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Do you want to explore the game design document template? In this article, we will discuss the same in detail.
While most people consider making games to be all about game development, it always starts off with a game design document. Game developers have to first lay down their idea on paper, detailing each aspect of the game and the idea behind it.
At this point, it’s best to use a game design document template to get started.
Most new game developers start off with only a few resources and an incomplete understanding of the game development process. That’s why it’s best to use a game design document template, so all you need to do is put down the essential bits without worrying about the process.
In this article, we’ll go over what a game design document is, what it entails, and a complete game design document template that you can use.
Let’s get started.
A Brief Introduction to a Game Design Document Template
A game design document (GDD) is a software design document for video games that works as a blueprint for any game. The point of a game design doc is to let you define the scope of the game, the general direction of your project, and to help keep all team members on the same page at all times.
The game design document typically addresses each detail that’s needed to build and design the game in its entirety. The bigger the game is, the longer the design and development cycle will be, and the bigger the team will be. Therefore, the bigger the game, the greater the need for a complete game design document.
Ideally, the game design document should capture every possible design aspect of the game. The sections should be clear, concise, and easy to understand by everyone.
Even if you intend to develop a smaller game, you should develop the game design document template as you’re creating the ultimate game of its kind. It helps clarify your position and gives direction to the entire game development team.
Game design documents used to have hundreds of pages that detailed every possible detail. However, the entire process has become extremely agile nowadays.
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Today’s game design documentation focuses most on the creative, collaborative, and iterative process of game development. You no longer have to detail each game asset, but rather, you should focus on what the game offers.
Contents of a Game Design Document Template for Any Video Game Development Project
While the game design document template has changed a lot over the years, there are a few things that should be in all GDDs. While each GDD is slightly different from the next, they typically include the following.
- Executive Summary/Overview – It summarizes the entire game concept, genre, target audience, project scope, and game engine.
- Gameplay – Includes things like the objectives, user interface, game progressions, and overall style of the game (RPG, First-Person Shooter, Third-Person).
- Game Mechanics – Includes the combat styles, physics, rules, and more of the game world.
- Game Elements – Includes the game story, characters, locations, worldbuilding, level design, concept art, cut scenes, and more.
- Assets – These include all the 2D and 3D models, music, sound effects, and more.
- Others – Additional things can include the interface, AI system (Artificial Intelligence), technical information, and game art.
While understanding the contents of a game design document is crucial, it’s best to use a GDD template to develop your game design document.
Best Game Design Document Template You Can Use
Each game design document will be different from the others, but that doesn’t mean you can’t use a game design document template to get you started.
As a game designer or programmer, you probably have a complete understanding of what you want, but it’s best to put it in a complete document. This is especially necessary if you’re making your first game, whether it’s a complete video game or a game for Android and iOS devices.
In any case, you can use the following game design document template to get started. Each section has a description of what you should and can include in it. Furthermore, the template is numbered from the first part of the document to the last.
- Title Page
Every game design document starts with a title page for the sake of formalities. The title page has the game name, along with the game idea in a subtitle or high-concept sentence.
At times, when the game name isn’t fully determined, some potential game names are written. However, the title should be singular, and in this case, the title is the name of the project.
You can have a name for the game development project, such as ‘Project Shooter.’ The project name will serve as the game design document’s title until you finalize the game name.
- Game Overview
The game overview is often the second part of the GDD that summarizes the entire project and game idea. Different games tend to have varying game overviews, depending on the idea of the game. For example, if it’s a sequel to an existing game, the game overview would include what the upcoming game would entail.
In any case, the game overview starts with the game concept, detailing the ultimate goal of the game and the inspiration for it. After that, you have to explain the genre of the game, for example, if it’s a sports game, shooter game, sci-fi game, or any other genre.
After that, you briefly describe the target audience of the game. You can either list the potential age group or a specific set of gamers.
It’s also crucial to include the game flow summary that details how the player will progress through the game. This includes the framing interface and the entire game itself.
Lastly, you have to briefly describe the look and feel of the game by detailing the visual art style, background setting, and backdrop.
- Gameplay and Mechanics
The gameplay and mechanics are some of the most crucial parts of the game design document. This is where you have to explain everything about the game and sell it to whoever is reading the GDD.
Since plain text can’t accurately convey everything about a game, it’s best to use some visuals, rudimentary graphics, and models/examples to portray your points more effectively.
3.1 – Gameplay
The gameplay will include everything from the final player’s perspective. That means that you have to start off by explaining the game’s progression. From the starting point to the setting of the entire game and how each aspect will affect the player’s progression should be included.
Furthermore, it should detail the missions, side missions, and the challenge structure. If you include various difficulties, you’ll have to explain how it will impact the game on each difficulty. If the game includes puzzles, you’ll have to explain the puzzle structure.
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Lastly, you have to explain the various objectives of the game and the overall play flow. For example, the objective of the game can be to develop a good reputation, visit each point on the map, and find the lost treasure. You have to also explain how each objective will affect the game flow for the game player.
3.2 – Mechanics
The game mechanics are simply the explicit and implicit rules of the game. It includes the game systems, the universe, and how the game pieces interact with each other. In most cases, this section can be the longest, especially if it deviates from real life because then you have to explain how each mechanic will work in the new universe you’ve created.
The following are the key things to mention in the game mechanics section.
- Physics – It’s critical to explain the physics of the game to set up the game world. If it’s set in real life or close to it, this section can be completed easily. However, if you’re making up a fantasy world, cartoon world, or a new universe, you need to explain how physics will work in each case.
