game design document

Game design document: How to craft legendary video games 

A game design document – think of it as the idea vault that stores your gaming plans. It’s also your reference point for communication and problem-solving game design details with publishers, investors, developers, artists, or your future self. A video game design document ensures that all the gaming elements align with your final vision. 

At Voice123 – where you’ll find outstanding video game voice actors – we’re ready to help you jumpstart your 2024 game design ideas. In this post, we’ll provide a game design document template and explain how to write a video game design document. 

Get ready to enter the next level of the gaming universe! 

What is a game design document?

game design document

A game design document is the software structure that gaming developers, programmers, and artists use, which has a brief overview of the narrative, characters, gameplay mechanics, level design, art style, soundscapes, and voice over. For example, the video game design document examples for Super Mario Bros. detailed Mario and Luigi’s characters, the mushroom kingdom visuals, and musical styles. These designs helped maintain a consistent theme across the different games and the 2023 animated film. 

Here’s a breakdown of how to write a game design document. 

How to write a game design document

1. Outline the title page 

Include detailed information about the game and its creators, the document version, date, and team members involved. Example:

[Game name] – Version 1.0


Designed by [Name]

2. Write the game overview 

Summarize main aspects, like genre, target audience, and platform, with a brief description of the world and story. Example:

Space Wars, a 3D survival game for players aged 18+ on X-Box and Nintendo, has players navigate a war-torn galaxy, facing rebellious factions and savage aliens. 

3. Explain gameplay mechanics

Outline how players engage with the game’s environment, controls, and challenges. Discuss features like leveling up, acquiring new skills, combat, or unlocking content. Example:

In Space Wars, players use joystick movements for navigation and fire weapons to earn credits they can use to upgrade their weapons and armor. 

4. Introduce the main characters

Give insight into your characters, backstories, abilities, and how they fit into the game’s narrative. Example:

Main Playable Character: 

Lieutenant Alex Parker is skilled at intergalactic diplomacy and an experienced negotiator.

Main NPC: 

Captain Shaun Toul is a spacecraft engineer who’s been on several missions in the galaxy’s outer reaches.

5. Describe the world’s story and settings 

Describe the game’s setting, narrative, history, environment, and the leading storyline players follow during their journey. Example:

The game unfolds in a post-apocalyptic era where rival factions vie for control. Players must navigate the planets, maintaining order and shaping the galaxy’s fate.

6. Define artwork, sound design, and voice overs 

Specify your visual style, color palette, graphics, sound effects, music, and voice acting requirements in detail. Example:

Space War’s artwork has futuristic colors, battle effects, atmospheric sounds, and vibrant music. We need an authoritative male voice for Alex and a witty, humorous tone for Shaun.

Game design document template


Reference example: The Prince of Persia 2 template includes play-by-play descriptions of each gaming element.   

Title: [Game Name]

Version: [1.0]

Date: [Date]

Document owner: [Name]

Concept: Outline the game’s core concept.

Genre: Action, Adventure, Fighting, Sports, etc.

Target audience: Define the primary and secondary audiences.

Core mechanics: List and describe. 

Objectives: Outline in detail.

User flow: Describe the basics from start to finish.

Story and characters

Reference example: Burnt Out Cop explained vital design concepts, fighting techniques, and the world and characters in detail. 

Narrative: Outline the game’s narrative.

Characters: Name and describe.

Art style: Describe the game’s visual style. 

Character design: Detail character appearances.

Environments: Explain the game’s settings and environments.

Music and sound effects: Outline the game’s audio strategy. 

Platforms and technology

Reference example: Rockstar Games GTA included details about the tools, objectives, editors, and teams working on the project.

Platforms: List the platforms the game will be available on.

Engine: Specify the engine used.

Technical challenges: Describe anticipated issues.

Business Model: Explain how the game will generate revenue.

Marketing & Distribution: Outline your potential strategy.

Team Overview: Briefly describe the team members.

Roles and responsibilities: Detail what they do. 

Milestones: List critical landmarks and their expected completion dates.

Budget: Outline the budget requirements. 

Addenda: Include additional information supporting the game concept.

How to include voice over notes in a game design document

game design document

A game design document with voice over notes should include detailed bio descriptions of the character’s physical and mental traits, backstory, role, tone, accent, and unique speech idiosyncrasies. Voice actors use these elements to make performances more authentic. With features like flashbacks, scripted lines, and monologues, you can define a mix of characters. Specific audio cues also add realism to scenes, like static for radio transmissions or echoes for caverns, when a character speaks through a radio or is trapped in an underground tunnel. Example: [Military villain: Sergeant Pete Mackay – male, mid-40s, tall, imposing presence with cold, dark eyes, speaks with a clipped Mid-West accent and sharp tone.]   

Final thoughts on a game design document

A well-crafted game design document is the beating heart of video games. With it, each team member shares in unifying a game’s objectives and experience. So, whether you’re an expert game developer or just starting out, use examples to pave the way for your own groundbreaking video games

And once your gaming roadmap is complete, you can bring it to life with the talented voice actors on Voice123. Or opt for our full-scale Managed Services to handle your entire project. 

Are you ready to gear up and go beyond gaming creativity in 2024?

FAQs on a game design document

What should be included in a game design document?

It should include the game’s concept, gameplay mechanics, characters, plot, levels, art and sound, user interface designs, and critical technical requirements.

Who writes the game design document?

Typically, it’s the lead game designer, or it can be a team of game designers.

How do I make my first game design document?

Outline your game’s concept and primary mechanics; describe the story, characters, levels, and technical specifications; use bullet points for clarity; and add visuals if possible.

What software do game designers use for documentation?

Microsoft Word or Google Docs for documentation is the most common, and Confluence or Notion is better for updates with collaborative work.


Related Posts