Flowchart is the name I have chosen to use to describe the use of diagrams composed of elements (e.g. shapes, icons, images, etc.) connected by arrows to document, analyze or communicate the design of a game.
As a game design tool, a flowchart is mostly used during the design phase. Strict and complex flowcharting methods (e.g. UML) make flowcharting inflexible and less compatible with iterative and evolutionary design processes, used correctly a flowchart can be created quickly and offers a visual reference to the flow or structure of a game’s design. In general, a flowchart offers:
- Visual documentation to the game design (e.g. game mechanics, play mechanics, game-play experience, level and mission flow.)
- An analysis of objects and their relationships
There are several ways you may want to use a flowchart as one of your game design tools.
(1) Picking a Method (Formal vs. Informal)
The advantage of formal flowchart methods (i.e. UML) is that they are detailed and standardized thus making legible and predictable, which is ideal for in-depth analysis and documentation of a game’s design. Informal flowcharts are ideal for quick documentation and analysis, while potentially being less legible.
(2) Determine the Scope
A powerful aspect of a flowchart is that a flowchart can be used to analyze, document and communicate specific aspect of game’s design. For example, a flowchart may be limited to documenting the game mechanics, play mechanics, game architecture, vertical slice, horizontal slice, core-gameplay, etc.
When using flowcharts for analysis a game designer should look for inconsistencies and redundant relationships in the design. Something like core game-play should be flowcharted as a closed system where any dead-end should represent game over.
If trying to communicate design to visually oriented people, flowcharts offer a simple and technical way to visually communicate a game's design in motion. I recommend the use of flow charts a standard aspect of any game design document, which helps make it more legible to wider range of readers.