037 Game Design Documentation Tools, Methods and Best Practices


Hello Fellow adventurers and well come back to where we transform our gaming passion into incredible game designs and learn how to like a boss. My name is mobbing and I'm an ambitious game. He's I know on. My quest is to develop a cooperative fantasy card game for this podcast. My vision is to take you with me on this exciting journey together. We will explore the secrets of different game mechanics and reach the next level as a game design in episode. Thirty seven of the North Lab. I am going to discuss Commu game that I'm currently developing and the idea of keeping a game design diary. I will talk about how I document and everything that I do. During my game design process especially the tools that are used and how I organize and structure them and the idea is to to use Mike game as a as an example here in them. The reason why I do. This show is Because I have been asked several times in the past if it is worse to write a game design diarrhea and if so why what are the benefits. And how'd you do that at all. What do you write down? How do you keep Oughta and what is was it was worse publishing at the end Maybe as a work in progress blog post or at design divy article Yeah these are many questions and I have to confess that I don't really have the answers to all of them at the moment Probably there is also no right or wrong here but since documentation of the design process is actually relevant for every game designer. I thought it would be worse to you. Dedicate my time at myself to this topic today and to make this Whole thing plausible? I decided to take my current product. It s an example and describe how I document my design process for this game and how I keep track of the important decisions that I make during the design process before all we talk about the documentation process Let me give you a short overview of the game that I'm currently working as most of you know I've I've been working on a CO OP adventure card game in the past for quite a time now and I have not really talked about it much on the podcast in the recently and that is probably Because I do not really work on that game. At the moment few months ago I stumbled across an idea that I thought was worse. Focusing on the idea is in a market area that is a has some direction at the moment. I thought it would make a lot of sense to to push this idea at the moment. Because they're some attention engine in the market and I don't know for how long this attention will be there and how soon someone else come with a similar idea so the the adventure card coop game is not dead. It's it's on. Hold the bone because I want to prioritize the other game idea But I will for for sure. Get back to this This game and this idea that I've been working on for so long In the future. So let's talk a little bit about the idea Two Games that I really really love our magic the gathering as I've mentioned quite a bit on this podcast and the Shah of Outta Chess Games teams which are digital games For example Doto under laud's our team fight tactics from the riot universe bure's around League of legends and some others as well and while I was playing data under lords and the other Outta Chess Chess Games. I thought about the idea of how create it would be to combine this with drafting game. Because you are drafting crafting this different heroes trying to create a very nice Adventuring group level of your heroes and equipped those with the legendary items in the digital games. You typically buy those heroes from a shop and your goal is to combine more of the same kind to level up your heroes and this is exactly the idea that I thought would be great in any any drafting game and in fact it has been used. It's in different type drafting games. But it's not used in magic the gathering where you combine tried to combine different sets of cards to to level up heroes or level up something nothing else to acquire more victory points or whatsoever and this was the time when I thought it would be great to have some kind of synergy driven Trafton game With a fast paced technical numbered Anthony Bowling team composition. Something like a magic. The gathering draft in which the drafting is way more important than playing the games so that he would trust not only one round but you would draft severance and have quick fast paced combat in between. And then you go back to drafting again and this is pretty much. The idea of the game and I have reached researched the market a bid. And there's a lot of traction in the OUTTA chess genre online but there is no outta chest physical game at the moment and I think there is a great market for it but I also think you need to be fast here in this market because I'm pretty sure that a game like this will come out in the future and I really. I want to be one of the first two print out the game like that. So this is why I decided to focus on this idea at the current point in time. 'cause it's more time critical than my other ideas and the game really it's about team composition about positioning and and deploying your team into a group that fights together and come up with a tactic how do you position your your heroes so that the benefit from each other And there's also a bit of Mehta game around this Rhonda's game because When you're not playing the game you can think about what would be a great team composition? What kind of alliances can I can? I dry trough for the next time when I when I sit down and play the game and this is really what the game miss some more or less about. I want to have some kind of feeling of achievement when you find the missing pieces for your team composition during the draft left. You should few some kind of clever when you identify an open strategy during the draft and feel the sense of discovery when when when you identify new team compositions during the drought that were not even on your on your plan in the beginning and that's also be some kind kind of risk reward feeling if you go for the less reliable KAT COMBOS in the game instead of