- Movement – The movement of objects is directly related to the physics of the game. You can only start on this section after listing the physics requirements.
- Objects – This part only focuses on how each object can be picked up, how it will move, and what it will look like.
- Actions – This part includes how the player will interact with the world, including the objects, switches, buttons, NPCs (Non-Player characters), and more.
- Combat – While some games don’t have any combat or conflict involved, the ones that do need to explain the combat mechanics.
- Economy – It’s crucial to explain how the game economy works and what currencies and valuables will be used.
- Screen Flow – This part graphically helps explain how each game screen is related to the next. It’s useful to explain how loading screens, main menus, and more will work.
The mechanics above will determine the setting of the game.
3.3 – Other Important Gameplay Aspects
While the gameplay and mechanics are important to explain, it’s also essential to explain some additional aspects of the game, including the following.
- Game Options – You should mention all the game options and how they affect gameplay and mechanics in different cases. For example, some games allow you to change the physics of the game to play around.
- Saving and Replaying – It’s important to detail how the saving, autosaving, replaying, checkpoints, and mission restarts will work.
- Easter Eggs and Cheats – Each game has some sort of subliminal message, Easter eggs, and cheats. If you want to include them, this is the time to mention them.
After giving a complete overview of the gameplay and mechanics, you can move on to story building.
- Setting, Story, and Characters
This section focuses on setting up the game world, narrative, and story. That includes the back story, ongoing story, prologue, epilogue, plot elements, game progression, and cut scenes. The cut scenes include the description and setting of the script, storyline, storyboard, and actors.
The section also includes a description of the game world and what it looks and feels like. For example, if the game is based in the mountains, you would have to explain what each area would look like and how it will relate to the rest of the world.
You also have to explain how it connects to each area and what levels it will be used in.
Lastly, you have to write about all the game characters, their back story, appearance, personality, characteristics, animations, abilities, and their relation to other characters. At this point, the main character should be done first, followed by the characters directly related to the main character.
This section focuses on the levels of the game; each level would include a synopsis, introductory material, objectives, and details of the level. If it’s a linear game, you would have to physically describe the map at each level, the path of the plater, and what they will encounter.
In a non-linear game, this section will focus on the level-up system for the player’s character, including information on the power-ups, weapon upgrades, and more. It’s best to show this progression using a flow chart.
Furthermore, you should also explain how the training level or tutorial will work in this section.
- Game Interface
The game interface is what the player will see on their screen in different cases. The visual system of any game may include a HUD – you’ll have to explain what the HUD will show, where it will be placed, and what the fonts, icons, and animations will be like.
You’ll also have to explain what menus will be shown in different cases and what the camera model and angles will be like.
Furthermore, you would have to explain the control system of the game. This includes information on how the player will control the game, what commands there will be, and how the buttons will work.
Lastly, it’s crucial to list all the audio, music, and sound effects that will be included. Also, if there is a help system, you’ll have to explain how it will assist the player.
- Artificial Intelligence (AI)
The AI of the game is how the NPCs react and act in different cases. You have to explain how the opponent and enemy AI reacts in different cases to provide a more realistic approach.
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Furthermore, you have to set up the AI system for friendly and other non-combat characters, including animals, plants, and other systems.
Lastly, you have to explain the programming for the supporting AI – this is used for pathfinding, player detection, collision detection, hit detection, and more.
- Technical Aspects
The second-last part of your game design document will detail the technical aspects of the game. This isn’t necessarily about the game itself but aims to explain the technical requirements of the game for the player base.
The following are some of the technical aspects you should focus on explaining.
- Target Hardware – This part focuses on the overall game requirements. You have to explain what kind of hardware the game is targeted towards. It’s best to list down the minimal requirements and the recommended requirements. The requirements should include the estimated game size and compatibility information.
- Game Engine Development – If the game is based on a new game engine, you have to explain how the game engine was developed and what hardware and software were used.
- Network Requirements – This part explains the overall network/internet requirements, especially if the game has a multiplayer component.
The technical aspects are a great way to estimate the overall work required.
- Game Art
The last section of your game design document detail the game art and models being used. This includes all the key assets of the game, including character models, buildings, objects, environments, and more.
It’s crucial to explain how each model is being developed, who’s developing it, whether you’re outsourcing it, and how many assets there are in total. You also have to give an idea of the intended style for each asset.
It’s best to attach multiple screenshots of assets that have been prepared or are in the process of being developed to provide an idea of what’s to come.
This section serves as a benchmark for development and also a base that helps modify any assets if the need comes.
Get Started on Your GDD Today
If you’re starting out in the world of game development, you might be wondering how to make a game like Pokémon Go or something more complex. In any case, it all starts with the development of a complete game design document.
It’s crucial to have a complete GDD because it not only puts your idea on paper, it helps team members understand the project and be on the same page.
While it may seem like a complicated process, it’s a rather simple one that requires some dedication and time. Most importantly, you can use a complete game design document template to understand the requirements.
The game design document template can also remind you of things you might have forgotten or hadn’t considered. It’s a great way to get started with your game development process and manage the project in a timely manner.
Frequently Asked Questions on Game Design Document Template
A good game design document contains a comprehensive explanation of game objects, the physical world, challenges, etc. Moreover, it is a collaborative effort containing visual information wherever possible.
You would need a game design document to better organize your idea, focus on your end goal, set up a development roadmap, effectively market your game, etc.
Nuclino, Construct 3, GameMaker Studio 2, etc., are popular tools for game planning and designing.
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