Making and Producing / Designing a video game is a lot of work, including coming up with ideas, remembering your ideas, and then organizing them to make sense for the storyline or lack thereof. A big part of making sure your game stays on task, meets your benchmarks on your timeline, and stays consistent across team members is your game document.
Note: This article is set up to describe a complete game doc for final submission to awards or competition. However, not everything in this article is always necessary. Use what you need from it, and don’t forget to check out the template I created for you to get started at the bottom!
A game document is a very important part of making your game, and likely, something most indie game developers forget about, or don’t know how to do. Making a game document can be overwhelming, for sure. So, let’s fix that.
Making a Game Document
Game documents are important. But how do you make a game document? How do you know what goes where, and what to include and not include in the document? What is the standard for making a game document? Let Eimear Studios guide you.
Video game documents are basically the script of your video game. You need to know what is going on in the game, what goes into the game, and where the game is going. Whether you are playing a hero to save the universe, fighting evil within your city, or moving blocks around to progress to the next level.
How Long should Your Game Document Be?
Game documents come in all shapes and sizes. It could be a short story or a long novel. It depends on what type of game you are making.
In general, a simple puzzle game can be under 50 pages, while long and complex role-playing games can be upwards in the 300-page range. It will depend on how much you need to describe for reviewers and your gamedev team.
The Layout of your Game Document
Start with a cover page. It can be black and white or fancy with graphics and your game logo. It’s up to you and what purpose you need for the game document. If you need to send it to an awards review board, I would suggest making it prettier with the logo. If it’s just for you and your team, a basic black and white cover page will do.
- Cover Page
- Table of Contents
- Game Overview
- Gameplay and Mechanics
- User Interface
- The Universe, World, Levels
Cover Page Should Have The Following
- Name of your game (or placeholder name)
- The Console (Android, PC, XBox)
- Your Company Name
- Most Recent Updated Date
- Copyright Info
- The Author (this one’s not necessary, but we like to use it)
Name of Your Game
This is important because when the document is opened, the reader will know exactly what game they are about to review. If your team is working on multiple projects, this can help team members stay on track with the correct one.
Note: It is not important to have your game’s name right off the bat, but using a placeholder name will help. Many developers do this, including me. I’ll spare you the names I use as they are not safe for the younger ears, but they do keep work fun.
If you are only developing for a single console, this should never need changing. However, if you are publishing the game to multiple consoles, there will be console-specific details and bugs. So you will need one document for each of the different consoles. Having the console on the title page also allows the reader to know they are referencing the correct document for their work.
Your Company Name
It’s nice to see your company or studio name on an official document. But, you want to list it on your cover page so that when you submit it for reviews to publishers or an awards board, they know who you are.
Most Recent Update
This is important so that everyone knows they are reading from the most up-to-date version of the document. If you make a major change to something in the game, like removing a level, you don’t want your level designer to continue working on that level. This will help make sure everyone is using the correct version of the game document.
This is important when you submit your game to publishers, awards, or any other public face. This stuff is yours, and you need to make sure they know it.
This is important when multiple people are on a team. Truly, only one person should be updating the document, and the team members need to know who to send updates to. Having too many people updating the game document can make it confusing and lose control of what actually needs to go into the document.
Table of Contents
After the cover page is the table of contents. This will help your readers and your team be able to easily navigate the gamedoc. If your game document has more than a few pages, a table of contents is very important. You can adjust the table of contents depending on how much content your game doc contains. Don’t forget to update it as you update your gamedoc!
Next, you will need a Game Overview. The Game Overview normally includes:
- Game Concept
- Style of Your Game
- Game’s Theme
- Game’s Feature set
- Game Genre
- Target Audience
- Flow Summary
- Look and Feel of the Game
- Game Project Scope
The Game’s Concept
The game concept is where you “sell” your game in a few short sentences. The game style is a short description of the camera view (FPS, Top-Down), the game type (arcade, shooter, action, some compromise of multiple styles), and some games that might have inspired your game.
