Due: Saturday, March 19th at 11:59 pm
A good game should have a well-defined visual style. The visual style should not conflict
with the gameplay; this is a form of
ludonarrative dissonance. In
addition, if your team has more than one designer, they should not be creating designs
that conflict with one another.
This is the motivation for the design specification. This is a specification that
gathers together all of the influences to your game, so that we have a good idea about
how your game is going to look. In addition, it is where you specify some important
rules with regards to presentation and file formats. That way, the programmers will know
what they will be working with long before they receive the assets.
While we have been wanting to introduce this document for a while, this is a brand new
document this year. That means that we have absolutely no examples to show you. However,
it also means that we will be fairly lenient in grading it. You must still follow the
(particularly regarding bullets). But we will not be so harsh on the content. If
you are confused about what we are looking for, please talk to
The Design Specification
The design specification is a document that describes a vision of the details of your
final product, much like the
Indeed, these documents are very similar because they have the same audience; they are
both internal documents written to allow team members to break-up and work in isolation.
The primary difference is focus. The gameplay specification focused on game elements like
mechanics and challenges. The visual specification focuses on art style, sound, and other
This document should have a lot of visual imagery in it. Some of the imagery should be
your own, but a lot of it will be from other sources. We want to know what influences
you, so be honest.
Because this document is visual, we want you to use slides for easier formatting. However,
you should us good writing practices all the way through. This document has many of the
same features as a concept document, but it will be significantly longer. In particular,
you should cover all of the topics that we mention below.
For lack of a better word, you should organize these topics into chapters. A
chapter is a collection of one or more slide pages that all address the same topic.
For example, in the concept document, many of you used more than one slide to talk about
your game mechanics. This was a chapter. You do not need to explicitly call them
chapters; it is just a way to think about your organization.
The first slide should list the team name, the game's name, and a list of all team members.
It should clearly indicate that this is the design specification, and not the concept
The linked slide is an excellent example of a title slide taken from a 4152 group this semester.
Notice that it is clean and simple, but has an image that invokes the style of the document.
High Thematic Statement
We want a cohesive statement describing how the team wants the game to look and feel. Do
not write an essay; rather, write enough so that anyone who reads the statement will have
a good understanding of what you aim to achieve as designers. Include in your statement
the general vibe of the world (e.g. "the game Dash is portrayed in a mystical,
Oriental-themed universe") and the feelings you want to evoke (nostalgia, adventure,
comedy, etc.). Of course, this may have changed somewhat since earlier documents; this is
expected and welcomed because it demonstrates a maturity of the team's vision of the game.
This statement should be a single slide with a single paragraph of text. Do not use
bullets for this slide.
Inspiration and References
Art styles hardly ever evolve form from nothing. They are influenced by other art or
games. We want you to identify to those influences. These slides are meant to be
largely visual collages, though we would like you identify the source of each image.
You should have slides that address the following topics. Any screenshots or pictures
taken from sources should be cited. Hyperlink citations are acceptable.
You should create several slide pages that will include collages of pieces from different
art styles you think will best portray the game. These slides will be inspiration slides,
setting the mood and tone for the team to work from. We recommend you put multiple images
on one slide so you can compare styles and see how they can fit together. We do not want
to see just pictures, so explain your points. For example, you may like the lineart
from one artist yet the coloring of another, so you could put both of them on the same slide
to do a side-by-side comparison.
Group these slides by themes that you find appropriate; for example, you may have a couple
of slides that show what "dreary" means (because "dreary" in Call of Duty is
different than "dreary" in Cursed Ghost).
The linked slide is an excellent example of a mood slide taken from a 4152 group this semester. There
are only two images, but they clearly represent the idea. In addition, there is a lot of
text explaining how to interpret the images.
The linked slide is an another example of a mood slide taken from a 4152 group this semester. Note
the descriptive text to one side and the images cleanly arranged to the right.
Another major portion that influences the feel of a game is sound. In this part of
the slide deck, link clips of soundtracks that best support the game. Try to find
royalty free music or have someone create a soundtrack; this is important, because when
it is time to put sound in your game, any copyrighted material used in Showcase is a
breach of academic integrity. For now, however, feel free to collect and link any music
and sound effects that serve as inspiration. Copyrighted material can be placed here for
reference but make sure to not use it in-game.
When posting links, please use descriptive hyperlinks instead of raw links. This allows
us to click on a link if we want to listen. It also allows us to judge right away whether
or not it is important to click on the links. With each linked example, explain which
parts are the pieces you may use as inspiration, and how they apply to your game.
The linked slide is an excellent example of a sound slide taken from a 4152 group this semester. Note
that there is a lot of text explaining how to interpret the sounds. In addition, each
image is a hyperlink that we can follow.
In the last set of inspiration slides, include include slides that reference photos for
your art assets. These include photos of animals, environments, poses, and objects. It
is highly suggested that these be real images rather than drawings because with drawings,
as sketches from other artists (not you) insert a design or interpretation layer between
the real thing and your game. For assets, it will be best that you interpret subjects
yourselves, within the team, rather than creating an interpretation of an interpretation.
We also suggest you group images together by subject such as feet references, cloud
The format of the photos pages should be similar to the mood pages, mixing text with
images. Please provide citations and/or references for each image that you have taken
from an outside source to avoid copyright issues.
This next section is all about outlining the development of the art style for this game.
These slides should describe the specific tools needed for developing the game's style.
These slides could be bulleted text, but we often prefer proper paragraphs, as those
are easier to read. Art is nice, but you will have a chance to show off some of this
style in the next section.
Since foreground elements have to stand apart from background elements, what colors
palettes do you plan on using to differentiate the two? Will there be different color
schemes for different worlds, if there are any? Use a well constructed set of
sentences, along with images, to showcase your ideas.
