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Contents
TheAnatomyofaDesign
Document,Part1:
DocumentationGuidelines
fortheGameConceptand
Proposal
Page1
Page2
Page3
Page4

PROGRAMMING
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TheAnatomyofaDesignDocument,Part
1:DocumentationGuidelinesforthe
GameConceptandProposal
byTimRyan[Design,Production]

11comments

October19,1999

Page3of4

GuidelinesfortheGameProposal
Agameproposalisaformalprojectproposalusedtosecurefundingandresourcesforagame
developmentproject.Asagameproposaltakestime(andtherefore,money)todocorrectly,itshould
onlybedevelopedforpromisinggameconcepts.
Theproposalisanexpansionuponthegame
concept.Writingaproposalmayinvolvegathering
feedbackandinformationfromotherdepartments,especiallythemarketingdepartment(ifitexists).You
mayneedyourmarketingdepartmenttoperformsomemarketresearchandanalysisontheconcept.If
thegamerequireslicensing,youmayneedyourfinanceandlegaldepartmentstoinvestigatethe
availabilityandcostsinvolvedinsecuringthelicense.
Theprogrammingstaff,typicallyseniorprogrammersorthetechnicaldirector,shouldperformaninitial
technicalevaluationoftheconcept.Theyshouldcommentonthetechnicalfeasibilityoftheconceptand
theprogrammingareasthatmayrequireresearch.Theyshouldassesstherisksandmajortasksinthe
projectandsuggestsolutionsandalternatives.Theyshouldgivearoughestimateastotherequired
researchanddevelopmenttimeandresources.

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Thegameproposalshouldincludearevisedversionofthegameconcept.Technical,marketing,and
financefeedbacktotheconceptdocumentmightforceyoutoscalebacktheconcept.Itmightalso
suggestmodifyingoraddingfeatures.Thesechangesshouldnottakeanyonebysurprise,asthisisthe
firsttimethattheconcepthasbeensubjectedtomajorcriticismandthecollaborativeprocess.Giving
copiesofthefeedbackandanalysistothedirectorofdevelopment(orwhoeveraskedforthegame
proposal)beforetheyarefoldedintothegameproposaloreffectchangesintheconceptisagoodidea.
Thisprocessnotonlyprovideswrittenconfirmationthattheconcepthasbeenreviewedbycertainpeople
ordepartments,butitarmsthedirectorwiththeknowledgetoveto,alter,orotherwiseapproveany
proposedchanges.
Thegameproposalincludesthefollowingfeatures:
Revisedgameconcept(preceding)
Marketanalysis
Technicalanalysis
Legalanalysis(ifapplicable)
Costandrevenueprojections
Art
Marketanalysis:Themarketingdepartmentand/oramarketresearchfirm,assumingyourcompanycan
affordit,shouldcompilethisinformation.Ifyouarecompilingthisinformationyourself,youshouldtryto
avoidpureguessesonnumbers.LookforinfoontheInternet(www.gamestats.comisagoodsource)and
useexistinghitsinthesamegenreasindicatorsformarketperformance.
Targetmarket:Thetargetmarketisdefinedbythegenreandtheplatform,issuesthathavebeen
alreadyaddressedintheconceptdocument.Youcanqualifythisdefinitionbymentioningspecific
titlesthatepitomizethismarket.Themostsuccessfulofthesetitleswillindicatetheviabilityand
sizeofthemarket.Alsomentionthetypicalagerange,gender,andanyotherkeycharacteristics.If
thisgameinvolvesalicensedpropertyorisasequel,describetheexistingmarket.

