Design Docs: IC Character Case Studies

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I recently posted a challenge to game designers to share more of their documentation, so academia had more examples to learn from. And then I posted an Outline of Game Documentation, with some high level descriptions of different types of game design documents. Time for me to share some!

Previously I shared a bunch of character specs from Infinite Crisis. These were finalized spec documents, representing the end point of a long iterative design process before production on the character began in earnest. This time let’s look at some of the documents that I wrote as part of that design process.

Pipeline

The design pipeline for these characters looked something like this, with documents generated at each of these steps:

A soimple flowchart that shows a linear progression:
Kickoff to Iteration toFormal Spec to Redesign

The "iteration" bubble has two sub states with arrows point back and forth, "design kit" and "feedback".
  • Pre-production:
    • Kickoff: Brainstorm possible directions and major themes or fantasies for the design, pick 1-2 to pursue.
    • Kit Iteration:
      • Design Kit: Design a potential “kit” – set of skills and abilities – for the character. A character always went through at least 3 major design revisions before entering production.
      • Feedback: Feedback occurs at all points of a character’s developments, but we had formal review meetings as a design team to look at the potential kits and share feedback in person.
  • Production:
    • Formal Spec: Once a kit was greenlit, the formal spec that we’d use to help guide production – asset creation, engineering requests, etc – was written. Enormous amounts of iteration may occur during production, but it usually either isn’t documented or the spec is updated.
  • Post-Production:
    • Redesign: Some characters, after hitting alpha or beta stages, would go back to the drawing board for major iteration outside the scope of balance tweaks.

Case Studies

Superman

Superman was one of the earliest characters I designed. His design process went pretty smoothly, despite the high stakes! I couldn’t locate a copy of his final Spec document, but there are plenty of process docs here.

A lot of these “brainstorm” docs also include written notes from the previous feedback session.

StageDocumentExt.Type
Pre-Pro. Kickoff Notes.txtMeeting Notes
Pre-Pro. Kit 1 Skills Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 1 Kit Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 1 Proposals.pdfPitch
Pre-Pro. Kit 2 Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 2 Proposals.pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro. Kit 3 Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 3 Proposals.pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro. Kit 4 Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 4 Proposals.pdf Pitch

Supergirl

Supergirl also went smoothly, but she did have a small post-production redesign where we revisited her skills again long after she’d finished production.

StageDocumentExt.Type
Pre-Pro. Pre-kickoff brainstorm.txtWorking Doc
Pre-Pro. Kickoff Notes.txtMeeting Notes
Pre-Pro. Kit 1 Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 1 Proposals.pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro. Kit 2 Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 2 Proposals.pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro. Kit 3 Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro. Kit 3 Proposals.pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro. Kit 4 Proposals.pdf Pitch
ProductionDialog Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
ProductionSupergirl Spec.pdf Feature Spec
Post-Pro.Supergirl Redesign misc notes.xlsxMeeting Notes
Post-Pro.Supergirl Redesign Proposal.pdfPitch

Lex Luthor

Lex was a mess: we didn’t have a clear character fantasy or gameplay direction. His first design, as a tank class, went through most of the design process, got finalized, and then tossed out entirely. We replaced that with a wholly new direction as “blaster” class (ranged AOE/nuker). And even the blaster version of Lex had a small post-production redesign!

StageDocumentExt. Type
Pre-Pro.Tank Kickoff Notes.txtMeeting Notes
Pre-Pro. Tank 1 Kit Propo
sals
.pdfPitch
Pre-Pro.Tank 1 Kit grid view.pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro.Tank 2 Brainstorm.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro.Tank 2 Kit Proposals.pdf Pitch
ProductionLex Luthor Spec (Tank).pdf Feature Spec
ProductionDialog Brainstorming.txt Working Doc
Pre-Pro.Blaster Kickoff notes.txt Meeting Notes
Pre-Pro.Blaster 1 Kit Proposals.pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro.Blaster 2 Kit Proposals .pdf Pitch
Pre-Pro.Blaster 3 Kit Proposals .pdf Pitch
Production Lex Luthor Spec (Blaster).pdf Feature Spec
Production Passive Balance Analysis.xlsxAnalysis
Post-Pro.Blaster Redesign Proposal.pdfPitch