going for the straightforward tactics. Maybe so that is what I've been working on for the last couple of weeks and months and at the current point in time I have a playable version. Urgen it's not finished yet but it's In good shape and I have run the first Play test sessions. And they went quite well all and of course he In the process of iteration and improving the game. I don't want to spend too much time to go into details today because This episode we saw about a different topic altogether but I wanted to at least share the core idea of the game. which is that players will try to compose a synergistic adventuring Croup during troughed by picking different heroes and these players will gain advantages for having multiple heroes? Oh specific alliance and e Tron. The veteran croup is fighting against another adventuring group. in more or LS automated combat with some decisions in it and the fight is typically decided by the team Strength Heroes but it also is also much affected by the positioning of the heroes and the interaction that happened during the convert and to come back to the main topic of the show today. When I started this project I also started in you? Documentation Process for for this game development approach and and I thought about what I want to keep drake off and and while I was thinking about that I also kept in mind that it is is properly good idea to publish something about the game as soon as possible to inform people that I'm working on a alter chess physical game and with that in mind I also thought about Work in progress posts on a board Game Geek. For example on design diaries informer former for blockposts or info compulsive or youtube videos and I research what people are doing there and tried to capture all the information that I will need to publish my design process as well for me design. Diaries are typically reports reports from designers about the creation process of their game they often address design challenges and describe the options they have tried to overcome them. And what worked. And what didn't and why and I think designed air is really great resource because they are interesting for both players and game designers Zeina's and they provide a lot of useful information players. Get more background information. On the Games they laugh and designers can learn and a lot from how other designers have overcome their problems. And by that I mean not only the mechanics. The designers may have used but thought also their approach of identifying and solving the problem and that is exactly the information that you need to publish publish In a good design diving. And that's why it is important to track all those inflammation early on the design process. So that you have them available later Ron and I will share with you How I do that but before I do I need to tell you that I distinguish really between a populist design diary and your personal designed the published one is to connect with your audience while the personal designed is really to support your game design process and today I will focus on your personal design. Diary which should be a good basis this to publish your work later on. But the focus here really is to Improve Your productivity during the design process. That really is is already the first reason why I write designed diaries at all to increase my productivity but also to record my decisions isn't because otherwise hugh go back to the work that you have done a couple of days before and think. Oh actually that was a great idea. Why didn't I really implement that in my game? Maybe I should try again. So this happens to me all the time time and if I can go back to a spreadsheet or Node or whatsoever to see what I have dried and what worked and what didn't That really helps me to Not Make the same mistakes again and again. It really is like a hint to my future self that I should not get back and involved with my ex girlfriend again and have all. The reasons is available way. I shouldn't and another reason why I do All the documentation is to create mental space in my hand. Because when I have documented I do not have to think about it all the time because I know it is safe somewhere Secure in the the cloud and my brain can really be released from all this effort of thinking about all these ideas and stuff all the time and it. It also helps me to Identifies my most important task. And how I do this I will tell you later so when I thought about all that I made a short list of things that are really want to keep track off and these are for example all of my game elements once and rules a game element for me. Something like Abroad a thing like convert so I want to keep track off how all combat works in my game and what what kind of mechanics I tried and why they worked. And why didn't then. I want to keep track of all the game components so all of the different cards all the heroes in my game all the items in my game I want to keep track of them and I want also also to keep track of the two of them so if I have a two handed sword for example and in the first print run it dealt three damage and in the sixth round it only deals to damage. I want to want to be aware of this development and I also wanted to have some kind of INBOX for my ideas. This is more like a like a tool that helps me to organize all the the other aspect that I keep track off but I will also tell you how this works in this episode as well and I need some kind of Beck lock for the ideas way I can push all of the great ideas that I have during the day but that I'm not working on at the moment went body know that I want to try them in my game late on and then maybe one of the most important things to keep track off the challenges than just that you face during the game design process and I really want to Have them listed up and also not not only wide is a challenge but also have the inflammation. What kind of ideas? I have to solve this challenge to overcome the challenge inch and a short crippen what I tried. Why I tried it and how it worked out and to do that I also need to keep track off all the