George Broussard on Duke Design
George Broussard recently got involved in a discussion online regarding "design docs" for computer games, and let the world in on a bit of the behind the scenes thinking about the development of Duke Nukem 3D. Here's what he had to say..
Let me tell you about design docs. Duke 3D didn't even have one. We did stuff as we went, adding bits that were cool and discarding ideas that didn't work. Look how the game turned out. All we had was a vague notion that the game would be based in a future, seedy LA. The rest came from a dynamic development process.
Duke Forever has substantially more on paper from the start because it's a much more cohesive and large game. But people that write 300 page design docs before hand are wasting their time. The game design process (for most) is an evolutionary process. You refine and re-design as you go, learning and making things better.
It's insane to write a 300 page docs, then just make the game. There is no way you can think of every cool idea before you make the game and you have to be flexible enough to roll with the punches and add and refine ideas as you go, all according to the timeline.
Speaking from our experience, design docs are merely a general guideline that gets more and more polished as you go. You just try to stay 3-4 months ahead of things as you go. The design doc isn't done until the game is.
Also bear in mind that 3D action games are not that complex. They have bad guys, guns, items and level locations. Not exactly rocket science, or something needing 300 pages.
If you'd like to read more about this, check out 3dnews.net's collection of postings about this subject.