GDD’s aren’t just an item on a checklist

So with my work over the past few months, most of my projects have had Game Design Documents. But have they really worked like game design documents? No. Most of the GDD’s the projects had (if they even had them to begin with) were only done to check a box on a list, not to truly describe the game’s purpose or explain how elements should feel to the player and why the elements are there. One large thing they were missing was constant change, due to them being done to check them off a list, the documents were never returned to. So when the final product came around, it barely had any resemblance to what the GDD said the game would be. If the GDD’s had been updated as the projects went on, there could have been less disputes and confusion about what was and wasn’t in the game anymore. For example, when working on floob, we rarely updated our GDD, and at many points throughout development we had many people not agreeing on how certain things would work and being very confused about whether or things were still in the game. We repeatedly had confusion about how the water would work and how it would affect the player, if at all. We had disagreements about how the player would move and whether or not things had been scrapped due to lack of time or physics engine limits. We really could have saved time if we had a document that would just tell people these things rather than needing to have a discussion not everyone would remember. Our documents also had less information than we needed them to, because it needed to be describe elements that we didn’t entirely understand in a moment and rather than spend time deciding what the element would be, we just left it out. This was a very bad decision, because our lack of detail was one of the major causes of our confusion between members of the team. None of us really knew how the wall jumping would work, we just said “there will be wall jumping” and boy did that screw us over. There were times when the player could only wall jump off of specific objects and there was no consistency about how much force the player got from jumping off the wall, it was a mess. This is not something I want to do again, and I have plans to keep my GDD’s up to date for both my Shared House project and the Night n Day (now The Golden Hour) projects.

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