ALICE RENDELL

GAME DESIGNER
KOBOJO
About me
Computer Game Design University of Wales, Newport
IDGA GDC Scholar 2008 First from the UK

Game Designer Almost 5 years
Worked in Paris, France Over 4 years
Have a black cat called Echo Named a Zodiac character after him

SOME GAMES I’VE WORKED ON

Released 2009

Released 2012

Released 2013

3M MAU at peak

500k MAU at peak

100k MAU at peak

18m total installs

4m total installs

2m total installs

4.8 star rating

4 star rating

4 star rating

PROJECT ZODIAC

Hitoshi
Sakimoto

• Online JRPG

• 2D Side-scrolling
• Turn-based
• East meets west
• International team

Kazushige
Nojima

WHAT I WILL TALK ABOUT TODAY
Game Designer Roles
• The spectrum of game designer jobs – from level to system designer –
and what companies will expect.
Game Design Documents
• Macro, micro, UI, content and process specifications.
Approaching A Brief
• When given a brief how to dissect, research, then present ideas.

GAME DESIGNER ROLES

THE SPECTRUM OF GAME DESIGNERS
GAME DESIGNER

Scenario
Writer

CREATIVE

Concept
Designer

Mission
Designer

Level
Designer

Systems
Designer

Balance
Designer

TECHNICAL

SYSTEMS DESIGNER

• Define gameplay systems
• Global rules
• Core game loops
• Core game design

A systems designer is in charge of designing the core game
loops and their mechanics. It is more a technical designer
position and deals in raw gameplay.

BALANCE DESIGNER
• Balance gameplay
• Mathematical formulas
• Data analysing
• Mirco design
• Battle formulas
• Loot

A balancer will be in charge of tuning and balancing the
systems in the game. This can include skills, loot, enemies,
currency etc. They will mostly deal with formulas and
spreadsheets and direct in-game testing.

LEVEL DESIGNER
• Design a level
• Build a level
• Puzzles
• Enemy spawns
• Player flow

A level designer is the architect of gameplay for a single
level in a game. They design in physical space as well as
design puzzles and balance enemies.

QUEST/MISSION DESIGNER
• Gives objectives
• Expands on story
• Guides player
• Provides short-term goals
Quest or mission designer will design short-term objectives
for the player. This can be optional or incorporated directly
into the main flow of the game.

CONCEPT DESIGNER
• Creates initial idea
• Develops game idea
• Pitches game
• Writes GD Document
• Writes most specs

A concept designer will help create the initial idea for a
new game. It includes brainstorming the idea and
communicating it to the rest of the team via presentations
and specifications. It is a very difficult and rare job to get.

SCENARIO WRITER
• Developing characters
• Developing story world
• Write the game story
• Write the backstory
• Write dialogues

A scenario writer is in charge of the game story. This involves
developing the characters and story world. On smaller games
they may also write the dialogue, if not they will give
direction as to how the dialogues should be written.

GAME DESIGNER

A little bit of everything…

OTHER TYPES OF DESIGNERS
• Monetization – Designs the currency system and monetization features
• UI – Designs the user interface
• Puzzle – Focuses on puzzle design within the game
• Multiplayer – Skilled in design for multiplayer games
• Social/Online – Experience in online games and/or games with social features
• Combat – Focuses on real action combat design

DESIGNER’S HIERACHY EXAMPLE
Creative
Director

Lead

Lead

Lead

Designer

Designer

Designer

Systems
Designer

Level

Senior

Designer

Designer

Story

Quest

Game

Writer

Designer

Designer

UI
Designer

Balancer

Junior
Designer

BIG COMPANIES vs SMALL COMPANIES
Big Companies

Small Companies

• Specific role

• A little bit of everything

• Niche

• Crossover positions

• Team of many designers

• Only one

• PRO: Many others to learn from

• PRO: More influence

• CON: Cog in the machine

• CON: You’re on your own

ZODIAC’S DESIGN TEAM
Ben Skelly
Design Director

Kazushige
Nojima

Scenario
Writer

Alice Rendell

Emilie Uyttersprot

???

