Let’s talk about #workflow

Before I start, here's a little bit about my background. When I started with my game design ventures when I was 19 or 20, I wrote pages and pages top down without no real plan och goal. I had at that time been a creative person for my whole life, was deemed an artistic child kid at a young age and was put into art schools. But I had never had any appreciation shown for my writing skills at that time, and I had never found any joy in writing either.

In the times before desktop PC's and digital publishing tools with only a Xerox available through a friends dad, we did early prototyping, layout, and design without knowing it. A calligraphy set spurred out creativity, so we practiced old style hand lettering. We did headings we cut out and glued on top of hand-drawn decorated character sheets to Rolemaster and other games we played. Stuff like that. But as roleplaying was my main hobby from the age of nine (and also my greatest motivator for drawing), writing to various games came without me noticing it.

I started like most other game designers I guess, creating my world with the biggest, baddest, coolest elements I could imagine. I may have written some 300-400 pages in the project over those years, adding on new layers of detail and areas to explore, drawing maps, and elaborating metaplots. In turned out like shit, or at least very shallow, when judging it today. But it was very defining, in terms of creativity and writing speed. I learned how I could explore an idea while writing, get stuff done, and move forward. I wasn't only a person being able to draw and create something visually, I created substantial amounts of texts, with meaningful content (albeit shallow and quite dull).

Current Production State

Since then I have been writing, almost on a daily basis. I have a little less time available since we had kids, but still a fairly decent amount. Over the last few years, I have refined my processes through the projects I have worked on, as well as my selection of tools. At the moment, I'm currently developing two games that take up all my time, Anomalis and Iron Facets, but have about three or four more projects waiting on the drawing table. Game design is my passion, but like most other creatives I struggle to focus my energy. Two projects are what I've come to realize is optimal for my well-being and production rate, even though it might slow the work speed somewhat. Two allows me to switch context when I hit a creative wall.

I use tools I can use every day, everywhere, when I get a slot open. As I have limited time dedicated to game design, I do some of my work when commuting, during lunches, and in the late evenings after the kids are asleep. On a good day, I make some 2 to 4 hours, a less good about one hour.

Workflow

Design Tools

To maximize my productivity, I use the following tools;

  • iPhone/Mac Notes (iCloud synced even to my work PC)
  • Google Docs
  • X-Mind
  • Various online dictionaries and thesauruses
  • Adobe Creative Cloud
  • I'm currently evaluating Affinity products to substitute Adobe's

Workflow Process

On a high level, my workflow process when working alone looks typically like this;

  1. Conceptualizing whatever I want to do by taking notes on whatever medium is available
  2. Iterate the notes in digital format over a day or two
  3. Structuring up the content with keywords
  4. Keywords are then turned into indexed headings in Notes
  5. Headings are transferred to Google Docs, where the creative writing proceeds
  6. Content created in Google Docs are edited from feedback, mostly from the service's built-in commenting system
  7. The material is edited and refined over many feedback cycles, sometimes through complete restructurations
  8. The content is then transferred to a desktop publishing environment, like Adobe InDesign or Affinity Publisher for basic layout
  9. Graphics are produced in Adobe Illustrator or Affinity Designer and integrated into the DTP environment

Later on, I'll probably do a post about my design process. Drop a line or comment here if you have any questions or want to know more.

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Christian Svalander

A forty-something Swede with beard, wife, kids, cat, and just recently, dog (in that order). During the daytime, I work as a design consultant, with a background as a user experience and type designer, art director, illustrator, and writer. During nighttime, my ventures include game design, previously for Swedish games, but more recently my own in English.

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