Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Ok, I should probably keep my mouth shut...

...but...I can't in this case.

I check my blog log every day, just to see where folks are coming from before they hit my blog. I'm always interested to track down the obscure and no-so-obscure links that lead someone here. It's often times fascinating.

Well on this morning's perusal of the blog log, I find this. Click me!

It's a web address for a game design/game art class at the the Illinois Instititue of Art. Looks like they are/were studying game design docs (not sure when the link went up). And it looks like they've linked to the CALLING ALL CARS doc/post I put up last year as one example of a game design document. No issues there. I'm somewhat flattered.

However, I do take issue with a doc I co-wrote being included in the assignment when the assignment tosses out such gems, regarding design documents as:

"In case the in-class lecture on game design documents didn't convince you of their importance, you can read this Adams article entitled "Why Design Documents Matter."

Look, Earnest Adams may be a great designer, I don't know. Have not played any of his games (I've played some of the Madden football games he's provided video for however and those were great). But as many of you know- and as readers who read the post attached to the linked-to-design-document know, I don't think design docs are worth much anymore. You need 5-15 pages to get the concept across. And then little emails for the rest of the project sent to the folks who need and want to know the rest. None of the GOD OF WAR games had a game design doc and we did just fine.

Here's another quote I love:

" do not have time to produce a 67 page document, but here's what a GDD looked like in 1996. Sorry, they just keep getting bigger."

Says who? Who says that design docs just keep getting bigger? I think it's a terrible thing to tell future game makers that EVERY GAME game HAS to have a mammoth 250 page bible/phone book in order to kick start production. Do some? Sure? Do most? Not sure. Do All? Hell no.

And it's a downright lie to suggest that game docs keep getting bigger and it's just the way the biz is and that is how things are my experience they do NOT just keep getting bigger. They keep getting smaller.

My experience says that: no one reads one of those meaty fuckers, it takes TONS of valuable development time to write it, and it's a waste of several good trees. And game making is iterative. If you spend 4-12 weeks writing a doc, and THEN start production, within a week, a good 5-25% of your doc is useless because a programmer or artist or designer or janitor in the building had a, 'hey, what if we put this over here and make button X do this instead' moment and POOF! All that work you did is rendered useless.

But look, I am not suggesting the work, the design process is any different. You still should think shit thru on paper/white boards and with blocks/toys as much as you can...but that's for you, the designer, so you KNOW what your game is and so you can answer questions about it and so the team can build some faith in you that you are not making it all up as you go. And that design work occurs throughout the whole development process. If you sit and try to design it ALL up front you will miss out on the magic of production, the magic of iteration.

To me a design document is a roadmap at a very high level. It gives you the main highways and routes and even shows some of the individual side streets and interesting rest stops along the way. But it's not a Thomas Guide. And if it IS, I sure as hell don't want to take that road trip cause there's a good chance it'll end up taking me to someplace boring and dull and someplace I've already been 50 times before.

Later ya'll!


ps.again, hated to say something but damn, if you are gonna include a link to a doc I wrote and that link includes MY THOUGHTS ON GAME DESIGN DOCS that clearly contradict the person linking to me, at least acknowledge the difference of opinion on your page that links to me! Do not toss me into your philosophy and make me guilty by linksociation (hahah! See what I did?!? I made a new word! Man, I rock!)....

pps. I'm sure you will find many designers and teams who LOVE design docs. I know some of the GOD OF WAR team would have loved a design doc. No worries there. But link to them! :)

ppps. Not really upset, more annoyed/amused. I think it's great there are actual classes out there teaching game design! Yeah for us, our medium, and our industry.


Anonymous said...

Design docs scare me.
I want to be a game designer, but making a phonebook like your Darkguns thing scares the hell out of me.
I mean, I got a lot of ideas in my amazing memory, but making that book seems scary.

I dunno. What did Calling All Cars start with, as in the design docs, or did it not have one?

Anonymous said...

Also, can you give me a suggestion on what school I should go to/what classes should I take to steal your job?

Anonymous said...

Man, David, you're hilarious, I read your blog every day and it makes my day lol. I wish there were more people like you in the world, then we might actually get so many lame games .

Anyway, wow, i found your blog from you actually, you said "Read my blog at David-jaffe-dot-biz and here I am!, you need to do more videos man, its coool to see your actions and stuff you show us is cooooool :D

I am wanting to get into game industry, leaning towards game programming but, meh relating it to that documentation stuff u were talking about, everyone expects sooo much then you realize a lot of it is pointless and can be done simpler, easier and with a lot less wasted piece of paper. Everyones telling me I basically need to know the reason of life to become a programmer :( and know what einstines(sp?!lol) brain was made out of, SO SCARY!!

Keep it cool, hope you aint dien of cough any more.

Anonymous said...

i meant might not* lol what a bad mistake :( time for bed for me i think.

Anonymous said...

Hi David,
could you please write more often about being a game designer, about the gaming industry and stuff like that?

Yea, I know, it's YOUR blog and it's YOU choosing the topics, but please write about your job more often. It's just great the hear all your thoughts on the gaming industry. I'd really dig that.


