Making Design Documents!

  • Hi! I've discussed that I want to make a particular game someday and that I've started to make design documents. So far that has mainly comprised of making character profiles, making concept art, and writing essays on certain aspects of the game.

    I have a series of google docs that I'm keeping all this information in. This is what I've got in each google doc.

    World: About 2K words and 2 images right now. I've laid out space to detail the locations, culture, government, laws, fashion, language, religion, and entertainment of the world I'm trying to develop. So far I've fully written the descriptions for language, laws, and fashion, and illustrated one location. This is the aspect of the game I know the most about but because I've been developing my ideas for about 9 years now, there's a lot to write and draw and I haven't gotten around to transcribing all of it.

    Major Plot Points: This is a newer doc that I'm using to describe aspects of the story that will impact the characters significantly. It's got about 5K words and it covers the history and methods used by the main antagonists and the history and mechanics of an important religious symbol.

    Plot Resources: This is a bit of a mess to be honest. It just where I jot down any ideas I have for characters or the world that don't need to be written about in depth. It includes timelines of events for some characters, lists of pets for some characters, lists of quirks or habits that some characters have, lists of characters that make up certain groups or factions, and other miscellaneous information. I also listed things that I want to research further before I work them in to the story and things of that nature. This one is only 1.5K words or so, but it's mainly just lists and stuff.

    Gameplay Mechanics: This is the document that I change most often since my ideas for how the game works change pretty often. I know the 2 main gameplay styles that I want the game to employ, but other stuff like damage types and difficulty settings shift a lot. Right now I have a general overview, a summary of what I want the opening/tutorial to be, and part of the first chapter or arc done. It's about 2K words long.

    Playable Characters: This is where I write profiles for each playable character. Each profile is based on a template I made that lists things like their name, nationality, religion, gameplay styles, etc, and a brief summary of their personal history. I'll obviously have to narrow it down but I've got ideas for about 15 playable characters. 7 of them have complete profiles, and 8 have concept art.

    Resource Characters: This is where I plan to write profiles for every NPC. This one I don't have a lot done for. I haven't even sorted out how many NPC's I need, and I've only got like 7 NPC's named in my head so far. So, there's a lot of work to be done here. I have a template for characters here as well but with slightly different information, like what services they offer, rather than their gameplay style. I also plan to right brief summaries each NPC's personal history. So far I only have 3 profiles completed and 1 with concept art.

    In terms of concept art, I've done way less than I've written. Making a colored piece just takes me a lot longer than describing something with words, but since I've got a better idea of personalities and attributes than appearances, I think it's important to start work on visualizing characters. So far I've only fully illustrated one location with another in progress. I've done concept art for 9 characters, and one location's common apparel. I've still got a lot of work to do.

    The reason I'm making this blog is to record my progress throughout the year and try and keep myself on track. My hope for the year is to have concept art for every playable character, all of the plot important NPC's, all the different styles of dress for different locations/occasions, and important symbols. I want to make illustrations for all the important non-real world locations. And I want to finish profiles for every playable character and story important NPC. I want to flesh out the antagonists, the history of the protagonists as a group, and their relationship with the world. Anything else seems like too much to be realistic. In all I estimate that I'll have to do around 30 different pieces. I'm not going to commit to doing anything super detailed with character art because I don't have the time or skills for that. Right now I think I can do 5 characters or clothing designs per week. Location illustrations I can probably do one a week.

    So hopefully I can get all that done this year. I'm going to post here whenever I get something done to keep myself honest. So yeah.

  • So here's the first piece of concept art I've made this year. It covers the common fashion of one location in the game. I like the design of the clothing itself, but I'm not super sure about the colors. I'll think about it more over time and revisit it if I need to. I'm satisfied with how I translated the important lifestyle elements and ideals of the location in to the designs. But I'd like to do further drawings of specific articles of clothing and other stuff that impacts the way a person from that location might dress. I know that I am very bad at drawing men, so you might not even know from looking at this, but 2 of the designs are for men or masculine people. There are a lot of people from this location with lots of different lifestyles that require different styles of dress, but these 5 designs represent what you might see someone walking down the street in depending on how old they are.

