One of the biggest things that surprise my students is the amount of documentation that goes into any game development project. Good game documentation is essential for ensuring that everyone on the game development team is on the same page and working towards the same goals.
The Concept Document
There are a variety of different types of documentation that the game development team will prepare and revise over the course of the project. One of the most pivotal documents and the first to be created is the concept document.
The concept document is a short 3 to 5 page overview of the game and why it should be published. Think of the concept document as containing both your elevator speech and quick information about the game. Unlike design or technical documents that go into the nitty-gritty of game mechanics the game concept document describes the main vision and goal for the game.
Contents of the Concept Document
The game concept document is made of several elements and varies by studio but typically you can expect to find the following information: overview, high concept, unique selling point, platform requirements, synopsis, objectives, gameplay, and development team.
The game overview lists out basic details about the game, the title, genre, platform, rating, and target market.
The high concept is typically made up of two parts, the game vision, and the x-statement.
The game vision describes what you and your team hope to accomplish. This summary is usually no more than a paragraph in length.
The X-Statement, according to game designer and author Tracy Fullerton, is the creative center of your game, a quick overview described made up of two parts.
- – a comparison to other games or game genre to help determine what features are a must
- – a catchy phrase that makes the game sound fun to play.
The unique selling point describes or lists key features of the game that make it “unique” or different from other games of its genre or type. In other words, why would someone purchase this action game (for example) versus any other one that is out there?
Platform requirements outline the minimum hardware and software requirements in order to play the game.
The game synopsis provides a short description of the overall premise or narrative of the game and includes information about the game setting as well as the role the player takes on within the game.
The objectives describe the main objectives for the player as well as the winning and losing conditions for the game.
In general, gameplay refers to the challenges, choices, and consequences the player faces in the game. However, in this case, only a brief overview (a paragraph or so) regarding gameplay as it is defined above is often provided. In addition to that, the gameplay section of the concept document will also include information about the player controls, game modes, and hours of gameplay.
The last section of the concept document will list the roles and responsibilities of your game development team. Depending on the size of your team it may list everyone, or more often than not, the core leads on the team.
Heart and Soul
Unlike other game documentation that goes into the nitty-gritty details of the game development, from naming conventions, file formats, to character relationships and hardware behaviors; the concept document is more the heart and soul of the game.
The concept document provides a clear and simple vision for everyone on your game development team as to the type of game your team is set to make and what they hope to achieve by the end of production. It is the one document that everyone on the team should have memorized and when asked about the project can without a doubt describe the game in reference to the concept document.
The concept document is one of the first documents I have my students develop as they go through any game design project. Once completed students present their concept document as a pitch to the class using the concept/pitch slide deck (below) as a template.
I hope you have learned the importance of the game concept document and feel free to use the slide deck (above) in your next development project. I would also love to hear if there is anything I am missing in the concept document or if you have any comments or suggestions in regards to developing a concept document.