GameDev Protips: How To Be A More Effective Game Designer
When you think of game design, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the act of implementing ideas and mechanics. However, the core of great game design is organization. Understanding and using the right tools for the job. All game designers need to be able to use spreadsheet software, such as Excel. It’s a must-have, as many designers can simply pull data straight from Excel into their code. If you’re hardcore enough, it would behoove you to become familiar with scripting capabilities and data dependencies in order to make the process flow smoother. Another great tool that most designers can use is Microsoft Visio. It’s pretty good diagramming software that creates flowcharts and schema in order to map out your game. If you’re working with external programmers, having everything mapped out will dramatically reduce the chances of miscommunication as well.
And then there’s Photoshop. Where would we designers be without this wonderful tool? Not so much used for the “photo” aspect as it is used for mock-ups and iterations of a designer’s vision. Think about it, when a designer creates any visual for their project such as a start menu for instant, it first has to be created in a sufficiently powerful image editing software. You don’t need to know anything too fancy about Photoshop. But at the very least, you should know how to use layers, create text, and export files into various formats. This should get you well on your way — if you do end up needing more advanced editing done, consider hiring a freelancer if someone on your team cannot help.
Lastly, you might need a physical whiteboard (or a virtual one like Trello). This is especially crucial if you are working with a team. There will be so many ideas and so many iterations of those ideas you cannot help but to put everything on a big board so that everyone can see and comment. Perhaps you could even take pictures of your white board by the end of every meeting and then upload them to your Google drive. That way, your entire team will have access to the meeting’s discussions and you all will be able to brainstorm ideas for the next meeting.
Actionable Takeaways: Get proficient at the basics, and get organized. Much of the design process begins with ideation, so it’d be in your best interest to be able to use organization tools as effectively as possible. Most of your ideation process may include images, spreadsheets, and perhaps even pivot tables — you’ll want to be easily integrate these functions into your document and easily transfer these documents to other team members as soon as possible. A good game designer is an organized game designer, so double down on what counts. Seek to improve your spreadsheet skills, photo editing skills, and white-boarding skills.
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Thank you so much for reading! I’m Daniel, Co-Founder of Black Shell Media. We’re a publishing and marketing firm dedicated to helping indie developers succeed.