    0_1515727327445_pipistrelle clothes forums.jpg

  • Hey! I just stumbled upon this while aimlessly browsing...did you happen to post to one of the recent showcases? It seems really familiar. Either way this looks really awesome!

  • @robbobwill Not super recently, I posted to The March showcase about starting to make this idea into an actual game. I wanted to submit for the April showcase but I was a few hours late and my submission didn’t make it into the show. Hopefully I can get it together for May, haha.

  • Gosh I haven’t updated this in forever. I have actually made more progress, just need to post about it.

  • @michemagius Hehe yeah, I guess that was a few months ago, wasn't it? I tend to let them build up and listen to them for background sound. It also sounded familiar because I've been playing around with RPG Maker for a month or two myself, but for me it's more because I really want to make a game but lack any kind of artistic skills. I want to dig into those plugins for instance but am struggling with the limited default assets to actually make anything.

    Anyways, hope you don't mind, but I just wanted to share from a fellow aspiring game maker.

  • @robbobwill Glad to hear from someone else who doesn’t hate RPGMaker haha. And there’s plugins for expanding the default size/amount of assets, so they might help somewhat. Plus I think the RPG Maker site has downloadable content to expand your assets.

  • I've only just seen this thread, great stuff!
    Here's some unsolicited advice from a fellow game designer!

    If you're working on a personal project like this try not to get too bogged down with writing a design doc. It may feel great to try and get everything down on paper first but things will quickly grow and change once you start putting the game together. Especially if it is your first project.

    In short: any documentation should be used as a starting point and not the final word.

    Using google docs is a great way to do it especially when you're breaking things down into separate documents like you are doing. But if you want to try something a bit more involved that will also help you prototype a lot of the mechanical and story stuff you'll be doing in RPG Maker I would highly recommend articy:draft ( There is a bit of a learning curve to it but it is an amazing tool for narrative and stat driven game design. You can work out all you branching and variable tracking for it well in advance and just being able to step through your story and scenes will help you refine it quickly.

    As for implementation do not worry about having the right or perfect assets in place right away. An early build that you can play from start to finish using the stock RPG Maker assets is far more valuable than a 10min slice of the game that you've put a year of your life into. But also take a look around the RPG Maker community online. There are loads of really powerful plug-ins available for it and all people want for you using them is a credit.

    I hope the above is useful to you :)

  • @thenerdtheword Thanks for the advice! That scripting program sound really cool. I think it will be useful for planning out the specifics of the battle system. I’ve got all the classes and attack types sorted out, but I haven’t got any hard numerical values yet. As you said the RPG Maker community is great. I’ve been fiddling with a lot of different plugins to see what I can accomplish with pre-existing plugins and what I’ll have to make myself. I actually made my first plugin last month. It’s.....mostly functional. And you’re totally right about the assets. I’m kind of in the set up mode right now where I’m just getting the systems that drive the game worked out, and I’m only using the assets that come with RPG Maker for my tests. I’ve been making art for a long time, but my art style is stupidly time consuming so I know that the drawing portion of this game will likely be the most time consuming. And because of that, I’d like to have the backbone at least mostly done, before I really commit to creating my own assets and importing them.

    I’m planning on making a video some time this week, covering some highlights of my progress over these past 2 months, for the Community Showcase. It will likely just be talking about my plugin, the plugins I’m currently testing out, and showing some concept art.

  • @michemagius awesome! I can't wait to see how it is all coming together :)

  • Alright! Got the video finished, so my submission should definitely make it into the showcase this time!

  • @michemagius Great! I'd like to see that as well. This is all really informative and making me realize I'm going about it kind of wrong myself. Sounds like the way to go is more writing, less staring at a default level and trying to figure out where to position default assets to make it look ok, like I've been doing? :)

    @thenerdtheword Hope you don't mind if I co-opt your advice? It seems quite helpful. :)

  • @robbobwill I don’t think there’s really a wrong way to do things. Whatever works for you is what’s best. I just benefit from having all my thoughts in one place so that I can refer to them while working.

  • Here is my Update Video for the Community Showcase:
    Youtube Video