A Easy Format for Archiving Design Choices

Earlier than beginning manufacturing on Nanotale, we took the time to prototype numerous typing sport concepts. When prototyping, you might want to concentrate on what you need to check and run by it as rapidly as doable. There is no such thing as a time to doc every little thing. However prototypes don’t at all times converse for themselves. (Generally there's no playable development to maintain, like the times after I examined interactive dialogs by enjoying NPCs and chatting with Slack with a colleague, and we'll come again to that.) So we wanted a method to archive what we’ve realized from every. iteration, in a simple to jot down and skim format.

This can be a widespread drawback of design documentation. How you can maintain a document of the selections that led to a design as it’s? It’s fascinating to maintain observe of earlier iterations, to overview the evolution of a design. However extra importantly, it's a waste of time if one other designer (or your forgetful) makes adjustments that recreate an issue already solved, just because they have no idea the story behind that call.

For all these causes, I used to be searching for a handy method to hyperlink every characteristic to the decision-making course of that led to it. It needed to be fast to jot down and skim as a result of if we had to return and skim a number of paragraphs of the story, everyone knows that no one will do it. Certainly, somebody has already proposed an answer, proper?

Sadly, I didn’t discover something associated to sport design. The outcomes I discovered had been instruments to maintain observe of programming design choices within the code, as plainly programmers want an analogous answer for related causes. Finally, I discovered a analysis article on an experimental software designed to current design decision-making in a easy approach. It gathers "determination parts" coming from completely different sources (code annotations, UML diagrams of the designers …) and organizes them visually in a hierarchy, within the method of factors. In the event you'd prefer to study extra concerning the technical particulars of their software, see the doc titled "DecDoc: A Instrument for Documenting Collaborative and Incremental Design Choices" (Hesse, Tom-Michael and Kuehlwein, Arthur and Roehm, Tobias 30-37 .10.1109 / MARS.2016.9)

I used to be impressed by their presentation. It’s transient, the icons convey a which means that doesn’t must undergo the textual content. If you take notes, only some phrases are wanted. It's nice for what we wish. Right here's an instance of what it would appear to be for sport design:

☝️ We’d like X to present a Y gaming expertise

✔️ No different sport makes X

⚠️ A side of X could also be too costly

🔑 could also be restricted to a couple occurrences

🔑 We will strive the completely different approach Z as a substitute

⇒ Give Z a check to resolve

How does this have an effect on W?

And here’s a concrete instance of the prototype of the dialogue system I used to be referring to within the introduction. To provide a little bit of context, it was a check for a tap-based branching dialogue. Typing the highlighted key phrases would advance the dialog concerning the topic of the chosen key phrase. The sport check challenged the concept of ​​having secret key phrases that the participant may sort himself, which they’d have realized from one other NPC.

We took some sorts of generic icons from the unique supply and added extra as wanted. Right here is the whole record of icons we’ve:

☝️ Apply

Let's say …

👉 Overview

We already know that …


Uncertainty to unravel or to outline

🛑 Downside

That is / creates an issue / inconsistency


It sounds dangerous and is probably not enjoyable / possible


This drawback will in all probability come later

⊕ Intention

The explanation for a choice or a design


factor that may be developed

🔑 Resolution

Proposal for an answer

💡 Concept

Proposal for an extra characteristic

✔️ Argument for

Argument in favor of

Argument in opposition to

Argument in opposition to


Further info


Last determination of what we do

All icons are primary Unicode emojis and never pictures to save lots of time and guarantee full compatibility. The notes centered on every prototype have been pasted into Slack for the entire studio and now you can see an instance on this article with none further work. They’ll additionally all be drawn rapidly, not less than in giant strokes, for use when taking notes with a pen and paper.

Once we went into manufacturing and determined to make use of a wiki as a design doc, we introduced the system of icons to it. The wiki software that’s made to transform => to ⇒ has been modified to additionally change: thought: in . Right here is one other instance, taken from the wiki web page, about the usage of "mana" to solid spells.

We ended up utilizing these icons to rapidly add "work in progress" notes to our design paperwork. The commonest is the concept icon ( ), used every time we need to add an thought to an current web page for later overview. The issue of ) – answer ( ) identifies the issues and options to be evaluated every time we will take the time to redefine the performance. The intent icon () was added later, particularly for the wiki, to justify the aim of a characteristic.

Recreation design paperwork are in a consistently evolving state of labor, evolving throughout growth. They’re typically out of date in comparison with the final modifications when you should not have anybody devoted to it (which isn’t the case of our small group). The software and the format we use to jot down them ought to help it. With our system, every time we see a dot with an icon, we all know that the knowledge is at all times a part of an ongoing dialogue. Different members of the group can belief what’s written as a result of what’s unknown or unsure can be documented. The design course of is clear within the paperwork.

Sooner or later, this method will evolve a bit like a brand new language. On the one hand, including the icons we want, and alternatively, eradicating these that aren’t used to keep away from litter. The present record might be a bit lengthy. Now that I’ve instructed you every little thing, I wish to know if this method might be helpful to different folks or if there are different options.

Thanks for studying.