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Fun-Driven Design

A fun-centric approach balancing game design and production.

We had already talk about how to divide design documents into different “zoom” levels, we’ll learn now about when to use each kind of document inside a very special production roadmap: the “Fun Driven Design” framework.

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Let’s focus on the design-intensive parts and leave the other ones out for this (marketing, support, publishing…).

The diagram above shows the different kinds of fun in each row agains different production phases in each column. It can be read as a timeline from left to right.

This scheme alternates between production phases (white) and design phases (grey) but is also meant to be iterative inside each phase itself. It’s an approach somehow in-between the classical 100% ahead planning and the more modern iterative schemes (agile, etc…).

Let’s take a closer look to each phase:

  1. Problem Definition: first of all, a game is made for a reason and with some objectives. These could be defined by a client, by yourself, by the team or anyone else. The point here is to know in detail why are you doing this, and what do you expect to achieve with the project.
  2. Game Propositions (1xGDD): a single page design (1xGDD) proposition describing the overall features of the game. The fields should cover every general aspect of the different kinds of fun: Story, Items, Aesthetics, Gameplay, Goals, Routines, Social & Interface. This process should be polished and repeated until the proposition is satisfying enough.
  3. Concepts & Prototyping: when the 1xGDD is solid enough and the team is happy with it, its time to prototype gameplay mechanics and other features and to concept the artistic concept of different elements. Again, making as many propositions and iterating until needed. The point here is to have the best idea of what a small part of the game will look like, what is also known as a vertical slice. Quick and dirty is the key to this phase, just be sure to NOT build over the prototype after.
  4. Strategy (10xGDD): time to go into more detail with the design doc. This time with a zoomed, 10xGDD, describing the types of content, actions and other features required by the game. This document should include at least enough info to enable the pre-production phase. The recommended parts are: Plot, Values, Art direction, Interaction, Flow, Engagement, Role Map & UX Manual.
  5. Pre-Production: here we build the foundations of the final game. We don’t focus on amount of content, but use placeholder assets and focus on building a strong foundation. Keep in mind modularity and fexibility though, since product requirements are always changing. The approach here should be the opposite of the prototyping phase, that is, horizontal slicing, slow and steady.
  6. Plan (100xGDD): time to go into detail. This phase can take place parallel to the pre-production phase. The designer should define in detail all the game contents and functions. Some extensive documents will come out of this work, giving shape to the 100xGDD. The parts this document includes are: Script, Economy, Asset Plan, Tech Requirements, Progression, Analysis, Growth & UI Design.
  7. Production: after the Pre-Production is solid enough, the code should be mostly considered closed (except bugfixing) and its time to focus on adding all the content. A well defined asset pipeline in the previous phases is invaluable in this one, as well as a solid code base, as they enable a much faster production rate.

Original article:

Twitter: @JaviCepa

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