Game design

Game design

A game design document is the basis for a game. It includes the following.


The backstory (or background) provides the player with all the information they need to establish context. It is like the prelude. An example of a backstory is the yellow text seen at the start of every Star Wars movie disappearing off into the distance. This fills you in on the historical chronology up to the current point in time.

The backstory comes in many forms including through flashbacks (e.g. war veteran), dialogue (e.g. characters talking), on screen narration (ala Star Wars), recollection (e.g. characters remembering), and exposition (insertion throughout the story).

Structure overview

The structure overview provides a description the structure of the game. It will describe all of the levels and what happens during each level. It may include boss fights, way-points, junctions and other structural elements.

A diagram may be included that represents the structure.

A game structure includes:

  1. Initialization – this is how the game starts.
  2. The game loop – this is the main part of the game – all of the levels etc.
  3. Termination – this is how the game ends.

Game overview

The game overview provides details such as:

  • Genre: ‘The game with no name’ will be gamified e-learning.  It will incorporate both role-play and simulation.
  • Immersion e.g. imaginary, visual, challenge, emotional, aural
  • Soundtrack
  • Game-play modes
  • Sequence of play e.g. Structural stepping stones
  • Objectives i.e. How to achieve success
  • Advancement – how to advance through the game
  • In game vents
  • Course granularity
  • Victory condition i.e. how to succeed
  • Termination condition i.e. how the game could end (success or failure)
  • Difficulty i.e. stress v skill v speed v challenge
  • Camera model i.e. first/second/third person
  • Interaction model i.e. how the user interacts e.g. through the interface, role play etc.
  • Character status attributes i.e. Attributes of the avatar include points, bonuses, and badges.
  • Character growth e.g. special powers, skills etc.
  • Character dimensional e.g. personality, emotion etc.
  • Shell menus i.e.  points, bonuses, badges, start, and exit etc.
  • Players i.e. single, multi etc.
  • Accumulation e.g. collecting objects
  • Game world i.e. where the game exists e.g. on a battlefield, outer space etc.
  • Difficulty i.e. difficulty, pace and frequency of challenges etc.

Level map

The level map shows the levels and what is contained in each level. It provides a birds’ eye view.

Narrative map

The narrative map aligns to the levels map and describes each level.

 Art style

The art style is a description of the appearance of the game. Examples include realism, caricature, fantasy, dark, etc. Examples of images from various sources may be used to provide a ‘scrapbook’.

Color scheme

The color scheme extends on the art direction and describes in detail the colors that will be used throughout, the overall visual feel, and a mood board to show how each level will appear.


This is a description of the interface. Similar to the previous two items, this section may also include a scrapbook of examples e.g. fighter plane cockpits, cartoon elements etc.


The mechanics should be mapped out to describe:

  • Key board/actions – mechanic description e.g. Space bar – Jump
  • Drains – description – impact e.g. Coconuts decrease – as character throws them – must get new ones from tree
  • Points – description – impact e.g.

Detailed level descriptions

Each level is described in detail and covers:.

  • Theme: Suggestive imagery
  • Environment
  • Path
  • Navigation (x/y/z axis)
  • Look back/look forward reference points
  • Backtracking
  • Focal point
  • Gameplay space
  • Event path
  • Pace
  • Environment map
  • Objectives
  • Scripted events
  • Emotional trigger
  • Interactive environment
  • Lighting
  • Color palette (cool/warm etc.)
  • Sound.

An understanding of game creation will assist in applying game elements to digital media.