Style of Your Game
This is where you will describe your game as Shooter, Platform, Metroidvania, Action, Adventure, or some combination. What type of game are you making?
Your game theme section is like a party theme. Is it under the sea, sci-fi, realistic, future, current?
Game Feature Set
The game’s feature set is what operating system it is designed for, and possibly why it was designed for that OS. Will it be using a specific controller-type for the game or featuring a new graphics system? Explain it here.
Genre of Your Game
The section for your game genre is a single sentence stating the type and the camera view (first-person shooter, top-down arcade, etc).
The target audience is who you would expect to play your game, and state a sentence why. You can also include a hypothetical MSRP rating if it’s necessary. A Call of Duty game would not typically target kids under 16 years old, due to its graphic nature. But you will want to state how and why it would target teenagers, mid-lifers, males or females, etc. This area right here will help later when you need to start marketing your game.
The game flow summary is a longer description of the flow of your game. It’s very similar to a plot summary. I like to write it in sentences, but I’ve also seen them done as a basic plot point summary.
Look and Feel
The look and feel is what type of graphics (2D, 3D), the style of graphics (cartoony, realistic), and if it’s a drama, comedy, action, shoot em up, etc. Is your game going to make people laugh, cry, have empathy, or other feelings.
Game Project Scope
The project scope is where you do a hierarchy list of the worlds, levels, universes, etc.
Gameplay and Mechanics
The gameplay and mechanics section is made up of
- The Gameplay
- How to Play
The gameplay describes how the levels work. Whether they are timed, pushed forward, puzzles, camera following, etc. Also to describe if there is a boss level and how to get to the boss level.
How to Play
The How to play section show’s the reader how the player progresses through the levels. Whether the player needs to dodge obstacles, kill enemies, swap blocks, match fruits, slash fruits, or whatever.
The controls are fairly self-explanatory. Normally, I like to place a diagram of the controller, keyboard, phone, or whatever device, and show the controls for the game that way.
The next part is the characters if you have any. Some games, like Tetris, don’t have characters. In place of characters, you may place the types of blocks or fruit or whatever the player will be controlling and interacting with.
If you are using characters in your game, you should list them in sections.
- Hero, or Heroes
- Mini Bosses or Sub Bosses
- NPCs (Non-Playable Characters)
Another section we like to ad when it’s necessary is a section for obstacles, traps, and elements within the game.
Within these sections, you will list all of the different characters of your game. All of these will need descriptions of them. How many hit points they have, what levels they appear in, how the hero can defeat them, and any other information that is necessary.
The user interface is a list of what you see during gameplay. Any power-ups, health bar, points, lives, and anything else you would need the player to see during gameplay.
Another section you may need is the Backpack or Inventory. Listing all of the available elements and objects that a player is able to collect and store, as well as descriptions of the objects.
This is where you will describe all of the menus of your game. This includes your start menu, pause menu, game over menu and any other menus you may need for your game.
The Universe, World, Levels
This is where you will describe, in order, the worlds and levels. Is the level at night or daytime? How many enemies and which enemies appear within this level? How many puzzles? What are the goals for this level? You will need to explain the player goals and interactions for each level.
Wrapping Up Your Game Doc
Adding images to help describe everything is super useful. As the game design goes from concept art to final art, you should add the artwork to your game document. Not only does this help you visually see what is going on, but it is also a reminder of what still needs to be finished in the graphics part.
Another thing many designers like to add as they update their documents is how long it took to complete different stages of the game project. A section for this can be made, and you can then describe how many hours or full workdays it took for you to complete different art, programming, level design, etc. This is useful for future estimates on how long it will take to complete a benchmark, or knowing how much you need to pay your hourly team members.
As you can see, there is a lot that goes into a game document. But know that this document will help you stay on track and know what you need to get done, helping you and your team stay on track.
Download this handy dandy Game Document template to help you get started with writing your very own gamedoc!
What tips do you have for making your own game documents? Let us know in the comments!