Skip to Content

Suggestions for a Better GDS Submission (from the archives)

18 replies [Last post]
Brykovian's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008

As part of the lively discussion I've been having with Grimfinger about the GDS 800 word limit, I came across this golden thread back on the previous site forum:

Very good stuff in there ...


Joined: 07/24/2008
Thanks Bryk. My 10c on the

Thanks Bryk. My 10c on the word count issue:

Please keep the flexability - it would be very difficult for anyone to write an exact word count, which is why students are allowed to go slightly over (or slightly under) when writing assignments. A 5% allowance is reasonable.

If people feel it necessary to identify what soft ware should be used when doing a word count the name one in the rules, but please ... name one that the majority uses.

Continue to publisher the higher word counts, I don't think it stops people reading the entries but may encourage authors to revise what is written so that they become easier to read.

Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
Working withing limitaitons

I have to say that the 800 word limit has really turned into a positive, in my mind. As painful as it is to work within that limitation, it gives us no choice but to leave out everything that isn't the game. No fancy flourishes, no monologues. If commercial games were to discipline themselves in this way, we'd get better rule writing, I say. Sure, it's like doing three-point turns in your garage, sometimes, but if you can do that, you're going to be a better driver.

Since I started sending my designs around to publishers, I have begun to limit my rules to a single sheet of paper (okay, Vast and Megiddo are exceptions...), an actual "rules sheet". Complex games use both sides, but often, it isn't really needed. I've boiled rules down an incredible amount, in doing this, and actually made rules alterations (like dumping detail) just to make the description fit. Net result? A superior-playing game in almost every circumstance.

The wordcount limitation is like the edges of the artist's paper or canvas or the cinematographer's screen. They turned into a great asset, in the end, allowing for concepts like composition and framing. I'd encourage entrants to stick slavishly to the 800 word limit, and learn from the agonizing editing it imposes. It's worth it.

dannorder's picture
Joined: 10/20/2008
Guess it depends what the competition is for

I'm kind of torn on the word count limit.

On one hand, some limit has to be set as just a matter of practicality. Whatever the number is, there would be situations where a designer would wish he or she had more to work with.

On the other hand it's very annoying to see criticism of the game I submitted that assumes I didn't think something through because I didn't comment on it or explain it in more detail when the problem is actually that I ran out of words. As I was going through explaining things I found myself having to tear things out left and right just to met the word count. And with the entries being anonymous until voting is over, I don't feel like there's any way to respond to criticism that I think is unwarranted. I mean, sure, I could jump in and explain and then lose the anonymity, or I could wait until the voting is over, in which case it's kind of too late to matter, at least for the purposes of the competition.

I also see a number of things in other entries that I just don't understand, or that I think I understand but don't seem to make sense. But I don't feel like I'm in a position to know if it was just some failed idea off the top of someone's head or if it was thought out and works well in practice, because we don't have examples or anything. And with the word limit so low and no way for questions to be answered before votes need to be cast, I feel like I can't judge things fairly.

At 800 words no entry can fully describe any game of anything but the most basic (and, face it, bland) nature. I guess if things stay the way they are, the competition should be treated as the best brainstorming contest or the best simplistic game that can be put together. And that's certainly a valid way to do it, but I don't know that the entrants and voters are treating it as such, or that doing it another way would be bad either.

Hedge-o-Matic's picture
Joined: 07/30/2008
A rebuttal

dannorder wrote:
At 800 words no entry can fully describe any game of anything but the most basic (and, face it, bland) nature.

I couldn't disagree more! Check out the archived GDS entries. Take special care with Rick Holzgraf's entries, which make you think that you've just read a fully notated game manual, but are somehow only 600 words long. Or check out Outside Lime's or Darkehorse's, which are always top notch efforts and still within the limit. Another person who makes writing rules within the limit seem easy is Sedgtroll, especially when he can use a visual to cram in everything you need to know about a topic at a glance.

These games are well beyond brainstorm level, and GDS entries are usually quite playable, short only component design sheets and a complete lists of every component. But the rules are almost always intact.

