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E-Line Media, April 21 2020

Writing a Game Design Document

When creating a video game, it can be helpful to articulate your game concept in words. Professional studios do this by creating a Game Design Document, or GDD. This is like a blueprint for building a game. It includes everything the studio team needs to know so they can implement the project. It also helps a game's designers think through their game concept, as well as present it to others, such as the studio lead.


What's in a Professional GDD?

Check out this list of sections from a professional Game Design Document:

As you can see, a lot goes into a professional game project. Especially with large teams, it's important to break down each aspect of a video game into fine detail, so that everyone knows what to do, and why. Even relatively simple games take a lot of effort to build!


What Should Go in My GDD?

For students who are still learning game making, we suggest writing a GDD that includes the following sections.

Summary

A description of your game in only one or two sentences. This should hook people and promise a really fun and interesting play experience.

Technical Details

The genre, platform, and controls associated with your game. Is it a PC/Mac game, or for mobile? Is it 1st or 3rd person? Is it action-based or more of a strategy title?

Audience

The people who will enjoy playing this game. Avoid writing "everyone" in this section. Be specific about age group, level of past experience with games, and similar titles.

Gameplay

In this section, you should address the Goals, Mechanics, and Challenges of your game. In other words, you should describe here what makes your game a game, and therefore why it's fun.

Story

It can be helpful to articulate the narrative surrounding your main character. Who are they, what do they hope to achieve, and in what land, or universe, does this all take place?


When Should I Write a GDD?

For many professional game making teams, the GDD is critical , and should exist in full before beginning development work.

However, for game making students, the GDD can be created any time before deploying a beta release. (What's a beta? Read about the game making process to find out!)

Sometimes you want to play around with a player controller, an art style, or a type of game system before deciding what kind of game you would like to make. You dive right into Unity, and worry about the GDD later, once you've put together a demo scene.

Other times, you have a clear idea for a video game, and can write that idea down in a GDD right away. Then, depending on the technical implementation, you make changes to your original idea, and modify the GDD accordingly.

Both approaches are good ones. What they share is the importance of the GDD. No matter what, it's always critical to articulate your game concept at some point, describing it in (written) words. This helps you take a step back and evaluate what you're making. It also prepares you to enter into playtesting. A game project without a GDD will always be a nebulous one, so we suggest creating a GDD as soon as you possibly can.

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