What should a Game Design Document consist of and why should I write one?

Thomas Steffen
3 min readMay 15, 2023

When you first get an idea for a game, create a PPD (Production Planned Document). This should consist of your overall general ideas and can be 2–10 pages. You don’t want to get too crazy with this. Save that for your GDD. This will serve as your basis and if you’re working with a team, it will be your rough draft awaiting approval.

A GDD (Game Design Document) should be the second thing you start doing when come up with a solid game or project idea. Before you jump into Unity or Unreal, you should be planning and writing everything out. Although this stage of design is time consuming, it will save you a ton of time in the overall scope of your project. Builders don’t just build, they make blueprints and follow measurements. This is the same with your GDD. Plan it and Make it.

Is it too long?

When I was in college, we created a GDD for our dream game. Mine was a game based off of Castlevania style gameplay. The final result was 96 pages long. It included concept art, an in-depth story, and descriptions of every character and object. Yours may be 40 pages or 200 pages. It all depends on the scope.

While the specific contents of a GDD can vary depending on the project and team, this is a good example of what yours should look like:

  1. Introduction: Provide an overview of the game, including the title, genre, target audience, and a brief description of the game concept.
  2. Game Overview: Offer a high-level summary of the game’s core mechanics, gameplay features, and unique selling points. Explain the goals, objectives, and the overall player experience.
  3. Story and Narrative: If applicable, outline the game’s storyline, setting, and characters. Include information on the game’s lore, backstory, and any significant narrative elements.
  4. Gameplay Mechanics: Detail the specific mechanics and systems that drive the gameplay. This includes controls, character abilities, interactions, combat, puzzles, progression systems, and any other relevant gameplay features.
  5. Level Design: Describe the game’s levels, environments, and level progression. Include information about level layouts, obstacles, puzzles, enemy placement, and any special mechanics associated with specific levels.
  6. Art and Visuals: Provide an overview of the game’s art style, graphical assets, character designs, environmental aesthetics, and any visual references that help convey the desired visual direction.
  7. Audio and Music: Discuss the audio design, including sound effects, ambient sounds, voice-over requirements, and music style. If applicable, describe the desired emotional impact of the audio elements.
  8. User Interface (UI) and User Experience (UX): Outline the design of the user interface, including menus, HUD elements, navigation systems, and any other UI/UX considerations for a smooth and intuitive player experience.
  9. Monetization and Business Model: If the game includes monetization elements, such as in-app purchases or ads, outline the intended monetization strategy and business model.
  10. Development Timeline: Provide a rough estimate of the development timeline, including major milestones, deadlines, and any dependencies or key events in the production process.
  11. Team and Roles: List the team members involved in the project and specify their roles and responsibilities. This helps define who is responsible for various aspects of the game’s development.

Remember, a game design document should be comprehensive enough to provide a clear vision and direction for the game’s development, but it should also remain flexible to accommodate changes and iterations throughout the production process.

Once you’ve finished your GDD. It’s time to get the team or if you’re a solo dev, yourself, ready to start building the next step, a Technical Prototype.

I will dive more into this on my next article.

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Thomas Steffen

I am Virtual Reality Developer, UI Systems, and general programmer with a passion for Unity software development.