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  • Four Ways to Write Your Design Docs

    [05.05.09]
    - Tim Lang

  •  Microsoft PowerPoint

    I'm not sure if anyone is actually using PowerPoint to design games, which is a shame. I've been experimenting with it, and it's actually quite handy. Because it's designed for presentations, it's got most of the functions designers need built right into the program. It's got a fairly robust version of Excel built in for creating spreadsheets, charts, and graphs. It's totally easy to add images to it, and it's really easy to make the document look awesome. You can even embed videos and animations into it. How totally awesome is that?

    There are some downsides though. To keep the thing from becoming unwieldy, you have to break out your designs into separate presentations. Storing all those and linking them together can be a pain.

    Pros

    • easiest to edit (WYSIWYG)
    • easily integrates with excel
    • keeps designers from over-writing on their designs
    • presentation format helps design understandability
    • easy to make look cool
    • usually keeps designs short and sweet (just how executives like it)
    • tons of cool built in features like animations, charts, etc
    • can embed videos

    Cons

    • not everyone is familiar with it
    • requires PowerPoint software to view (not commonly on systems)
    • can be bulky if all designs are in a single file
    • can be messy if all designs are in multiple files
    • no built in source control or history
    • can only edit if you have access to original file
    • not available online
    • single user editing
    • no method of including separate presentation into a single presentation

    Google Docs

    Google docs is a relative newcomer in the field of design docs. Like PowerPoint, I don't know of any companies that actually use any of the Google Doc suite to write their design docs. It's definitely got some things going over Word however.

    First, it's online, which means you can edit it from any computer with a network connection, and the files are stored remotely. This can be bad if the network connection goes down, but it's a lifesaver if your server closet burns down! It's also a suite of tools, including a presentation program, and a spreadsheet program. Both are functional, albeit a little harder to use than Excel or Power Point.

    On the downside, the security of your files might be questionable, since the data has to travel through the internet to get to the actual location they're stored at. t's also not searchable outside the document (just like Word) so if you're looking for a specific line of text in a bunch of different files, Wiki's got all these others beat hands down.

    It's WYSIWYG, but not quite as sophisticated as Word. I haven't used it for any kinds of lengthy or complicated documents, so I don't know how well it performs tasks like importing images or other formatting tasks that Word does with ease.

    Pros

    • available online
    • full suite of tools
    • stored remotely (fire won't destroy your design)
    • can print from anywhere
    • can export to a variety of formats
    • used it to write this blog
    • can be shared with others

    Cons

    • not as sophisticated as Word
    • security might be questionable
    • not searchable
    • opening and saving may be time consuming for large files
    • unsure about multiple users editing at the same time

    So that's about it!

    That's the end of my overview of GDD tools. Hopefully I've given you some insight or alternatives to what you thought you HAD to use. All four of these have their strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately, if you're starting a project and are looking for design tools, you need to weigh these pros and cons and decide for yourself what works best for you and your team.

    For those of you who are knee deep in your production already, what do you use? What do you like or hate about it?

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