Week Spring Break: Process Research - Let's Get Organized!

Though I’m really enjoying developing this game, most of my work the past four weeks has been diving in and figuring it out the process as a I go. Blogging here is a useful dumping ground for concept notes, prototype descriptions, playtest observations, and evaluative insights, but it feels messy (bordering on chaotic at this point) and not efficient for reflective planning moving forward. I decided to do something about it.

Fortunately, I met a Parson’s Design & Tech student a couple of week’s ago who suggested that I look up her professor, John Sharp. Turns out that Sharp co-authored a book with another Parson’s professor, Colleen Macklin, called, Games, Design and Play: A detailed approach to iterative game design. It’s all about the details of the iterative game design process and provides a structure for managing them, which is exactly what I need right now!

After reading the book this weekend, I put together some planning documents: a Game Design Document and Playtest Schedule (my terminology).

My Game Design Document captures an overview of my game, including descriptions all the core elements and values. It’s a document that I can turn to over and over again to revisit my concept after evaluating playtest results. It includes:

  • The Game’s Title

  • Catchphrases

  • Gameplay Description

  • Goal

  • Design Values

    • Experience

    • Theme

    • Point of View

    • Challenge,

    • Decision-Making

    • Skill, Strategy, Chance, & Uncertainty

    • Context

    • Emotions

  • Basic Elements

    • Number of Players

    • Game Objects

    • Rules

    • Scoring

    • Winning

  • Interface & Controls

  • Game Flow

  • Art Direction

  • Technical Overview

My Playtest Schedule (screenshots above) helps me keep track, in an ordered way, all of my past and upcoming playtest events, including the type of people involved (e.g. friends, game developers, or new players), description of the prototypes, the mechanics I tested, my playtest observations / feedback / insights, as well as my questions moving forward. The general outline for each playtest is as follows:

  • Description

    • Type of Playtesters

    • Date

    • Location

    • Participants

  • Prototype

    • Type

    • Description

    • Questions (I’m asking)

  • Information (the answers I received)

    • Gameplay Notes

    • Visual & Audio Feedback

    • Bug (if using a technical prototype)

    • Comments from Playtesters

    • My Observations

    • Ideas & Next Steps

    • Type of Documentation

The good news is that I developed an inkling of all of these considerations over the past few weeks, but it certainly it feels satisfying to name them and organize productively. Onward!