We did have a game design document (GDD), although greatly lacking. We never did get around to creating a technical design document. We did have an art/sound asset list separate from the main game design document but it could have been fleshed out a lot more.
- gameplay mechanics
- concept art (if any)
- level design
- UI / controls
- asset list (including a list of sound assets including music if any)
- functional prototype if possible
Having a game design document that was fully fleshed out from the beginning would have helped us immensely in numerous ways.
The game design document would help me immensely as the narrative lead on the project as all the information pertaining to the characters and story would have been in one document: making it easier for me to keep track of the overall plot, who the different characters were and how they should come across in their letters. Attaching samples of the letters in the design document in hindsight would have been a wise idea since I would only need to refer to one document instead of three different documents. Having it all in one place could have saved me a lot of time when I needed to reference a letter sample to ensure I had their writing style and format correct, ensure I was following the story and delivering it in the letters. This most likely would have saved me time which could go into proof reading the letters carefully, instead of finding typos as I was editing the gibmanager to type 1500+ gibberish words and ensure they had the same punctuation and capitalization as its unique English word counterpart.
The main benefit that I see for having a proper game design document during the development of Acclim, would be that instead of having to ask Matt all the time for a new task to do when I had finished my assigned task, I could simply refer to the game design document to see if there was anything else that needed to be done. Or simply put, we would have a clearer idea of the tasks that needed to be done instead of figuring it out as we went along.
Having an art bible would have been immensely helpful, not only for us but for our collaborators who worked with us for the model and UI assets. The art bible would have shown what we were envisioning or taking our inspiration from. A showcase of the art direction/style we were looking for. This was the biggest complaint that our UI collaborator (Kavinthra Joseph) had as I was discussing the project with her via Skype, she had many questions I simply could not answer despite my best efforts. There was simply not enough information or details for her beyond very broad and general descriptions. If there was proper documentation, it would most likely have answered all of her questions regarding the project and being able to see the art direction we wanted to go in.
Having a robust asset list would aid our collaborators from animation and audio students (if any had agreed to work with us). It would provided the entire listing of the assets whether it was 3D models for the apartment to fit with the steampunk world we had envisioned or sound effects from the audio students when the player interacts with different objects in the apartment (e.g. flipping the light switch on, opening the fridge). This would allow them to know exactly what we needed and their purpose in the game.
The final documentation we were missing is the technical design/tech specs documentation (TDD). This document is for the programmers working on the project focusing on the technical aspects the project requires. The tech document should have information such as the core game mechanics and how the different mechanics interact with each other (e.g. gamepad support, interaction, gibberish language system). With this documentation, programmers can see exactly what systems the game needs and create the scripts needed for the game to function.
Having the technical design documentation would narrow down exactly what core functions the game needed. This would have aided Matt the most when he took over the role as programmer, where he could have simply referred to the document instead of having to read through his various code scripts to try to decipher their purpose. Combined with the game design documentation, we would have realized earlier that our project was over scoped for two people to accomplish despite the fact we did manage to finish it in time for the student exhibition. If we had realized it was over scoped, we would be able to adjust the scope and most likely meet all our deadlines.