The word limit is a big part of why this is called a challenge, after all.

dannorder's picture
Joined: 10/20/2008
Considering that you were one

Considering that you were one of the people who made comments on my design that would have been cleared up quite easily if the word count were higher (or if there were some method for designers to answer questions without revealing their identity), you've already demonstrated that the current method leaves something to be desired. While you are certainly free to disagree, that doesn't change the situation itself in any way.

If it's the word limit that's the "big part" of the challenge, that's certainly one way to do it, but then it's going to limit the kinds of games that can be submitted and be more of a writing contest than a design contest. If that's how people want it to work, that's fine too, as long as the people participating and voting know that. For example, any criticism of lack of details, etc., is automatically misplaced if the word count of the entry is at the limit and the details require very specific examples of individual components to explain. And if the voters expect more details than can be fit within the word limit for certain kinds of games, if I participate in the future I'll only submit games that have such a limited scope and complexity that 800 words can adequately explain all there is to say.

Zzzzz's picture
Joined: 06/20/2008
For clarity sake, I would

For clarity sake, I would like to point that the GDS is NOT suppose to be a fully designed and fully fleshed out game design!

The original point of GDS was to give members a monthly timed challenge (actually it was more like minutes during live chat). GDS has grown and the current goal is to minimally describe the crust of a potential game idea, based on the objectives set forth in the GDS.

I will agree that over time many members exceed the submission expectation as required for GDS submission. This is not something that can be controlled. Some people are better as fine tuning word counts, some are better at the eye-candy graphic additions.

The point I think people are missing is that the details were not and do not need to be complete. This does cause one issue, sure human nature will lead many voters/readers to select the better worded or more visually appealing entry.

BUT this is were the members of BGDF have to see past the word counts and graphics and assess the submission based on the criteria stated in the GDS.

And I beg that we do not bicker over the GDS. It is what it is and I personally (and many others) often do not care about the word limit, as long as it is within reason. Many members do not have the time to read through multiple, fully fleshed out, 1000s of words submissions. So a cap was put in place to help reduce the overhead of members during the reading/voting process. This cap also helps to promote the luckily hood of non participants to take time to read the entries and vote.

If we allow for unlimited words or complete rule documents this will impact the end goal of the GDS, to exercise your brain, think outside the box and must of all HAVE FUN! Have fun seeing what you and your fellow BGDF members are capable of creating!

Joined: 09/29/2008
I couldn’t agree with you

I couldn’t agree with you more Dan. Unfortunately my entry turned out to be a much larger scale of a game than planned. I struggled with how I wanted to submit my rules. This being my first entry and reading past reviews how critics were left in the dark about how the mechanics actually worked put the fear in me that 800 words just wasn’t going to interpret my rules in a standard rules format. So I tried to explain them instead of just posting the rules themselves and letting you all read my mind and fill in the holes. Well my idea turned into a wall of text no one cared to understand.

What does this tell me now? Make simpler games I guess. And shoot from the hip, because I wasted a lot of time on this one and blew it on writing the rules. I admit my formatting skills could have been better but, I had on my "Game Design" belt +5 not my "Writing” belt. I agree there has to be a limit somewhere but I’m positive if could of posted my original rules in there entirely it would have been different.

All in all I had fun with this one and look forward to the next.

J Monty
Joined: 10/16/2008
I submitted an entry for the

I submitted an entry for the current GDS, and I also found the 800 word limit difficult to work with at first. My original draft was almost twice that number. I really struggled with trying to clean it up and trimming it down, but I was getting nowhere. Finally, I found a post from "jwarrend" in the archives, dating back to 2005, concerning the very same 800 word limit and it really helped me.

The key for me was to cut out a lot of the fine detail and extra rules, and to just present the core of the game. Jwarrend's technique, combined with a lot of creative editing, really helped me slim the word count down, and I think improved my final design, overall. Sure, some things got left out, but I don't think that they were very important to understanding how the game worked.

I'm all for the 800 word limit - it made the challenge a *true* challenge for me, and it really helped me figure out what was most important about my game. In a way, writing up the game became a game in and of itself.

