Drop the GDD and Just Get Moving

in Tutorials

WRITER’S NOTE: OK, I’m going to clarify some things before I start, so I hopefully don’t have to answer questions in the blog comments that are completely misconstruing what I’m saying:

A. If it works for you, and you are getting things actually done. THIS ARTICLE IS NOT FOR YOU. This article is directed at people who are procrastinating in preplanning in lieu of actually making their game.

B. GDD is not synonymous with all planning notes. You can have a story outline/storyboard and skillcharts without having a GDD.

C. I am not advocating no planning. I actually say that in the last section, but I’m going to put this up here, because apparently some people commenting never got that far.

So, I know I’ve talked about the wonders of planning before, but today, I’m going to talk about something a bit different.

First, Let’s define something:

What is a Game Design Document?

A Game Design Document is a huge collection of how everything in the game works, concept art, dialogue, etc that is used in the Video Game industry to organize things so that a large team can coordinate their efforts to create a game.

Why is it useful?

Well, I mean, if you have a team of 100 people working on a game, having one big bible to refer back to is a great idea. It lets you easily make your work coincide with your coworkers’ work to make a cohesive idea.

Why do RPG Maker users sometimes seem obsessed with it?

This one is a good question! I can offer conjecture, but it wouldn’t apply to everyone. I, myself am a compulsive planner. So that kind of thing comes naturally to me. Some people just want to feel like a pro game designer, and they’ll mimic the ideas even if they don’t understand the reasons it exists. Either way, GDDs have kind of developed a status in the RM community at times as a really good idea.

I’m going to respectfully disagree. And here is why:

You are not a Team

Okay. On this one, I may not be 100% correct. Some of you MAY be working in teams. But let’s look at the reason these exist in pro game studios: To make sure everyone is on the same page.

If you are working on a solo project, or even a small team of 2-3 people, this just isn’t necessary. You should know what page you are on! Even with a small group of people, its more about clear communication than having everything planned out and written to death.

You are not as Experienced

Okay, once again, there are exceptions. But, in general, RPG Makers aren’t the most experienced game makers around. That isn’t an indictment! That is saying that a lot of us are on the beginning of the journey, or are just hobbyists who don’t take the whole thing so seriously.

As Helmuth Graf von Moltke said “No campaign plan survives first contact with the enemy”. You can plan all you want, but are you SURE that you can do the things you are planning? Is it too big, does it not work in the program the way you thought? How much of this are you going to need custom scripts for? Can you make those yourself? How much time would you need to create all that art you are implying is needed? Can you do it at all or will you have to rely on a friend?

Planning during the process of making the game lets you build around what you have, skills you have access to, and adjust to the time you have available.

You are wasting time!

As I have established, the main purpose of the GDD is to organize a large group of people. Since we don’t have that, all you are doing is procrastinating actually making your game. Get moving. Figure out what works and doesn’t work IN process.

“So are you saying I shouldn’t plan at all”

OH NO. Oh, no, no, no. Planning is awesome. Everyone should be planning. Write down notes, think about what you are doing before you do it. The difference though is that you don’t need a large organized bible of everything in your entire game before you start. All that is doing is delaying you starting from actually making the game you want to make.

Planning isn’t making. Its good, but alone it gets nothing done.

Get moving. Open up the program. Make that game guys.

Think I got it all wrong? Maybe you just agree? Maybe you are just as prone to planning procrastination as I am? Join the conversation in the comments below.

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