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Feature: 'Why Design Documents Matter'

Creating design documents may not be the most glamorous part of game design, but in this latest Designer's Notebook column, veteran designer Ernest Adams outli
Creating design documents may not be the most glamorous part of game design, but in this latest Designer's Notebook column, veteran designer Ernest Adams outlines the important role these reference tools play, while highlighting five key reasons developers should consider using design documents in their projects. In this excerpt, Adams recalls some of his own personal experience with working with design documents, specifically with regards to recording audio for EA’s Madden NFL series and working on THQ and GSC Game World’s PC shooter S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl: “When I was doing the audio/video production for the Madden series, I wrote the audio recording scripts for the play-by-play - yet another form of design document. All told, they were about 75 pages long. We had to record material for every possible event that could occur in the game, and all of John Madden’s color commentary as well. Nobody could possibly keep all that in his head, and in any case, Madden needed something to read from in the voice booth, and the audio engineer needed something to work from when editing the raw recordings. Sports games require more design docs than you might think, because even though the league has created the rules of the game, somebody has to figure out all the strategies (in football, the playbook for each team), animations, and user interface required to translate the sport to the target hardware. All that work produces documentation. Finally, on some projects, not all the team members will speak the same language - literally. I encountered this when working with THQ (England) and GSC Game World (Ukraine) on S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl. Most of the developers did not speak English at all, only Russian or Ukrainian. They couldn’t have simultaneous voice translators standing by 40 (or 60) hours a week, so a great deal of communication between the publisher and developer took place in the form of translated documents.” You can now read the complete feature, which includes more on the important role these documents play in successful game design (no registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from external websites).

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