Rick-Holzgrafe's picture
Joined: 07/22/2008
GDS is lightweight fun

As Zzzzz pointed out, we have to remember what the GDS is, and is not. The main thing is that it's for fun. There are no prizes except about two weeks of bragging rights (until the next GDS starts). Most of the submissions are throw-away designs that never get developed after the contest is over. And there's a new contest every month, so if this month's didn't work out well, at least you've got some experience to apply to next month's.

And I was wrong about there being no prizes. The critique thread is a prize in itself. That's where you find out what problems other designers see with your design, and where you hear about their ideas for improving it. I always read the entries and critiques, even in months where I don't enter myself, and I usually learn something. If nothing else, this is where you'll find out what parts of your painfully-trimmed 800-word entry were confusing.

New participants (we seem to have a lot of new members lately, which is great!) will learn not to expect full details in a GDS entry. Participants will learn which details are important and which aren't. An interesting exercise might be to take a complex game that you didn't design, and see how well you can describe it in 800 words and two images.

And while Hedge was kind to praise them, I should point out that my alleged mad writing skillz have never helped me to win a GDS. In general, a confusing entry won't win, but neither will a brilliantly-described but poor design. It really is about the design, not the writing; but clear writing is important to a designer too, so it's not unfair that that be part of the challenge.

bluesea's picture
Joined: 07/28/2008
Think of the GDS more as some

Think of the GDS more as some friends sitting around brainstorming some game ideas rather than a full on competition. Really, if it becomes more than it is, it will lose what it was.

Sometimes I use the GDS to just brainstorm through an idea, and never submit it. And I'm sure a lot of members do the same. It can be fun to just sketch out an idea when you have a spare 20 minutes. And some of that problem solving process has helped inform my other games. It really is a fantastic exercise to keep one in the game design gear.

The exercise could lead to something, but it's ok if it does not. You may learn to write more concisely. You may learn some new graphics software. You may learn how hard it is write constructive game critiques. And if you get bragging rights for a few weeks out of it, all the better!

In terms of the 800 word limit thing: I go by this: spirit of the rule, not the letter.

Joined: 08/01/2008
writing clear and succinct rules

is surely part of game design?

Joined: 09/07/2008
J Monty wrote: I found a post

J Monty wrote:
I found a post from "jwarrend" in the archives, dating back to 2005, concerning the very same 800 word limit and it really helped me.

Any chance you could link that? I had the same problem since this is my first GDS but didn't have any idea how to fix it.

doho123's picture
Joined: 07/21/2008
GDS submissions hints and tricks

I used to do the GDS quite a bit, and had some success with it. I've never found the 800 word limit to be much of an issue. In fact, I really tried to get the word count down to something like 600. Anyway, here's a few pointers that I have.

-- As has been mentioned before, you aren't creating a ruleset, but more of an overview. If you can make a simple game, then , sure, go for a rules set. But really, this is more of a cover letter than a detailed expose.

-- It's important to find one main gimmick, and hang the rest of the game on that. Clever, interlocking rules that require descriptions of balance is going to make people's heads hurt trying to relate each part to each other without a "physical game" in front of them. The gimmick doesn't have to be really a physical thing; it can be a clever rule, but you should focus on that. After reading the entry, the reader should be able to remember "oh yeah, that's the game with the wacky cube tower (Wallenstien)" or "That's the game with the revolving role selections (Puerto Rico), where the role gives a bonus to the player who picks it."

-- I don't know if this has happened recently, but I was always stumped by entries that spent 400 words detailing every card in their deck. Giving one example card is fine. See "use of images" below.

-- Starting out your entry with a component is probably not important. I messed around with introducing components when they came up in the description and had good results.

--I generally frowned upon the use of images that contained descriptions that would otherwise be used in the 800 maximum. However, images are insanely important since they can easily provide an example that would take many words to explain, and help clarify possible misconceptions.

There has always been discussions in the past of whether images should count as X amount of words or something. Generally, a single example image isn't frowned upon. So, you may as well use it while you can. And it doesn't have to be pretty either, Here's an entry of mine that used an image from Excel.

--Don't get bogged down into making a super complex game. Keep it relatively simple. Again, focus on the "gimmick," or what makes the game unique.

