The Game Design Document


I get a lot of email from people asking me how to get their video game made. Granted it is an exciting proposition and wouldn't it be really neat to have your video game idea turned into a reality?

So where do you start? How do you get the ball rolling toward getting your video game idea made into a video game? This is done with something called a Game Design Document or GDD. This is where it all begins and this is something that is created by a video game designer.

The Game Design Document is a comprehensive document that lays out and explains many of the aspects of the proposed video game. There is no set standard for this kind of document although different companies do have standards that they enforce within their company. It could be a word document, pdf, power point presentationm hand written and hand drawn or even a combination of all of those. The important thing is that it lay out as detailed as possible many aspects of the proposed game including game play, theme, characters, story, look and feel. The important thing is that the GDD has to tell a variety of team members exactly what they need to do. This variety ranges from programmers to writers, artists, musicians and more.

It is a living document

A game design document is a "living document" and may go through numerous revisions before a final initial design is agreed upon. As the game development progresses, the design document changes as programming limitations and new capabilities are discovered and exploited.

Consider your Audience

It is very important to realize who you are writing your game design document for. You are not writing it for lpeople who are playing the game! You are writing this document for people who are making the game. Always keep that in mind.

So, What are the things you need to cover in a GDD?

Well, this is quite a big ball of wax but I will give you a look at a lot of the things that you absolutely need to cover when creating the GDD.

  • Theme of the game
  • Story
  • Back story
  • Genre of the game
  • Platform of the game
  • Type of game: Is it a 2d game? A side scroller? 3d game? Multi Player? MMORPG?
  • Goal of the game: What is the player wanting to accomplish?
  • Levels - What are the various levels of the game? If more than one? Does each one have a story and a theme?
  • Characters - This includes player characters and NPC's
  • Chapters of the game: Are there chapters and why? What is accomplished to end each chapter?
  • Game play mechanics: What are the interactive elements of the game?
  • Inventory and items in the game - This includes the items that the player can wear, carry and use.
  • Major buildings and objects
  • Setting of the game: Does it take place in a real world location?
  • Music and sounds of the game
  • Anything special about the game

This is just a beginning. As you start writing out your game you are going to come up with a lot more stuff. Remember, you have to describe everything to the developers, programmers, and artists.

What to do?

Grab an empty spiral bound notebook and start writing!


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