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Game Design On Demand. Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.


Building mobile games for spaces. Museums, games, education and other great adventures.

What's a DESIGN DOC??!

Kellian Adams

PLUS: NEW GAME! Forest to Frigate at the USS Constitution Museum.

Sometimes we build games that are mobile, sometimes location based, sometimes both. But theres one thing that every game has in common and that is that it starts from a nice, clean, clear GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT!

So whats a Game Design Doc? Its a document that maps out how your game works. Some developers call it Specsor Design Specificationsor wireframesor even clickable wireframesbut the fact is without this document to work from, youll most likely design a handful of digital spaghetti.

HOW do I build a design doc??!you may say. Every designer comes up with their own process but here are 5 easy steps to getting started building a game design doc. Ive taken some handy examples from a really fun game we just released with Test Tube Games and the USS Constitution Museum. (And you should go there and play because its awesome!!)


You may say well this game doesnt need a design doc”… and you are WRONG! It doesnt matter how much you know this game. Or how simple it is. Or how tired you are. Or how much you hate paperwork. Make this document. Do itttt!



Even if youve already gone through this step, it doesnt hurt to write it out again and again. Once I have an idea of what my goals, resources and restrictions are, I like to nail down:    


  • Game Goal

  • Audience

  • Play Time

  • How do you win

  • How do you lose




This is really handy because if you and your team (or client, or future team if you're doing this along) disagree or misunderstand any of these things, you want to know now right at the beginning.


What is the actual map of how your user will walk through the game? It may be very complicated or it may be very simple but you should be able to sketch this pathway out on a piece of paper so everyone can see it. This is a great place to catch holes like what happens if…”  Use little circles and arrows to show the pathway, it isnt necessary to work through details here. 


Now you can work through the details. Where will things go? How will certain factors effect other factors and how can you make them work together? Remember a design document isnt the final thing, its the place where you work through all these challenges before you actually start coding things.



After going through this process, youll probably say to yourself- but what about X and why doesnt Y line up? This is really good! This is what youll talk to your team about after you send them this document and you walk through it and try and solve these problems.

So it’s not hard to do and its SO IMPORTANT! I like to use either Powerpoint or if Im feeling fancy and need a clickable wireframe (where I can click a design object and it will go to that link) I use Balsamiq, which is a great design tool. You can take a look at the initial clickable wireframes we had for the League of Extraordinary Bloggers game here.

If you play the game itself, youll see that a lot has changed- and thats GOOD! You want to change things in the design document, not in your actual game.

So if you take a look at this design document from the Forest to Frigate Game, youll see that it looks SUPER FUN, right?? Heres it is in Beta testing with Andy Hall from Test Tube games and Robert Kuhn from the USS Constitution Museum hard at work making it come to life in the exhibit hall. The next one is a crowd of people rushing in to play the new game!! All thanks to hard work from a bunch of people, which started with us all talking through a game design document. Huzzah for documents!! If youd like to see the final game design document, its right here.

And go to the USS Constitution Museum to play Forest to Frigate!!