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Blog: A simple format to archive design decisions

The next weblog submit, until in a different way famous, used to be written through a member of Gamasutra’s neighborhood.
The ideas and evaluations expressed are the ones of the author and now not Gamasutra or its father or mother corporate.


Sooner than beginning manufacturing on Nanotale, we took a while to prototype quite a lot of typing gameplay concepts. When prototyping, you need to focal point at the issues you wish to have to check, and iterate on them as rapid as imaginable. There is not any time to report the whole thing. However the prototypes don’t all the time discuss through themselves. (Infrequently there’s no playable construct to stay, just like the time I examined interactive dialogs through performing because the NPC and speaking thru Slack with a colleague. We can get again to that.) So we wanted a strategy to archive what we realized from each and every iteration, in a structure that will be fast to write down and browse.

It is a not unusual drawback of design documentation. How you can stay an account of the selections that resulted in a design as it’s? It’s attention-grabbing to stay a hint of earlier iterations, to seem again on the evolution of a design. However extra importantly, this can be a waste of time if any other dressmaker (or your forgetful self) makes adjustments that recreate an issue that has already been solved, simply because they’ve no wisdom of the historical past at the back of that call.

For all the ones causes, I used to be searching for a sensible strategy to hyperlink each and every function to the verdict trail that resulted in it. It had to be fast to write down and to learn, as a result of if we need to return and browse more than one paragraphs of historical past, everyone knows nobody will do it. Indubitably, anyone already got here up with an answer, proper?

Unfortunately, I may just now not in finding anything else associated with sport design. The consequences I discovered have been gear to stay observe of programming design choices in code, as it sort of feels programmers desire a equivalent resolution for equivalent causes. In the end, I discovered a analysis paper about an experimental instrument made to provide design decision-making in a easy method. It gathers “resolution parts” from other resources (code annotations, designers’ UML diagrams…) and organizes them visually in a hierarchy, like bullet issues. If you wish to know extra in regards to the technical main points in their instrument, it is known as “DecDoc: A Instrument for Documenting Design Choices Collaboratively and Incrementally” (Hesse, Tom-Michael & Kuehlwein, Arthur & Roehm, Tobias 30-37. 10.1109/MARCH.2016.nine)

I took inspiration from their bullet issues presentation. It’s transient, the icons put across a which means that doesn’t have to move thru textual content. When taking notes, only some phrases are vital. It’s nice for what we wish. Here’s a made up instance of what it will possibly seem like for sport design:

  •  We want X to offer sport enjoy Y

And here’s a actual instance shape the prototype of the discussion device I used to be alluding to within the advent. To present a bit of of context, it used to be a check for a typing primarily based branching conversation. Typing highlighted key phrases would make the dialog pass ahead at the matter of the selected key phrase. The playtest challenged the theory of getting secret key phrases the participant may just sort through himself, that they’d have realized from any other NPC.

We took a couple of generic icon sorts from the unique supply and added others as they have been wanted. Here’s the total checklist of the icons we now have:



Let’s admit that…



We already know that…



Uncertainty to be resolved or outline



That is / creates an issue / inconsistency



This turns out dangerous and will not be a laugh / potential



This drawback will more than likely arise afterward



The purpose at the back of a choice or design



A excellent factor that may be advanced



Proposition of an answer



Proposition of an extra function


Argument for

Argument in want of


Argument in opposition to

Argument in opposition to



Additional info



Ultimate resolution of what we’re doing

The entire icons are fundamental unicode emojis and now not pictures to realize time and make sure complete compatibility. The bullet level notes of each and every prototype the place replica pasted into Slack for the entire studio, and you’ll be able to now see an instance on this article, with out further paintings. They are able to additionally all be drawn temporarily, no less than in vast strokes, for use when taking notes with pen and paper.

After we entered into manufacturing and determined to make use of a wiki as our design report, we ported the icon device to it. The wiki instrument this is made to transform => into ⇒ used to be changed to additionally exchange :thought: into . Here’s any other instance, taken from the wiki web page in regards to the intake of “mana” to forged spells.

We ended up the usage of the ones icons so as to add fast “paintings in development” notes in our design paperwork. The most typical is the theory icon (), used on every occasion we need to upload an concept to an present web page for later overview. The couple drawback () – resolution () identifies issues and answers to guage on every occasion we will be able to make the effort to revamp the function. The goal icon () has been added later, particularly for the wiki, to justify the aim of a function.

Sport design paperwork are in a relentless paintings in development state, evolving all over construction. They’re steadily out-of-date from the newest adjustments should you would not have anyone devoted to that (which, on our small workforce, we don’t). The instrument and structure we use to write down them must fortify that. With our device, on every occasion we see a bullet level with an icon, we all know that the guidelines remains to be a part of an ongoing dialogue. Different workforce individuals can believe what’s written as a result of what’s unknown or not sure could also be documented. The design procedure is clear within the paperwork.


Sooner or later, that device will evolve a bit of like a brand new language. In a single hand through including the icons we want, and within the different hand through doing away with those that aren’t used to keep away from cluttering. The checklist as it’s now’s more than likely a bit of too lengthy. Now that I’ve advised you the whole thing, I would like to grasp if that device may also be helpful to others, or if different answers exist.


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