What Makes a Great Game Design Document? Part 1

We often get questions about what documentation is needed before we start building a video game so we put this post together to help our clients (and future clients) understand what goes into game design.

Game Design Document (GDD) is a game’s blueprint, weaving together every aspect of the game and uniting team members with development guidelines. It is an essential tool developers reference to better understand and visualize the game’s gist and scope of gameplay. A GDD is a “living document”; it evolves as code and art adjust for increased game function and improved user experience. Producing a quality game design document is crucial to making a game concept a successful reality.

 Because games vary in complexity, not all of the detail below may be applicable, but generally a game’s design document contains the following information:

 ●     Target Audience: Determine a game’s audience early in the game design document. What is the target age group, gender, level of interest in gaming? 

 ●     Platform(s): Determine the game’s platform: game console, mobile device, or web-based? It is some combination of these three? Knowing the game platform is vital to planning the user interface and avoiding costly coding changes later in development. 

 ●     Game Mechanics

Game Objective: This is the game’s core—the idea from which all other game details and elements stem. It is the game’s gist stated simply, usually in one sentence.  

 Characters: Introduce the protagonist(s) and antagonist(s), their role and objective in game flow, their unique abilities or skills, and their applicable statistics relevant to game play.  

 Game Flow:Outline the game’s story progression—setting, inciting incident, conflict, final crisis, and resolution. This section traces a player’s progress through levels and challenges until the game’s end. 

 Gameplay Elements: Discuss those elements that a player interacts with during play (equipment, weapons, tools, structures, powerups, vehicles, obstacles, enemies, etc.). One might dedicate a paragraph to each element, detailing when it appears, how the characters interact with it, and how it affects game play.   

In our next blog post, we’ll pick up with what’s needed in level design!