play testing? All the test runs what worked in the latest. What didn't and so that's all aspect that I need to document somehow and the last point that I really want to have is a daily design journal? That is Also more like a like a tool rule like the inbox that helps me to Yeah Organiz myself and keep track of what I want. I want to focus on so now that you know all the information that I want to keep track off. Let me tell you a little bit about the two. What's that I used to do so I use quite a bit of Google spreadsheets to keep track of all of the game components and their versions so all of the hero cards for example? All of them are in in a Google spreadsheet and also my challenges at my Beck lock are restored in a Google spreadsheet. In addition to that I also use google presentations to visualize stuff. So whenever I I need to Maybe draw a battlefield for example and I want to Highlight some game elements and play around with the ruled in my head. Then I use. Google presentation are typically make a screen shot off exporter. An image of what I've created and then I put that into my Actual note and all of these notes I kept drake off with one note in my case so in one note I have a specific notebook for this game and this Notebook contains a whole lot of different things for example all of my game elements and pieces of roots. Let's start there if you remember game elements for me Things like for example convert or also the different phases in my game. They had described there. I'm also the keywords for example that I want to use they are All stored in one note and also also what I have in one note. Is My design journal my idea inbox and also my plate test documentation. All of this comes together in one note and It is pretty much my most important Tools and Resources Salsa I used for my game design documentation in addition to that I use the task management software. At the moment I used Trello and and What else do use quite a bit our whiteboards and of course pen and paper? I really like to switch between these different media styles when I work on a design project because sometimes you get tired when you sit In front of a pc all day long and then it makes sense to stand up. Banta brainstorm a little bit on a on a whiteboard and then maybe It makes more sense to sit down in the garden or in the park to write stuffed on With pen and paper and at the end my goal is always to provide all of that information back to digital form later on an and typically do this either via Photos that I then store in one note or by Typing Ping The the same information again in a digital form and then organizing and structuring it again by going that extra mile I hi can be sure that one out is always my single source of truth in which I can find everything that is related related to this game. Okay I hope you are at least a little bit couriers or at least interested to to learn a little bit more about these yes design documentation processes that I have implemented but before I dive deep into them. chest Very small disclaimer. I don't claim by any means that this is the best documentation abroad there I'm pretty sure that there are other ideas. other ways of doing it other tools to do it That are at least as good as what I do or probably even better but this is the process. How I use it at the moment and it works for me? I adjusted here and there when I think something amiss missing or something is not longer needed. And I Colbert also helpful for you to maybe it can trigger some ideas In your brain that you might want to add to your Documentation humiliation process. So let's start with a daily design channel for me. Life is a journey and Each day day is a new chapter in my life and keeping track of my life and the different adventures of my life is for me like writing my own quest. I look I personally do that. Twice a day and often those journal entries do not contain any content that I want to reuse later. Eight to anez a work in progress post owing my rulebook whatsoever it is something that is more for me personally them. I'm former self dialogue. That helps me to find mental clarity and allows me to connect to my inner thoughts and feelings it really helps me to identify my goats and to focus myself on the necessary task for that day. I'm also pretty sure that this habit hubs me to solve problems because they are more clear to me and this results in an advantage to push my ideas forward. So how do I do it. I have a specific section in one note that is titled Daily Designed Journal Who and in this section I have of a template page that I create a copy from everyday. This is actually the first and the last digital thing that I try to do. Every day. It really really has become a habit that hubs to stay focused. The template contains a few questions that I ask myself A A few questions for the morning and another few evening. The questions are the same for every day but from time to time I add or remove a question if I have the feeling that this is needed and sometimes I am also in the mood all writing small texts flowtex. That does not really answer one of these questions but Hey if I'm in the mood that's what I'm doing. So here are Mike questions that I ask myself in the morning the first question is what can I do today to profit in the future This is a game designed specific topic. But I typically try to answer it with my game in mind An ancestor can can be something like To research a specific topic that I want to learn more about our Taylor. Random person about my game are great one fan for my game for this day. ought to reach out to design that I admire and to arrange an interview on the podcast that I will be able to learn something from him or her Auto prepare something about the current state of my game that I can show to my mastermind group though. These are the kinds of answers that I- gift to this question depending on the day and the current state of my game and also my mood. This second question that I asked myself in. The morning is What am I grateful for today? Also this question is not really game