How to Make a Game Design Document

Design documents are one of the most important – yet overlooked – aspects of software development. A good design document will lay out the strategy and vision for any piece of software, including games, and serves as a handy pointer with which to onboard new team members and standardize their efforts.

In Game Dev, this document is called a Game Design Document (GDD ), and it’s been in use for decades. It illustrates an idea of a game, its basic design, gameplay principles, etc, delivering a singular vision for your team of designers, coders, writers, and everyone else It can also serve as a checklist that structures work, even if there’s only one person on it. Whenever your team feels off course while developing, they can always refer back to GDD and see if its initial points correspond with the current picture.

A Game Design Document usually starts with a proposal, outlining the game’s concept, defining the potential audience, setting requirements, and estimating schedules and budgets. Gradually, the document will be updated with information regarding mechanics, gameplay, design, game economy, and other pertinent information. It should not contain actual code or any other in-depth details about the game, but function more as a reference. GDDs answer common questions about the game, its characters, basic mechanics, and other crucial game elements.

Steps to take

There are a few basics that an average game needs to have documented: Here’s the 8-step guide to that process.

1. Project Description

Everything starts with a small description of what the project is about. There’s no need to get into details here – a general overview is fine. This section should define the type of game being developed (mobile, desktop, casual or hardcore, single or multiplayer, etc.), its genre (racing, strategy, puzzle, shooter, RPG or simulator), and platform (iOs, Playstation, Steam, Android, Apple Games, or wherever else.). If there are any key gameplay elements that might determine the game’s uniqueness, feel free to mention that in the Project description section as well.

2. Characters

Before you start with a story, it’s a great idea to introduce characters first. Who is the main hero? What are their motivations? Do they have allies or enemies to mention? If you’re developing a puzzle or any other game with no characters or lore, you can skip this part and start straight off with gameplay, though even puzzle games often have characters – Mario in Nintendo’s Dr. Mario series comes to mind. This is also a good place to put some artwork, or at least character descriptions, to illustrate the characters better.

3. Story

Now that we have our main characters laid out, we can talk more about the story – their relationships, the world around them, and the events happening throughout your game, as well as relevant background stories. Similarly to writing prose, game designers will need to specify the genre of their story as well, to ensure later additions and mechanics match those tonal beats.

Story Development

Describe the storyline, how it progresses throughout the game, how it ends, and whether or not the ending is left open for a sequel.

4. Gameplay

Gameplay is likely the most important section of the entire document. This is where you describe how the game plays.

Goals and objectives

What is the main goal? How do you win? What do your character(s) need in order to overcome challenges and achieve success? Why is that important for them?

Game Mechanics

Explain how the game works. What actions can the player perform, what are the rules, and how does the game respond to certain events? This section should be as detailed as possible to make sure that your team has the proper insight on what needs to be done. Schemes, drawings, and artworks might be good visual aids here.

Items and power-ups

Here we elaborate on game mechanics. In order to structure its specifications and to avoid having the entire content of our gameplan concentrated in a single section, you can use this part to describe some other gameplay components like items or power-ups that can be added to spice up your gameplay.

In this section you can list all the items and power-ups players can find, describe their effects, and how they’d affect the playthrough.

Progression and challenge

This is a very subjective section that may or may not work in your design. The idea behind this section is to elaborate on how the game’s difficulty will increase throughout, and to ensure that the player is getting the tools they need to not feel overwhelmed. Unlocking new levels or missions can also be covered in this section.


Yes, losing! What are the losing conditions? Time, health, a combination, or something entirely different? This is the section where you describe how the player gets to see your “Game Over” screen.

5. Art Style

This section is self-explanatory: it describes the ideas that will shape the game’s art direction. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this is a great place to add some concept art.

6. Music and Sounds

Here is where you describe your Music and Sound FX. This can be split into different subsections – music, voice acting if needed, sound effects – but don’t underestimate how important music and sound design are to a good game.

7. Technical Description

Here’s where you describe the platforms the game will be launching for and tools that will be used or are under consideration for use throughout development. This should not be a detailed technical breakdown – for that there’s the Technical Design Document (TDD). Instead, it should be an overview with the major points.

For example: Initially, we’re expecting to release the game on mobile platforms (iOS and Android). Gradually there’s an opportunity to follow through with versions for Microsoft Store, Facebook Games, MacOS, and Steam if the game succeeds. For the development we consider using Unity, Unreal Engine 4, or Godot engines. For project management and communications we’ll stick to JIRA and Slack.

8. Marketing & Funding

This is an optional section, but it’s important to get those ideas down now so they’re not forgotten later. It’s a big deal to plan how the game will be marketed, even before starting development, since ultimately it’s important to know from where we’ll get the income, and whether those funds will cover development expenses.


All content needs to be targeted in order to attract an audience, and this should affect game design. If your target audience is college students in English-speaking countries, then your game story should probably reflect the biases and cultural marks of that demographic in order to be more relatable.

Platforms & Monetization

This can be an addendum to either the marketing or technical description sections, and go into a little more detail about how platform releases will be handled, and whether or not you’ll have DLC and/or monetization options.

Summing up

The GDD serves as a master plan for your project and unfolds alongside it throughout the development. When you come up with a great new game idea, you might want to begin coding and drawing right away, but without proper guidance you’ll end up with clashing mechanics and constant remaking. Therefore, anchoring your ideas in a document beforehand is the best way to start your new game development journey. While it isn’t strictly necessary, it is highly recommended.