Previous studies investigating the role of the operating parameters on ultrafast laser ablative generation of gold nanoparticles have reported a wide range of nanoparticle size distribution and plasmon resonant properties. In some cases the reported role of fluence and other processing parameters is contradictory. In this systematic investigation, we deconstruct and examine the role of the component parts of fluence, namely pulse energy and ablation spot size, on nanoparticle generation. Other parameters such as exposure time and scan speed are also studied. We show that the nanoparticle average size and distribution is related to different contributions from pulse energy, pulse repetition frequency and spot size. We also correlate the average particle size and distribution with the wavelength and width of the plasmon resonance peak, and apply Mie theory in order to develop clearer physical insights into the mechanisms dominating nanoparticle generation.