design specific but I have the tendency to think too much about the negative things in life and spending just one minute in the morning. Ken Really helped me to focus the positive aspects of my life and also of my game when I walk on the game. I often think about the problem. The challenges and how to solve them but not everything is sped and it can really help to take a few moments to recall the positive elements as well so Nonsense could be that. I'm grateful that my competition works quite well that I'm happy that have overcome these challenges. This is what I answer to this question in the morning running and the third and last question for the morning is what is the most important thing that I can achieve today and this is typically when I do my task review and try to identify. What is the frog the thing that needs to be done? That sometimes is a bit difficult to overcome. But that would really help me to put the blow Jack Forward. I also have the tendency to Postpone things that are unpleasant unpleasant and trying to identify the frock. Howard is called? I focus myself to the things things that really need to be done. The goal here is to identify the most important thing that I can chief achieve today and for my personal situation isn't this really is dependent on two things first. How much time do I have to work on the game today Sometimes I have very busy days with my day job and my family and I might only have half an hour in between Or maybe even no time at all and On that day I cannot set a goal to I don't know create forty or fifty heroes on that day so really has to Met Match between the time that I have available and the second thing What is on my task Lisk and what is achievable in this time slot and what pushes my game forward? And that is everything that I do in the morning. That is typically done in less than five minutes for the evening. My questions are more or less divided into two groups. Some questions to reflect reflect the day and some questions to already plan the next day so the question is asked myself to reflect our. How do I am? I satisfied with what I cheesed today. I'm really. I typically write down a few bullet points of what I have achieved today because sometimes my brain all only remembers the the challenges again and the problem that I had during the day And I do not really remember That I've been able to create ten items from game for example for in that during the day and it helps to To celebrate these small little victories as well I also asked myself. What did I learned today? Maybe I did not create a corridor. Solve the problem but I Alert learn something Very important for the future maybe and some little metric that also keep track of how much time to spend working on the game today that that is just something that I think is important for myself to to see how much time I'm able to To spend on the the game and the questions that I ask myself For the next day are what can I do better tomorrow. And if if there is an idea How do that for example if I see that I have not been as focused as I want to be. in the last days ace designed to that. I want to be more focused for tomorrow and I decided to use the pomodoro method In the next morning Pondo method is to set a goal for a very short timeframe something like twenty minutes for example that small goal. What you want to achieve in those twenty twenty minutes then work focused on this goal during the twenty minutes? Don't allow you to do something else. And then make five minutes or so to do all the other stuff that you wanted to during this twenty minutes and the second question that I've asked myself in the evening is what do I want and to achieve. Tomorrow this is something that I do before I go to bed and by setting this goal in the evening This this really helps me to get up at The next day and be motivated right away because The last thing is thought about before I went to bed is something that they want to achieve during this day and that really helps me tremendously in the morning at five o'clock not to press this snooze button for the twentieth time and the goal of this whole exercise really is is to reflect what what you have achieved and to set yourself a rough goal for the next day that you want to achieve and in the morning joining you then make this go more specific and start working on it right away. The next tool I use is my design inbox. Low the concept of having an inbox for all your ideas that come to your mind is something I think I already mentioned a while ago on the podcast and the contact really comes from the book getting things done by David Ellen or at least I have learned from them and instead of carrying all of my thoughts and tasks round my head. I really want to get them out of my head as soon as possible. I want to write down every idea every task as soon as possible so that I do not have to remember it And therefore this should be as easy as possible support and don't take longer than a few seconds to get this stuff out of my head and I should be able to do this. Wherever am at the moment so it really needs to be accessible via phone in my case This is also a section in my one note notebook every new entry gets a new page there is no ordering not hugging nothing that takes too long. I just wanted to get it out of my head. The rest comes later. The goal is really to you. Get it out as soon as possible. This creates space in my head and prevents destruction and gives me the mental strength to focus on the essential issues. I'm working on in that particular moment and really write down everything the names offer game. I want to test in the future. The idea of a for a name for my own game Keyword that might work on On one of my cards for example a story idea or a possible solution For one of my design challenges the ordering of this messy. inbox happens later when I have time to do it. What is really very very important is that you have a system in place that you can trust? That means that you need the fixed time where you empty your inbox and transfer the topics from your inbox to your