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Topperformers:Listthetopperformersinthemarket.Expresstheirsalesnumbersintermsof
units,breakingoutanynotabledatadisknumbersandanysuccessfulsequels.Includetheirship
date.YoucanbevagueQ11998orspring1998.Thisresearchcangowayback,sopresentyour
datainchronologicalorder.
Listtheirplatformsiftheyvaryfromtheplatformfortheproposedgame.However,becausethe
marketschangedependingontheplatform,youshouldalwayspresentsometitleofthesamegenre
onthetargetplatform,evenifitdidn'tperformaswellastheothers.Suchdatamayindicatea
sluggishnessforthatparticulargenreofgamesontheplatform.Forexample,turnbasedstrategy
gamesmayhavegreatsalesonthePCplatform,buthaveterriblenumbersontheSony
PlayStation.Thislistoftopperformersshouldindicatethisdiscrepancyifyou'redoingaturnbased
strategygame.
Featurecomparison:Breakdownthesellingfeaturesofthesetopperformers.Compareand
contrastthemtothekeyfeaturesdescribedintheconceptdocument.Trytoprovidesomespecifics.
Forexample:
TacticalCombat:InCommand&Conquer,DarkReign,andMyth,youorderyourunitstoattack
specifictargetsandmovetospecificplacesorrangesforanadvantage.Mostunitshaveaunique
strengthandweaknessthatbecomeapparentduringplay,thusencouragingyoutodevelopsuperior
tactics.Tankticshasawidervarietyoforderstoallowyoutoapplysuperiortactics,suchas
capture,ram,andhitandrun.Unitpositionandtargetselectionbecomeevenmoreimportantdue
toterrain,movement,andrangebonusesfiringarcsandsoftspotsinrearandsidehitlocations.
Alloftheunitshavedistinctweaponry,armor,andspeedtodifferentiatetheirstrengthsand
weaknessesandencouragetactics.Notonlydoyoulearntomasterthesetacticsovertime,butyou
canalsoscriptthesetacticsintocustomorders.
Technicalanalysis:Thetechnicalanalysisshouldbewrittenbyaseasonedprogrammer,preferablythe
technicaldirectororaleadprogrammer,andtheneditedandcompiledintotheproposal.Reviewersof
thisproposalwillusethistechnicalanalysistohelpthemmaketheirdecisions.Behonestitwillsaveyou
alotofgriefintheend.Overall,thisanalysisshouldmakethereviewersoptimisticaboutthegame's
chanceofsucceeding.

About

Experimentalfeatures:Identifythefeaturesinthedesignthatseemexperimentalinnature,suchas
untriedorunproventechnologies,techniques,perspectives,orotheruniqueideas.Donotinclude

EditorInChief:
KrisGraft

featuresthathavebeenprovenbyexistinggames,eveniftheyarenewtothedevelopmentteam.
Forexample,iftheteamhasneverdevelopeda3Dengine,don'tlistitasexperimental.Rather,list

BlogDirector:
ChristianNutt

itinoneormoreoftheothercategoriesinthetechnicalanalysissection.Ontheotherhand,ifyour

SeniorContributing

developmentteamisworkingona3Dengineusingthetheoreticalsystemofquads,thenthiseffort
shouldbelistedasexperimental.Ofcourse,bythetimeyoureadthisarticle,quadscouldbein

Editor:
BrandonSheffield

commonuse.
Includeanestimateofthetimethatitwilltaketobringtheexperimentalfeaturetoanevaluation

NewsEditors:

state,aswellasanoveralltimeestimateforcompletingthefeature.Experimentalareasgenerally

AlexWawro
Advertising/Recruitm
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needmoretimeintheschedule,sothemoreexperimentalfeaturesyoulist,thelongertheschedule
willbe.Whilesomecompaniesshyawayfromsuch18to24monthprojects,manyseethese
experimentsasworthwhileinvestmentsincreatingleadingedgetitles.Sotellitlikeitis,butdon't
forgettotellthemwhattheywillgetoutofit.Makethemfeelcomfortablethattheexperimentswill
workoutwell.

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Majordevelopmenttasks:Inaparagraphorafewbulletpoints,makeclearthemajordevelopment
ReportaProblem
SubmitNews
CommentGuidelines
BloggingGuidelines

tasks.Uselanguagethatnontechnicalpeoplecanunderstand.Majormeansmonthsof
development.Giveatimeestimatethatassumesthatyouhavealloftheresourcesthatyou'llneed
toaccomplishthetask.Youcouldalsogiveanestimateoftheresourcesthatyou'llneed.For
example:
"ArtificialIntelligenceScriptParser:Threetofourmonthswithtwoprogrammers.Theparserreads
andcompilestheAIscriptsintolowerlevellogicandinstructionsthatareexecutedatruntime."

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Risks:Listanytechnicalrisks.Ifyoudon'tforeseeanytechnicalrisks,byallmeanssayso.Risks
areanyaspectofresearchanddevelopmentthatwillcauseamajorsetback(weeksormonths)if
theyfail.Listtechnologiesthat,thoughthey'vebeenproventoworkbycompetitors,yourcompany
hasneverdevelopedorwithwhichyourcompanyhaslittleexperience.List,forexample,realtime

Gama Network

strategyifyourteamhasneverdevelopedarealtimestrategygamebeforeor3Drenderingifthis
isyourfirstforayinto3D.Listanyofthemajordevelopmenttasksmentionedpreviouslyifyou

Ifyouenjoyreadingthissite,
youmightalsowanttocheck

perceiveanyrisk.Alluntriedofftheshelfsolutions(3Dengines,editors,codelibrariesandAPIs,
drivers,andsoon)shouldbelistedasrisksbecausetheymayendupnotfulfillingyourparticular

outtheseUBMTechsites:

needs.Anydevelopmentdonebyanoutsidecontractorshouldalsobelisted,asthat'salwaysabig

