Blue Pill: Just take me to the template already!!

Red Pill: Continue reading…

The purpose of this post is to explain my take on a game design document.

Try to keep the total length to about a page so it can be easily read in less than 5 minutes and is easily maintained as your expectations and scope evolve.



The purpose of this section is to describe your motivation for making the game. It is important to be clear and realistic about this up front before you even begin to plan out your game. Failure to do so can result in dysfunction, stress, wasted time, and failure to launch.


What does success look like to you?

  • Complete a tutorial
  • release
  • 10000 Steam Wishlists
  • Make $1M
  • 40 hours of play time

If you have not previously had commercially successful release, it is important to manage your expectations at this stage.


Similarly to success, what does failure look like to you?

  • Giving up after 3 months
  • Buggy on target platform
  • Not fun
  • Doesn’t payoff the cost of development
  • Not released on time


How will you remain accountable so that you don’t give up before you have succeeded?

  • Dev logs (biweekly or monthly via Blog, YouTube, or Website)
  • Friends/Family support
  • Find a mentor
  • Community (Discord, YouTube, Facebook)

Start strong, finish strong, and let accountability fill in the spaces in between.

Core Concept


The first 1-3 sentences must hook the player. This is key to getting the player to buy the game. Read the descriptions of other games to get inspiration.


This is what makes your game stand out. While this is the first mention of a hook, you might decide to refine your hook as you build ou the rest of this document and think about the atmosphere, genre, and more.

Here is a good read to learn how to craft a good hook.

Core Game Loop

This is what keeps a player coming back. Even the most complex games can be built around a relatively simple loop. A typical loop usually contains an action, reward, and refinement.

Kill bad guys -> Gain experience -> Learn new skills

I found this blog post to be a valuable place to start.


When you pick a genre, make sure you have done your homework and you enjoy games in your genre. You need to know the expectations of an indie game in your genre as you begin to carve out your niche. Wikipedia has a great list if you need some inspiration. Consider combining elements of multiple genres to concoct an interesting hook.


This one is pretty self explanatory and simply expands the genre to cover a particular setting. This is good to decide up front, because it will affect much of your style choices.

Here is a couple places you can find inspiration:

Cyberpunk, Steampunk, Fantasy, Space, Modern, etc.


Target Platforms: Mobile, Steam, etc. Controls: Keyboard, Mouse, Controller, Touch, etc. Maturity: Children, Teen, Adult, etc. Monetization: Ad, fixed price, subscription, free/donation, etc. Outreach: Steam Page, YouTube, Website, etc.


The reason design is featured so late in a “Game Design Document” is because the previous sections serve to provide constraints and direction.

As an indie, this is a good time to think about your strengths and weaknesses. You should focus on one or two of these design elements.


What should the player feel? Everything in your design should connect to this emotion(s).


Briefly describe the main character of your game - presumably the one the player will embody.


This should be a one liner - you can expand upon the plot in a separate document.


List some of the core mechanics in the game.


Stats, inventory, leader boards, combat, quest, dialogue, etc.


It was a dark and stormy night…

The atmosphere helps to set expectations for visual style, music, dialogue, and more. It should speak to the emotions you are trying to elicit from the player. Here is a good quick read on game atmosphere.

Visual Style

This is an area that can be your greatest asset or your biggest obstacle. For those who are talented artists by trade, you have a leg up here. As evidenced by one of my favorite games, Hades, it pays to have a unique and coherent visual style for your games.

If you do not have the talent, patience, or drive to make your own art, there are other options. No or low art, ala Dwarf Fortress. Some games have succeeded by leveraging asset packs.


Music that fits your game helps keep the players attention and set the mood. Just mention the strategy for obtaining music and what you want it to sound like.


See this in action in my own game design document for New Andheim.

Game Design Document Template

# <Title>

## Motivation


## Core Concept

**Core Game Loop:**

## Audience

**Target Platforms:**

## Design

**Visual Style:**