GDC Europe

Bruce Shelley’s Five Rules/Steps for a Game Design’s First Draft

September 7, 2010 — by Vlad Micu

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GDC Europe

Bruce Shelley’s Five Rules/Steps for a Game Design’s First Draft

September 7, 2010 — by Vlad Micu


When Bruce Shelley tells you about the five most important steps on setting up your game design document, you start taking notes. The Ensemble Studios co-founder and current consultant for numerous game studios offered some valuable tips on drafting a game design document.

Step 1: Make a vision statement that grasps the whole essential idea together with “just a couple of pictures,” Shelley emphasized. “A history themed real-time strategy game for the pc that presents the rise of the first great civiliations on Earth by combining RTS game play from Warcraft 2 with the historical and economic features of Civilization,” read the original vision statement for Age of Empires in 1995.

Step 2: People should have a clear view on what to expect from the game. “Who does the player represent? What will the player be doing? How does the player measure success or failure? What are the first fifteen minutes to be like? They may be critical for acceptance.
With Age of Empires, people were enjoying themselves and wanted to know. The Wallstreet Journal reviewed the game and referenced to it as ‘digital cocaine’.







Step 3: Your game is great, because? “Get engaging compelling gameplay,” Shelley suggests. He referred to how Sid Meier sees games as a series of interesting decisions. “In your game concept, what are the interesting things that the player will do?”

Step 4: Make a competitor analysis. According to Shelley, more than 53 Strategy games were being developed during the first Age of Empires. Because most of them featured fantasy and sci-fi settings, Shelley explained Age of Empries stood out because “we were the only ones doing a history themed game.”




Step 5: The business case. “We’re making commercial art, not fine art,” Shelley reminded his audience. ”Repeat how your game is comparable and recognizable, but different, innovative, and a good value,” he suggests. “Show sales figures from competing games to support your case.” According to Shelley, the addition of an own marketing plan, though unusual to be made by game developers, shows potential publishers that you are devoted to the project. He also recommends developers to think of how to create a brand, opportunities for sequels or expansions, multi-platform deals, expanding upon another existing brand or any online functionalities. “Place your game into a larger strategy,” Shelley emphasized.




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Vlad Micu

Vlad Micu is managing editor of Gamesauce.org. He previously has been a freelance game industry professional for over five years and traveled around the world while running his company VGVisionary. Starting VGVisionary during college, Vlad was able to work independently as a pr & marketing consultant, event manager, industry journalist, speaker and game developer. He just returned from Bangkok, Thailand, where he pursued his dream of making video games as the game producer at arkavis, an up and coming casual game studio.

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