--Think about different ways of organizing your description to make it easier to understand. The above link to Love Me Blender entry I used a footnote system. The actual basic game rules take up less than 400 words. The footnotes allow for "asides" for better explanations of what is going on. This helped in creating a "more pure" straight read of the rules, with some timely help that the readers can hunt down if they are confused.

Anyway, that's about it at this point. Hope this helps.

Willi B
Joined: 07/28/2008
Something I wouldn't mind seeing

I like the GDS as is and think it is good to stretch your creativity. However, I wouldn't mind an occasional challenge that turns things on their heels every now and then... something that tries to overcome obstacles that exist in games already, if you will.


Dice used to roll and move inside a game that isn't governed by luck - create a game wherein your pawn has to move based on die rolls yet the outcome of that is marginalized to not turning it into a luckfest.

Create a 3 player area management game that will not matter in the least if two players bash the third.

Create a role-selection game where going first doesn't matter.

There will probably be a lower submission count on these months, but the challenge would definitely be a big stretch of the creative muscle.

J Monty
Joined: 10/16/2008
kiwasabi wrote: Any chance

kiwasabi wrote:

Any chance you could link that? I had the same problem since this is my first GDS but didn't have any idea how to fix it.

Here you go!

Joined: 09/07/2008
Thanks for the link, J Monty,

Thanks for the link, J Monty, that's helpful. I'm going to apply that advice to my next entry.

Thanks for the pointers, doho123. I like your idea of just having a gimmick and running with it. I've really noticed that's what has worked best about the most popular entry in this month's GDS (Monster Island). It just sort of took an interesting gimmick that worked within the guidelines and ran with it. I'm going to try to do that in the next GDS. I'll also try to write more of a review than an actual rulebook. I think my problem with the current contest was that I thought through my ideas a little too much and couldn't boil them down to the most important points.

Uchu Saru
Joined: 10/23/2008
A Friendly, Competitive GDS

I'm a fan of sticking to the word count. It helps me refine my entry to the essential substance of the game, and encourages me to be as clear as possible. I like the challenge of outlining a game in an engaging and complete fashion within the limit, and I think that 800 words are enough to do so.

In terms of the competition, I think a word count helps keep the playing field level. I like shazzaz's 5% rule of thumb for allowing leeway, though I also think one can add a lot of substance in 40 words. Regardless, I don't think entries should be disqualified for being over the word count; I'm interested in seeing whatever people come up with. The current system of posting word counts and letting voters decide works admirably.

To my mind, the GDS should be treated the same as any friendly game. Competition is part of what makes it fun, and it's most enjoyable when everyone plays by the rules and has an even chance of winning. But worrying about technicalities drags the game down; forgiving minor rules breaches makes the experience better for everyone. In the end, it doesn't matter who wins, so it's all about playing the game well.

A suggestion: What about occasionally changing the word count, allowing less words for a game that's supposed to be simple, or inviting more complex games with a higher word count allowed?

I imagine this has already been debated elsewhere, but I miss the old GDS voting method. The current system appears to be much easier to administer, and I like allowing all users to vote. Still, the 10-point allocation system was flexible, generous, and great for indecisive people such as myself. I liked having the opportunity to pick a favorite, but still give points to games with good ideas even if they weren't my favorites overall.

dannorder's picture
Joined: 10/20/2008
Just for the record

Just for the record, I'm not trying to say that the current word count is "wrong" or anything. I thought I was clear on that, but if that didn't come across I should reiterate that. I like that the current way of doing things lets people come up with an idea that fits some sort of design criteria without having to devote a huge amount of time to it, and that it encourages discussion and feedback.

I guess what I was mostly commenting upon was that some critiques seemed to be expecting something that is simply impossible for 800 words. If the competition is mostly brainstorming and focusing on one main interesting aspect of a game idea, which is what I thought and what most people seem to be saying, then 800 words is fine. If it's supposed to be a full rule set with detailed examples then, obviously, there can only be very simple games.

I also look forward to voting being over so I can ask questions about other game ideas and make a few comments about my own.

Syndicate content

forum | by Dr. Radut