Writing Game Design Documents: Examples

Instructor: David Gloag
Game designers are looking to produce the best games they can. In this lesson, we'll take a look at design documents, how they relate to games, and some examples.

Capturing the Ride

Games are very popular, just ask any teenager these days. But it's not only teenagers - players come from all walks of life. And why not? They provide thrills and spills, and you can carry them around in your pocket.

Game developers recognize this, and spend a great deal of time and effort producing the thrill ride. It's big business, and developers are looking to improve their offering, and cash in on the demand.

So how do they do it? How do they ensure that their game will sell? One way is through proper design. That is, identifying the elements necessary for the experience they are trying to convey, and collecting them in one place called a design document.

What Is a Design Document?

A design document is a detailed description of the product you are trying to create. It consists of multiple pages, and includes drawings, images, and textual descriptions. In essence, anything that can accurately present the designer's intent. It also acts as a roadmap, or playbook, that keeps all interested parties moving in the same direction.

You don't often see actual design documents unless you work in an industry that creates or uses them. But the closest everyday example would probably be the assembly instructions for a piece of Ikea furniture. They contain text and pictures that describe how the item is assembled. The only real difference is the size. While Ikea assembly instructions are typically a couple of pages, actual design documents can include hundreds.

Game Design Documents

Game design documents are similar to the design documents for other products in most respects. They want to describe what needs to be built, they want to detail how the user supplies the product with input, and they want to accurately provide output.

But they are different in two significant ways. First, games are more immersive. They attempt to draw you into their world, and engage every sense that you have. Think about the latest virtual reality offerings like Vive from HTC and Rift from the company Oculus. Both of these products are head-mounted displays (goggles) that adjust what you see based on your head position. As a result, the design documents for games include more information concerning the user's experience; what they should see, what they should hear, and what they should feel.

Hive head-mounted display

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