Professional game design
The transition from 3D art student to 3D industry professional was like night and day. The transition from amateur game designer to professional game designer was also just as drastic if not more so. I was no longer taking vague gameplay ideas and stumbling to develop that idea into engaging gameplay mechanics. The professionals I worked with had a structure and process to game design that really opened my eyes.
From what I have learned, I believe that the process of game design happens in 4 different stages. The concept stage, the documentation stage, the implementation stage, and the play test stage. This is my overview of the process.
In the concept stage you build up the concepts and game ideas. Designers brainstorm on what the concept could develop into and how it would make a compelling game. This stage builds a lot of excitement because there are limitless possibilities to the potential games that designers can dream up. All that brainstorm gets refined into a game loop and extended game loops. The game loops illustrate the main flow, and extended flow of the game.
This stage builds on the game loop and extended game loops. I consider this to be the most difficult stage of game design. All the ideas from the game loops are defined in technical specification documents (tech specs), that define game mechanics in fine detail. Some gameplay mechanics can be defined in one tech spec. Others may need more than one spec if it is a complex mechanic that needs to be broken down into smaller mechanics. These tech specs are assembled in a Game Design Document (GDD) to serve as reference for anyone who needs a clear understand of what each gameplay mechanic does.
Game designers, artist, and engineers all work together in this stage to begin building the game. This is a very exciting step in the game design process as everyone on the project is able to see the game come together. This stage relies heavily on the GDD. Designers rely on the GDD to accurately convey game design ideas and game mechanics to engineers. Engineers build out tools and systems for designers to implement the gameplay, and content of the game. Artists create the art to populate the game world.
Play Test Stage
This is the coolest part of the game design process. Everyone works on refining the game. Artist polish the items,props, and environments and gradually renders out the game world. Engineers fine tune the systems. Game designers run through the game, testing it for content and gameplay. The whole game goes through refinement passes. If all goes well, the game as a whole goes to QA for final testing.
I hope you've found this overview to be informative. Now that you have a little break down, this all may seem pretty straight forward. But it did not seem so straight forward to me, until I started working as a designer. Now, even though the processes is clearer to me, it still requires a lot of hard work. A lot of talented and passionate people put a lot of time into creating a game. It is a fun and amazing process, and I love being a part of it. Thanks for reading.