(mood changes)

Concerning your last post:

WTF, you're doing your job for the money? I mean, if I had the chance to work in the industry, I'd even work without getting (virtually) paid. I'd even sell all of my belongings, leave my family, etc. to become a game designer and you're doing this for the fucking money? C'mon, that's a joke, isn't it?

I can't even imagine being a game designer for the money primarily . As a game designer you have to work for other reasons, such as self-expression and self-actualization.

Jesus Christ, fuck the capitalism!

Nathan said...

David, I tried to email your company and got a message undeliverable. Could you possibly get me a correct email address so I may get in contact with your jobs department?


David Jaffe said...

nathan, what email address did you use?

Anonymous said...

Hey david , Im a big fan of the blog and i enjoy reading it . I just want to thank you for being honest on your posts , because most people in gamer magazines just tell us what we want to hear to sell games . It's just rare to hear someone really tell it how it is and i really respect you for it . I cant wait to play your new titles coming out . i know this might sound kinda weird but do you think i could maybe get your autograph on a poster or something . well thank you for your time .

Nathan said...

I used

By the way you kick ass :).

Nathan said...

By the way I'm a long time reader first time poster. I've been a fan of your work since the first time I put my hands on Twisted Metal.

David Jaffe said...

Nathan- thanks for the very kind words! Appreciate it!

So wait, when you sent an email to that location it got bounced back?

Nathan said...

That's correct!

Nathan said...

Here is the delivery failure report:

Reporting-MTA: dns;
Received-From-MTA: dns;BAY101-W39
Arrival-Date: Wed, 2 Apr 2008 13:05:56 -0700

Final-Recipient: rfc822;
Action: failed
Status: 5.4.0

David Jaffe said...

That is cause you have 3 p's in there and not two :)

You have

it should be:

try that and let me know?



Nathan said...

Haha, I was about to feel really stupid making a mistake like that while inquiring for a job but that's actually what you guys have on your webpage!

Check it our for yourself :D.

I'll make sure to correct it and email it off again. Thanks!

Nathan said...

Looks like it went through.

Thanks again David!

Anonymous said...

Hi Jaffe.

About design specs and usability.

Why doesn't God Of War 2 have subtitles?

I love your games, but you gave me a hard time. My tv speakers suck.

Unknown said...

I can't say I agree with you on designs being a waste of time to maintain. But I think that comes down to differences in work style

The 'docs will get bigger and bigger' thing...well thats just silly. Personal/professional example

My first time writing a design professionally resulted in a 40-odd page monster.

My most recent design was 1 page.

The main difference is remembering to keep content and systems in different docs so you don't have to go search through 100+ pages to update that the rubber chicken is now purple instead of blue.

Renonymity said...

I believe you tracked down my IP. That's my instructor's site you found. Initially when we learned about GDDs, yeah they were bulky and intimidating as well. I personally didn't think we needed that big of document, but it was probably more of a "historic" reference. Also, I agree w/ some of these guys too. GDDs are only as big as we allow them to. Different strokes for different folks...or something like that.

Best of luck on your next game. Looking forward to hearing more info soon.

Anonymous said...

Hey, a student forwarded me your blog entry. It’s good to hear some emphatic argument about GDD’s. I think you read the content of the site out of context. I’d never teach my students anything contrary to iterative design and development. This content is provided for a prototyping course - one where we focus on iterative design and other practices.

If you continue reading, you will note that “the [60 page] document is closer to what [students] will have when the game is completed (Prototyping and Advanced Prototyping).” Why? Because the students are responsible for documenting their process, their intention and their decisions. Much of the practice for the student GDD meets pedagogical need and emphasizes the GDD as “a living document.”

I don’t believe a big meaty “fucker” is necessary. I believe big meaty design is necessary. If that means building a bunch of prototypes and obliterating them, series of emails, etc – I don’t care whatever it takes to make a great game.

If you read further you would note links to the Experimental Game Play project, 1 page game designs, paper prototypes, etc.

I’m happy to take down the link to your GDD. I supplied it because it balanced two opinions on the same topic. I’d prefer to have you in my classroom, discussing your take on design. Are you interested? I think my students would love to have you. I can’t promise any money for it, but when you do what you love . . . well you know :)

Lastly I’d considered linking to this response, but you claim I offer a “downright lie.” I never claimed it is “just the way the biz is and that is how things are going.” I can’t argue with you, because I don’t disagree with you. If I chose too, I could make an argument based on out of context claims like “a good 5-25% of your doc is useless.” I like what you have to say, and I love what you’ve done, but I don’t like being called a liar.

The bigger and bigger comment is simply out of context. If you include scripts, tech specs, media docs, etc the content documentation can increase. We roll that into a final doc, that gets the generic label of GDD in the class. It’s the collection of their game design decisions.

I’m just trying to promote honest and fair communication. I’m very serious about the invitation – come give a lecture - help and inspire future game designers. That’s all I’m trying to do.

Enjoy and keep blogging - it's a great resource!

Oh, and let me know if you really want me to take the link down. You can call or email me at the school and I'll remove it, or if you just want to talk about the industry and the needs of aspiring game designers. Thanks.

David Jaffe said...

Lindsay, would LOVE to come talk to your class! Need to figure out when I will be that way next tho. But yes, keep me in mind- I'm down for it.


Joel said...

i love that roadmap comparison


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