task to your design document. Or maybe you'll design diary or your backlog or wherever it belongs and you must trust your system so much that your subconscious mind is so willing to completely forget about the thought that you had in that moment that you just wrote down because you know that your system in place will help you to come back to the topic later when time and place are right so if you only adapt one thing from I talk about. Today I would recommend Starting with the INBOX. It is my number one to to increase my mental capability ability By getting rid of distracting thoughts. The next part of my documents nation are all of my Game elements and rules and all of these elements. I have a separate page in one. This can be imagined as a very rough rule book. In in terms of structure each section of the rule book is a separate patient one page to describe the phases of my game a page to describe the the drafting process one to describe the combat system want to describe the movement Another one to describe the resources of the game and so on what I don't do on these pages in one note is to go into detail of a single cards but I describe every well the structure of the different different card types for example. So how is the hero. Caught structured. What Autumn Cards? And how are they used in the game. The actual cards are than somewhere else in the spreadsheet because I need to offer them to calculate values automatically and use the spreadsheet as an input firefox for automated cart creation. My goal for these Games element pages in one note is to really have a central place where collect The ideas for the individual elements and I also want to keep track of how those elements evolved over time that means I typically typically don't remove texts there when I make changes but I- righted on top of the page and divided with the separator line and and you headline by doing that. Each page is some sort of history of how that specific game element evolved over the cost of the design phase. This is something That you can use later on to create these Work in progress posed for example. I also tried to make note when I encounter. Specific Design Challenge Because because I also hope that this helps me to publish interesting design challenge US later on but I do not really keep track of the challenges here because because I want them to be in one list so I can Have a better overview of all the challenges in one point. I will come to them later in this in this shot. The last thing that I keep track off in one node is my play test documentation. And when I say play test I even mean my own solo play tests for each test. I copy My documentation template page in one note and write down everything that is important for that test. Run this template can be completely different for for your game of course but here are just a few things that I keep track of the first one is the setup of the test In this section this can be considered as some kind of Meta data on the Ron and I keep track of things like how many players participated and who what kind of game elements tasted in this run because I often only test specific elements of the game for example only tests the combat mechanical. Only test the drafting mechanic. So this is something that I would note here Then I also write down. How the game elements were implemented doing this test run for example let's say Combine walls dice based variant want or. It was caught based variant to something like that. This is how a a cross reference here to the challenges that I try to overcome all the ideas for the Solution to that. I want to try for this challenges. then I try to Document how many Heroes played. What kind of heroes which alliances the players were having and and Yeah released that is very specific for my game for example attested different battlefield variants for my game. And therefore I kept drek wreck of which option I was testing with. Ron was a critic version. For example another one was the bet line version and so on and other stuff I tried tried to. Trek is for example. Also the time the test took how long do the rounds take. How long does combat resolution take and so on and these are often often very specific information for the thing that I've tried to test and solve at this moment and then I have a bit of more general area which is where I trick? What was good in this test and what was bad? This is typically. He kept as a list of bullet points of what really felt good. And what felt bad. And especially try to identify the durations in which my play testers tests react very emotional. When did they have fun? When were they frustrated or even angry at the end I transferred those bullet points into challenges and ideas which both go into my spreadsheet late on either to my challenge section or my idea beck lock or the Ideas to overcome specific challenges. And one more thing about the emotions I think emotions are very important. Took keep track off because they make good stories later on when you when you want to publish your desires you could say something like The this mechanic made my play testers so angry that they smashed the hand of God to the table. This is something that people can relate to later on when you write down this emotions because they create a picture in their head and create some kind of story that you can. I used to explain why you made changes to your game. That is everything I use one. Note for You can of course I use any other kind of note taking software here. I've been using evernote a lot in the past At the end I don't think it makes too much of a difference. What what us as long as you are comfortable with the technology and use it frequently though that brings us to the spreadsheets waits for the real game components I use spreadsheets and and I don't want to talk too much about the game components Stretchy Today Day Because I think this is the tool that is most different for all of you because It really depends on the Some type of game and type of component that you want to keep track off So just a short summary here is as I