Game Designer

Level Designer

Balancer

QUESTIONS ABOUT
GAME DESIGNER ROLES?

GAME DESIGN DOCUMENTS

TYPES OF GAME DESIGN DOCUMENTS
• Game Design Document
• An overview of all the main features of the game
• Macro Specs
• Any spec which communicates a concept idea/feature

• Micro Specs
• A detailed document explaining every aspect of a feature
• Content Specs
• A list of content needed for a feature with details and references
• Process Specs
• A document outlining the internal process for implementing a feature

GENERAL TIPS
• Determine who you are writing for
• Be visual

• Bullet point
• Don’t repeat yourself

• Link to relevant parts
• Iterate (and version docs)

• Be prepared for lots of feedback

HOW TO WRITE A GAME DESIGN DOCUMENT
• Outline all the features with bullet points
• Illustrate each point visually – with wire diagrams

• Break it up into sections and chapters
• Your are communicating concept not behaviour

• Not the place for story and characters
• This doc will be massive – don’t expect everyone to read it!

EXAMPLE

MACRO SPECS
• Summary of a specific feature
• For other designers/managers
• Be visual – with wire diagrams
• Bullet point
• Do not include detailed behaviour (these are for micro specs)
• Communicate the concept and idea only
EXAMPLE

MICRO SPECS
• For programmers and QA
• An expansion of the GD doc
• One doc for each main feature
• Include UI mock-ups
• Detail every behaviour
• Think about every possible player action and consequence
EXAMPLE

CONTENT SPECS
• For artists
• List of items
• Details
• References
• Be specific
• Leave room for artists
EXAMPLE

PROCESS SPECS
• For everyone

• For using internal tools
• Process of production

• Be visual
• Step-by-step (think IKEA!)

QUESTIONS ABOUT
GAME DESIGN DOCUMENTS?

APPROACHING A BRIEF

THE BRIEF
PLATFORMS
PARALLAX

JRPGs
STORY
PROGRESSION

ART STYLE

CHARACTER
MANAGEMENT

VANILLAWARE

DnD

MMORPG

We need a 2D side-scrolling RPG
with turn-based battles based on the
theme of Zodiac.
JRPGs

ANIMALS
SIGNS

SKILLS

TACTICAL
TEAM
MEMBERS

MONTHLY
CYCLES

SOCIAL
GROUPS

ELEMENTS

RESEARCH

ORGANISING IDEAS
1. Standout points
2. Summarise clearly with all team members
3. Small spec for each idea






Overview: Key points/features
USP
Technical feasibility
Commercial potential
References
Pros/Cons
Conclusion

ANALYSING IDEAS
Idea

USP

Technical

Marketability

Market
Competition

Pros

Cons

(1=few,
10=many)

(1=many,
10=few)

Personal
Feeling

Total

Idea 1

5

8

6

4

6

3

6

38

Idea 2

8

5

8

3

9

6

8

47

Idea 3

10

4

6

8

7

5

8

48

Idea 4

3

7

8

6

8

4

7

43

Idea 5

6

4

5

7

5

8

6

41

Idea 6

9

6

5

9

7

9

3

48

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

Idea (in one sentence)

Summary

USP

Key points/features

Engine

Business Model

Art

References

Game in a glance



Gameplay
Business
Art

2 pages

1 paragraph = each section

Bullet point (where possible)

PITCH

Be confident in your vision

Believe in your idea

Only macro details

Pre-empt questions

Have a glossary

Always listen to feedback

Know who you’re pitching to

ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT
APPROACHING BRIEFS?

ALICE RENDELL
GAME DESIGNER
KOBOJO
Email: arendell@kobojo.com
Twitter: alicemrendell
Blog: madhatterandalice.com
Zodiac: zodiac.kobojo.com

QUESTIONS?