Is there a type of brush that all characters will be created with? Or is the style you
are going with going to be flat or 8-bit? Will you have hard borders with no alias, or
soft borders? Making sure all artists have the same photoshop brush, for example, can
help make the game's style feel more consistent.
Animation styles can vary widely, too, in the level. Some animations styles are very
exaggerated and cartoon-like while others strive to be more realistic. For this section,
please provide some gifs or frames that inspire you as you move forward with the animation
process. Again, these can be taken from others and do not have to be your own, but you
should always give credit in this case.
The linked slide is an excellent example of an animation slide taken from a 4152 group this semester.
Instead of using gifs, they composite several frames together to make the animation
visible in a static image. This works a lot better in a PDF format.
There are only so many things that games have in common with each other. Games need to
differentiate themselves in some way more than just through the gameplay alone. Games
rely on the combined ability of programmers and artists to add extra bells and whistles
that will augment the vision of the game or give players a "wow factor" that they have
not seen or heard before.
Due to the importance of these features, you should be thinking of all the additional
things that will be added to the game. Some examples are as follows:
- Parallax backgrounds
- Lighting and shadows
- Electricity arcing throughout the environment
- Rain and wind effects
- Music (if it is not a core feature)
In this chapter identify which additional features (if any) will be present in your game.
For each feature, you should identify whether or not it is purely cosmetic or whether it
will affect gameplay. You should also identify the division of labor between programmers
and artists to complete this feature.
These slides should be largely text (not bullets) describing the additional features,
though you are welcome to add illustrations (either yours or inspiration) if you like.
The linked slide is an excellent example of an additional art style slide taken from a 4152 group
this semester. In this slide, they talk about their style for layering and composing images.
In order to plan out designs, characters, and worlds, designers will create early
throw-away concept art to convey ideas and designs quickly without putting in the same
effort as a final design. Although this type art may include early sketches, it still
should be polished; early concept art is often used to persuade others (or maybe the team
itself) the world/character/direction is attractive and feasible. Concept art should be
a detailed exploration of two or three possible directions your game can go in.
Please include any early concept art for character/background/elements that have been
developed at this time. Concept art does not have to be, and really should not, be used
in-game. This slide or slides should be a mixture of images and text. The text should
note any special details of characters/backgrounds/elements, as this will help with
consistency within the game.
The linked slide is an good example of concept art taken from a 4152 group this semester.
Notice how they have a variety of images, with text discussing how they related to each
User Interface Design
Concept art does not need to be limited to character or environmental assets.
Understanding the user interface is equally important. A user interface is anything
that is not within the "game world" that players must interact with. This is any HUD
element, such as a health bar, map, or menu screen (such as level select or pause).
The user interface should have a similar art style to the game; however, it stands apart
from any in-game element. It can be weird to have an 8-bit menu in a photorealistic game,
so it should keep to the overall style and feel of the game. However, menu elements
must be clearly defined from avatars and monsters. The user interface is important for
the overall experience of the game, since players will almost always interact with
interfaces before playing (e.g. the main menu).
As part of your concept art, please include mock-ups of what you expect the user
interface to look like. Captions are an essential part of this section too.
The linked slide is an good example of a user interface slide taken from a 4152 group this
semester. This is a just a simple loading screen, but the text makes clear why this slide
is so important.
Creating art and sound is fine and dandy, but unless it can be used by the game, it is
meaningless. Programmers must be able to put in your assets into the game, and they
cannot do this without knowing some specific details.
For each type of art asset, give the technical specifications of that file or group of
files. Types of art assets include but are not limited to animations, tessellating tiles,
backgrounds, sounds, and UI elements. Please do not go more specific than this for now.
Remember, more restrictions placed on art asset formats actually make it easier for
programmers to be able to use them.
The technical specification slides should be entirely text, arranged as bulleted lists for
each file type. In describing the file format, you should answer the following questions:
How should the programmers use this file in the game?
What is the file type and extension?
What are the sizes (pixel) for the most common art assets? Is there a standard size?
What are the layouts of spritesheets? Is each animation its own image or are they combined?
Do certain color channels mean anything specific in image files?
Are audio tracks meant to crossfade or loop? How do you differentiate?
How is the volume level of individual audio tracks normalized?
The linked slide is an solid example of a file format slide taken from a 4152 group this
semester. The bullet organization could be better. However, the information on this
slide is very detailed and exactly what we want.
Putting it All Together
As we said before, we want this material presented as a slide deck. The chapters
should be arranged in the following order. Understand that each "chapter" does not
have to be called that, but it should be clearly labeled. Each chapter may also contain
more than one slide/page.
- Opening slide/page
- High Thematic Statement
- Chapter 1: Mood
- Chapter 2: Sound
- Chapter 3: Photos
- Chapter 4: Art Style (Color Scheme)
- Chapter 5: Art Style (Lines)
- Chapter 6: Art Style (Animation Style)
- Chapter 7: Additional Elements
- Chapter 8: Concept Art (including User Interface)
- Chapter 9: File Formats
This means that there should be a minimum of 11 slides. However, you are encouraged
to submit more.
Due: Saturday, March 19th at 11:59 pm
This might be an ambitious document to do in a week. Remember that you do get multiple
submissions of this document. However, we highly recommend that you submit as close to
a finished document as you possible can. Not only will that guarantee the most amount of
feedback, but it will also help your group understand your vision very early on.
You should submit a PDF file called design.pdf
containing all of the information above. We ask that the file be a PDF so that we can
annotate it in order to return it to you with feedback for possible revision. It is fine
if you create the document in a program like Microsoft PowerPoint, but you should convert
it to PDF before submission. The most important thing is that hyperlinks should remain
"hot" so that we can click on them when we review your document.