here is to deliver message, find the right words and, preferably visual materials to support your ideas. 
Visualization is obligatory, as it helps to avoid risks of being misunderstood. So, find the most accurate references for artwork, gameplay and everything else (setting, game elements, characters, UI, etc.).

3) Prototyping and Playtesting

At this stage your concept will go through a first serious viability test that will reveal the most obvious gaps for you to fix. The prototype will be primitive and ugly, but it will allow you to cut off the odd things and add something you’ve missed before it’s too late and costs a pretty penny.
Prototype shows how all components of game will get along together, and as soon as all necessary tweaks are made you will pass it on for testing. The test group should consist of target users, who will serve as fresh eyes helping you to assess usability, functionality and, of course, how enjoyable your game is. Compare their experience with the one you expected to get, and change your prototype for as many times as may be needed.

4) Final Editing and Delivery

Having gathered feedback from the previous stage and after numerous iterations on prototype, you need to edit your manuscript (GDD) correspondingly and deliver it to the production team. It is desirable that somebody else checked it for you, as there is no limit to perfection.
That being done, the production stage will begin. At this point, you will work in close collaboration with the technical team, assisting and consulting them, and polishing certain aspects of your future game (such as level balancing). 

These are only brief instructions for you to follow.
Got any suggestions, or perhaps you know some useful tools to recommend? Share them in comments. 
Good luck with your game!

Posted by Renatus on March 13, 2015