Media Design Documents

I was surprised to find out how little information there is about Media Design Documents on the web. I posted the following for my prototyping students.  They prototyping a game in 22 weeks, following a rough version of a game company’s production cycle:

Media Design Document

The Media Design Document or MDD is your opportunity to specify the artistic expectations of the games. It’s similar to a packing list before a big trip. You are trying to identify all the visual and audio assets that will be created or purchased for the game. Like much of the documentation in the game development and project management world, the Media Design Document does not have a set format. At the minimum, here’s what the document should contain:

  • A list of all art (2D art, 3D models, environments, etc)
  • A list of all sounds
  • The relationship of those objects to the game

One of the benefits of the media design document is that it helps to clarify your design document. Once upon a time games were built by little teams and the experience could be spec’d in a neat little document. The art might have even been created by the same person who coded the game and perhaps authored the sound and music. As you know this isn’t true anymore. For some, large AAA teams putting everything about the game into a single design document is too much. Instead the content is divided into a few logical parts:

  • Design
  • Art
  • Development

This is similar to the pattern maintained by other software projects. In website development, for example, there might be a business spec, a development spec and an asset spec. In both cases, there might also be one person responsible for each high-level focus. The game design would be responsible for the Design Document, the Art lead for the MDD, and the development lead for the development spec. The titles and specific of jurisdiction change, but the general concept is the same.

As current cross-company research indicates it is not practical to expect to spec the entire game at the start. As you now, designs change, technical hurdles happen, and the world changes quickly. Trying to do so is like trying to create a packing list for every conceivable situation. What’s most reasonable is to plan to the best of your ability and understand there is a slight margin of error. At least we hope the margin of error is slight.

For your media design document you must answer the basic questions:

  • What assets will I need for the scope I have determined?
  • Can I re-use any of those assets (e.g. retexture the same models for variety)

You will follow the media design document with a rough Art-Pipeline. We will talk more about the Art-Pipeline in the following week, but here is a preview of what you will be working toward. If the Media Design Document is your packing list, the art-pipeline is your road map. It is a workflow document for integrating all your assets and specifying how those assets should be authored (e.g. texture sizes, polycounts,etc)

The rest of the content is here

About admin

Lindsay Grace is a teacher, software developer and designer. He has served industry as an independent consultant, web designer, software developer, entrepreneur, business analyst and writer. Lindsay has a joint position between Miami University’s Armstrong Institute for Interactive Media Studies and the School of Fine Arts. His research areas include human-computer interaction, creative and critical gameplay, and web design. He writes regularly about interactive media design and education.