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risk.Whenassessingrisks,youshouldalsoindicatethelikelyimpactthatfixingorreplacingthe
technologywillhaveontheschedule.Indicatethetimeinweeksormonthsthattheshipdatewill

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slip.Listthetimeimpactonspecificresources.Listanynewresources(people,software,hardware,
andsoon)thatwouldberequiredtofixit.Thissectionmayseempessimistic,butitcreatesa
comfortlevelforyourdocument'sreviewerstheywillcomeawaywiththeimpressionthatthe
gameimplementationisundercontrol,especiallyiftheycanperceivetheserisksthemselves.Plus
you'llhavetheopportunitytosay,"Youcan'tsayIdidn'twarnyou."
Alternatives(ifany):Alternativesaresuggestionsforworkingaroundsomeoftheseexperimentalor
riskyfeaturesandmajordevelopmenttasks.Bypresentingalternatives,yougivethereviewers
optionsandletthemmakethechoices.Listanythingthatmightcostmoremoneyortimethan
desiredbutmighthavebetterresults,orviceversa(itmaycostlessmoneyandtimebutitmay
havelessdesirableresults).Whateveryoudo,besuretospellouttheprosandcons.
Estimatedresources:Listtheestimatedresources:employees,contractors,software,hardware,
andsoon.Usegeneric,industrystandardtitlesforpeopleoutsideofthecompany:forinstance,the

publisherorinvestorwhomightreadyourdocument.Listtheirtimeestimatesinworkmonthsor
weeks.Ignoreactualcosts(dollars),asthatcomeslater.
EstimatedSchedule:Thescheduleisanoveralldurationofthedevelopmentcyclefollowedby
milestoneestimates,startingwiththeearliestpossiblestartdate,thenalpha,beta,andgold
master.

Page3of4

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Comments
AnupamBiswas

1Mar2011at12:38amPST

ThankyousomuchforthisarticleTimRyan.

LogintoReplyorLike

DavidOso

23May2011at3:25pmPST

eh?
theGDDneedstoincludetheproposalaswellastheconceptdesigndocuments?
whyshouldtheybothbeincludedinthegamedesigndocument?
theconceptdesigndocumentisusedtogetthepublishersattention,proposalisusedto
pitchyourideatothepublisher.SoIdon'tknowwhybothmustbeincludedintheGDD
again.

dotheyhavetobeincluded?
LogintoReplyorLike

AaronPierce

12Jun2011at9:12pmPST

Whywouldn'ttheybe?Theproposalespecially.It'sthebasisofthegame,
the"thisiswhatwe'regoingfor"document.It'sthebackbonethatsays
"Hey,we'reofftargetonthisfeature"or"thatfeatureisspoton"duringthe

developmentprocess.Andtheconceptdesignartissuchanintegralpartof
thegamesdesignprocessthatIcouldn'tseeitNOTbeingapartofthe
GDD.Now,mindyou,chancesareitbeasupplementtotheGDD(a
conceptdesignBibleofsomesort),butit'dbeapartofitnonetheless.
LogintoReplyorLike

MelanieStegman

20Nov2015at7:29amPST

It'sbeenmyexperiencethateveryefforttokeepeverymemberofthe
teamonthesamepageshouldbetaken.Afterburyingyourheadin3or3
weeksofcodeormodelingitiseasytostartdownanotherpath.

LogintoReplyorLike

DannyBreen

29Oct2011at11:22amPST

thankstim,thishashelpedmequiteabitwithmycoursework!

LogintoReplyorLike

NarasimmarajanK

25Oct2012at1:49amPST

informative...

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CelmarGalindez

7Jan2014at10:03pmPST

Well,expressivethoughts.Thisisanusefultoolfornovicewhohadneverbeeninthe
industry.Simpleyetwellspoken.

LogintoReplyorLike

TimothyRyan

10Jan2014at8:04pmPST

Wow,thisisreallydated.Ishouldrewriteit.:)Thanks,Gamasutra.I'mgladthisremains
available.

LogintoReplyorLike

TynanWyllie

16Apr2014at5:20pmPST

That'dbegreat!I'mverymuchstartingoutandwouldloveanupdate.Love
what'shere,though,anditisprovingquitehelpful.

LogintoReplyorLike

WillJones

2May2015at10:20pmPST

Thisissomegreatinformationandveryusefulforanyonenewtocreatinggamedesign
documents.

LogintoReplyorLike

WillJones

14May2015at8:36pmPST

Greatinfo.
ApplythesesameconceptstothenewGameDesignDocumentcreatorandmanagerat
Dundoc.http://www.dundoc.comIt'sgonnabegreat!
LogintoReplyorLike

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