The Deep Blue: Design Document

The first step in creating a new game is to describe your world and how it works. The way you do this is with a Design Document, often referred to as a Bible. Here you put down as much information as you can muster. Laws of physics, geography, culture, legends, history…it all goes in here. Some or most of it may never be visible or directly apply to the game. It’s there so you know how to implement everything. The information directly influences the design, code, and gameplay.

The Deep Blue is to be a casual, browser-based game of sea piracy on an alien world. The first step to make it happen is its design document.

There is no single way to write a design document. For The Deep Blue, there are two primary sections: The World, and Gameplay. The World describes the planet’s (Dema) place in the universe, its geological history, appearance, natives, technology, and more. Gameplay describes the technical specifics, like crew experience, combat mechanics, weather, navigation, and the passage of time.

For now, the document is only text and data tables. Sketches and sample art will be attached later. This is not just an encyclopedia describing this particular universe, it will also be the style guide. Here’s a sample section from an early draft:

1.1    Water

On Earth, water covers about 70% of the surface. On Dema, it’s closer to 95%. Overall, the planet has roughly half the albedo of Earth. Fortunately it’s further from its sun so it doesn’t overheat. The sun is smaller and less bright in the sky, and the air never gets above comfortably warm (though it can be cold). The water itself is very warm globally. Hypothermia is only possible on the rare tall mountain peak in winter. Animals’ vision is adapted to the lower light level, partly into the infrared bands, and perceive “normally”. A human being would find it very dim, and pitch black at night. It’s never too dark for a Deman to see.

The source of the water is comet impacts early in the planet’s history. The result is a giant freshwater ocean. The water is mineral-rich, but not particularly salty, and is drinkable by all creatures. There are a few small pools or lakes on some islands that have only rainwater. This makes them exceptionally pure and valuable.

The water has a faint teal color, caused by the plankton and other small creatures that live in it. Shallow water looks almost crystal clear, but at greater depth the opacity adds up.

Generally speaking, this document is not for public consumption. This means it doesn’t need fancy formatting or polish; it’s only for internal use. The key is that it is informative.

I’ve learned from experience the trouble you can get into trying to write code first and sort out important details later. So this time, info first!