Specifications for Game Design

Having worked on only mini games, I know first hand creating a game can be a huge undertaking.

Creating solid technical specifications is a crucial part of the whole process. They provide an opportunity to make objectives and constraints explicit during the phases of design, construction and use. The specifications can become a pragmatic list of concerns that the game designer should address during the construction of the game. The objective is to delineate constraints and expectations for the project and also to raise and address specific questions that anticipate the conditions that will govern the design and use of the exercise. The responses, if carefully delineated, provide detailed specifications at the outset of construction against which the final product can be evaluated. Hence, it is important to consider each of the design steps and to anticipate what specifications will be required to ensure that the design process progresses smoothly.

I find that specifications should spell out the chain of command, project management procedures, budget and financial arrangements, deadlines, critical dates, personnel arrangements, procedure for reporting changes, deliverables, sign-off authority, and similar concerns. Ground rules should be established for the circulation of reports (who receives them, confidentiality concerns, deadlines for response, etc.). Clarity and completeness here will contribute to a smoothly run project.

Particular care should be given to the financial resources available for the development and use of the exercise. The budget for the project should be specified separately for each of the major phases: setting the scene, clarifying the problem/challenge, designing the solution, developing the solution, and the implementation activities.

From experience, final game costs often exceed initial estimates, particularly when precise goals are not stated and approved by the client before construction begins. Similarly, the cost of using a game may vary greatly. With costs so difficult to estimate, it is incumbent on the client and designer to agree on what resources will be made available during construction and for normal use of the game. A product may have reduced utility because the unit cost per run is beyond the capacity of the organization to sustain. If each use of the game has a new set of participants and/or a new game facilitator, the cost will be high. In those instances where the game will be used frequently by the same highly trained facilitator and where audience characteristics are consistent, the cost of each run will drop markedly.

Allocation of time is no less important than dollars both in the development and use of a game. The time required for the development of a game will be the product of the clarity with which the problem has been stated, the appropriateness of gaming for the problem, the clear specification of goals in the concept report, and the range of skill and experience of the game designers. Task Scheduling and great Project Management is required (timeline for the project design, construction, testing); this demands the identification of critical due dates.

These notions are intended to suggest a reasonably comprehensive set of questions that the client and designer should specify before a game is commissioned. Since each game is to fill a specific need, these thoughts can only be used to prompt a careful search of conditions appropriate in a particular context.

Finally, specifications should be signed off by the Key Sponsor before beginning construction of a game.

Published by theirishduck

I love the ability where I can plan, prioritise, design, develop and deliver blended learning solutions for a variety of markets. I love to consult and advise about the best use of digital learning and improve design standards in line with evolving ways of working. I also enjoy to keep up to date with, understand and regularly recommend emerging technologies and practice to improve individuals, teams and organisational capabilities. With over 12 years digital learning experience and demonstrated experience in both instructional design and eLearning development, I have also a lot of experience conducting training needs analysis including how to leverage principles such as design thinking and root cause analysis to understand and address performance gaps. I also have led many facilitation workshops and even presented at iDesignX and Game Developers Conferences both here in Australia, Wales and in the United States. I bring loads of coding experience in Java, ASM, C++, HTML, JavaScript, SCORM and xAPI, as well as proven capability using Adobe Captivate, Trivantis Lectora and Articulate Storyline 360 Studio authoring programs. Of course, Adobe Creative Cloud is also part of my toolbox which I also use daily. Being taught traditional and advanced 3D animation techniques, I love hand drawing and polymer clay sculpture, but can also use the Blender, 3D Studio Max, Maya and Softimage applications. With strong multimedia, training and programming backgrounds, I understand modern learner behaviour including micro and social learning, I am very familiar with most LMSes and app-based (XCode and Android Studio), adult learning models and e-solutions. I also possess the ability to manage multiple projects simultaneously, whilst being pro-active in delivering work independently with minimal supervision, but enjoy working in teams. I've been told I am a resilient, relationship focused guy which can manage and navigate conflicting views and stakeholders/subject matter experts.

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