Game Dev Mentoring - Design Documents


In this blog, I talk about my process of setting up a games development course for a student I've began mentoring 1 to 1, and the process of helping him make a design document for a game which he wants to make.

Published on November 21, 2021 by Amy Elliott

Mentoring Game Design

9 min READ

This is a legacy post, ported from my old portfolio. If you notice a mistake or a bug, please report it here.

When I was a student back in high school, the subjects I had to learn were the usual English, French, Math, Science, etc. One of my favorite subjects during school had to be IT, or any subject involving technology. These courses didn’t really cover much though, and they definitely weren’t a core subject in the school I attended. In these IT classes, we did lessons on e-safety, how to use tools like Excel, and that sort of stuff. When it came to picking my GCSE subjects, I decided to pick Computer Science, and this was interesting! These Computer Science lessons mainly consisted of learning about how a computer’s internals work, and a very basic version of how data is transferred over the internet.

With how much the world is changing, and how much more reliant we are becoming on technology, I feel there should be more technology-focused courses at high school level.

I did a lot of drawing when I was younger, and I really wanted to do art as a job, but I had no idea what I wanted to do with my drawings, and I had no idea what I wanted to do for my future at that point. Had I known how creative the games industry is, and how many different roles there are within it, I would’ve taken an interest much sooner than I did! My younger self would’ve absolutely loved someone to tell me this! – So, with the mentoring and volunteering I’ve been offering, I hope to at least help one student who is in the same position as I was back in school.

As you can probably tell from the blog title and description, I’ve recently taken on a student named Thomas to do 1 to 1 mentoring in games development (Don’t worry! I’ve asked for his permission to post this!) - and the reason I’ve done this is that I want to improve my teaching skills!

In my time in the games industry, the senior and lead programmers have helped me out with any issues I’ve been having with my code and been really great mentors, and so I think doing something like this would help me out when I become a senior or lead programmer one day!


Setting Up A Games Dev Course

Setting Up Course

As this is the first blog in the series of blogs I’ll be doing on my 1-to-1 mentoring sessions, I thought it would be good to talk about how I’ve organized and set up everything!

The main objective for all of this is for me to help and guide students to making the games that they have always dreamt of making! Going through the entire process of a game’s development from start to finish, to see if any of the processes are things that the student enjoys doing!

From the image on the header, you can see I’ve structured the course in a way to cover lots of different things! And although I haven’t had a job in some of these areas, I’m able to give a basic introduction to them as I have worked in them when making gamejams, and college/university projects, and I’ve also talked and worked with many people in many different roles to learn about their day-to-day life.

I’ve also made it so the student can pick what routes they wanted to take! So, for example, from doing the Game Design Document, they can choose to learn about art or design for their game first! And once they have completed one, they have to complete the other on the column before they move onto the next row.

Each session is online (because of covid!) and runs for an hour. I set objectives for each session so we have something to work toward!

Course Setup


Ideas Generation

Before me and Thomas even began making a game design document, we needed to know what he wanted to make!

For the first few sessions, we were doing ideas generation, and for this, he showed me his favorite games on Roblox and he pointed out his favorite mechanics within them, we also talked about his favorite hobbies, and looked through pictures on Pinterest, talking about what he liked and disliked about them, and from that, we had a long list of things that he liked!

From this list, he made up a few ideas of games that he wants to make:

  1. Prop Hunt: You become props and you blend in with the surroundings.
  2. Super Roblox 64: You go and explore and find Robux (Like stars in SM64) to unlock worlds.
  3. Roblox Skating in the Unity Engine: You skate around the world and just have fun.
  4. Roblox Parkour: Explore cities and level up and make your avatar.
  5. Bloxikin Universe: Build your house/shop and explore the universe.

All of these ideas (except 3) are games that he wanted to make in Roblox – Which is great! As this isn’t something I’ve programmed in, so it would be a great opportunity to learn the Lua programming language.

In the end, Thomas picked the Prop Hunt idea.


Researching Other GDDs

So Thomas had a better idea of what Game Design Documents are, and what is in them, I found some Game Design Documents online to show him!

We went through a GDD for An Ants Life, one for a game titled Pierre, and a few others. And from this, we talked about what he likes from each of these, and why he thinks they’re important for a game to have.

I made a template for Thomas to use for his own GDD which had everything which he needs for the game which he wants to make.


Making The GDD

When making the Game Design Document, he started by writing words, and bullet points for each written section in the document, it’s good to do this as it allows us to think about the overall design without thinking too deeply into each section.

Starting off with the Game Overview section, me and Thomas had to discuss what exactly he wanted the game to be, as we knew it was a prop hunt game, but that was all at this point, so in this section, we had a look into other similar games and tried to talk about what their objectives were, and what features they had, and what we thought their target audience was, and so on… and with this information, we wrote down his ideas! From his ideas, we began to add to the Game Overview section.

Firstly, he wrote an introduction. For this, Thomas wrote about what the game is inspired by and a rough idea of how the game would play. And in relation to this, he began to break down in more detail what the game is like by writing the objectives and features of the game, we made this more like an open conversation, trying to imagine the game and what he would want it to be like.

Then we discussed what we think the genre of a prop hunt game would be, in the end, he decided on a third/first-person multiplayer, adventure and stealth game.

We then discussed what platform this would be on, and as he wanted to make a Roblox game, this would mean the game would be on Roblox.

And then we discussed the target audience, he ended up deciding it would be for younger children and teenagers of both genders, as that is Roblox’s general audience.

And for the last part, we broke down the primary game mechanics in more detail.

GDD Process

The next section was the Product Design, we had to figure out what style and themes he wanted his game to have!

To help us with ideas for visuals and themes, we thought about the story, by going back to the list we made for the ideas generation, he was able to pick out a few things which he liked and made them into themes for each of the prop hunt worlds in the game! When he had an idea of this, I looked through google images with him, and he found some images he liked the look of for each of the worlds he wanted in his game.

As well as ideas for what he wanted the worlds to look like, he found some pictures from Roblox games he liked the style of.

To write about the Player Experience, we went into a game of hide and seek on Roblox, and I asked him to tell me words about how he was feeling when he was both the hider and the seeker, we came up with a long list of words about the players experience when playing hide and seek, and then he began to write about how he would like the hider and seeker to feel whilst playing his game.

We didn’t really get to finish looking into what audio he wanted in his game, but he managed to find some Mario music which he liked, so I put them on the document for him.

GDD Process 2

In the end, he ended up with a really strong Game Design Document for his prop hunt game! And I’m really excited to help him make this game!

Throughout the game’s development, we will be adding more to the Game Design Document as this won’t be the final version of it.


Conclusion

I’m really enjoying my time helping out Thomas with designing and making his game! It’s helping me learn how to develop my teaching, confidence, and speaking skills, and it’s been good fun to cater every session toward his interests.

I’m happy I’ve helped Thomas learn more about games development!