have a sheet for all my hero cuts for example. Have another sheet for all my spells for all my alliances and and for all the items and so on and if I make major changes to the list I add a new version. Chesapeake able to track the changes later on I think this is very important. Because for all the decisions You should write down some kind of reason that you can Remember why are you made that decision. Let me give you an example when I design keywords for Card Games I typically right down the list of all the keyboards I want to test and then I test the keyword. If it doesn't work then it comes to another list of keywords that it didn't work and the Ri- shod reason behind it and documented. Why it it didn't work and I tried to do the same for Let's say a special ability on a hero cut. Let's say I have a hero. Let's call him the warrior and he has a special ability that he textwise when some trigger happens and I tested the bay testing and it seems to be quite strong then. I write that down as a note in my spreadsheet and a copy it to another list in which all of the mechanics are listed that I drive for this warrior so In the main spreadsheet I have only one entry for the very and that is the current the implementation of it and then I have a second stretch it with all of the key words and all of the special abilities and values on the character that I tested tested so I have a Some kind of history. How the different characters evolved in my play testing? This is also something thing that you can really nicely share later on in a design diary because people love to see how things evolved during during the play test and you can maybe late on post a few pictures of the hero maybe version one one two three four five and describe briefly briefly. Why you changed each of those steps? In another spreadsheet I have combined my challenges my possible solutions solutions for those challenges and my backlog of ideas that I want to task and I also have a Mazda data sheet in this a spreadsheet which defines the values for the drop down fields of the other sheets for example. I have a list of all the game game elements that can be referenced in the Challenges Altered Lucians. I have different priorities that can be selected from dropdown menus and different status for the challenges and different stages for the solutions in the challenges sheet. I trek everything. That really is a problem in my game that I somehow need to solve and FAW Call each individual challenge I Give these challenge title. And I define which game element is effect for example simple if my Combat is not working. I select as a game element convert then I give it a priority. My combat isn't working. This probably only get the prouty very high And the status would in the beginning be open and then I would have a description feud in which I describe. What the what the problem is this Ben in the the second sheet I have Possible solutions for this For this challenge I spend a bit of time. Think about thinking thing about what I could do to solve this problem and I come up with a different solution ideas. For example it could be Introduce another dice based combat mechanic or qatar-based combat mechanic. This would be two different solution approaches for the same challenge so in the solution cheat you reference the same challenge from different rose And then I define altog- if this solution abroad a title I describe how it is working and also give it a state it can be open can be in play test. It can be rejected or accepted for example. And when I've tested this approach I also Right down the advantages and disadvantages disadvantages that this approach to the game and also maybe some resolved And date when I lost tested. This solution this is pretty much how I Trek everything that is related to To reach problems in my game and Once this She becomes fuller and fuller because Have more challenges in my plate tests mm-hmm or I have more ideas in my backlog or solution ideas for my challenges. I really use filters as a mechanic to To identify if I which is the most important challenge that I should work on at the moment and this is something that I typically do with a priority not value that I that give each Challenge or each Solution Approach and the backlog. She'd really is pretty similar to the solution sheet. And with the only difference that it is not related to some kind of challenge inge in my game and it is not always led to an existing game element so for example. It could be a new resource that I want to test the game but one could probably trek both the backlog and the solutions at one sheet But for me at the moment Durham I prefer to have them separate. And that's pretty much everything that I keep track off during my game design process. I hope you enjoyed the short glimpse behind the curtain. And maybe maybe you could even take some inspiration with you. I think it's very important for everyone to find the right. Documentation approach that fits search and their requirements and of course these requirements can change over time. That's also why my documentation approach Evolves chiefs over time as well before I finished today I would like to point out to kickstarter campaigns from the northland community The first one is gobbling. Flynn teeth dice. Game about goblins that tried to gather the most treasure and as everyone knows goblins are sneaky. That's why they try to cheat each other. Check out the link in the show notes It's a very good example of how you can include the theme of your game even kickstarter campaign and the second game I wanted to mention is dark metal solo or co OP SCI FI tabletop game in which you can really use your own. Men's Antara that you already have to play through. A narrative driven are pitchy campaign full of tactical tickle decision. Making you can find this link also in the show notes so check out the gains to see what kind of great games Come from the nut law community designers honest and Yeah until next week. Keep documenting and Kurt like the balls uh

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