How To Plan Your Indie Game + Sample GDD Templates

Charles Brant


Planning GDD To Make Your Video Game Successful

Do you know what’s the worst mistake a game developer can do? It’s undertaking a serious long-term project (that will take years) without creating a plan. Without plan you will make more mistakes, waste time and money, constantly rewrite your code, and often delete the little progress you had just because you realized it won’t fit well. Is there anything worse than this? That’s why you need a game design document.

You probably have a great idea for a game that you’re sure everyone will love. But first you need a plan. Without a plan you will either spend too much time on irrelevant things, forget about important features, create spaghetti code or mess up the project completely.

Every serious game developer (and programmer) creates a roadmap before writing his first lines of code. And our roadmap will be an game design document.

This post is about creating general-purpose game design documents and plans. If you want to know specifically how to plan and make MMO games, then give a read to how to make MMORPG tutorial, multiplayer games are very hard to make and time consuming, however, programming networked MMO game in Unity is possible and if you follow a certain template, then all you need to finish it is discipline and time.

What Exactly Is GDD

So what is GDD? Game design document is a project plan that is required during development so things don’t go south. It contains details about required functionality, assets, and project overview, such as:

  • Gameplay.
  • Story, genre & concept.
  • Core gameplay features.
  • Targeted audience & platform.
  • Monetization.
  • Scope.
  • Sounds, models, textures, images, code.
  • Detailed info about who does what.

Printable Heading-Based GDD Example

This is a great Google Docs example of ready to use GDD. It contains the necessary introduction page:

How To Plan Your Indie Game + Sample GDD Templates 1

Where you can put names and logos of company and game. You can also specify version number. Another important page is structure tree:

How To Plan Your Indie Game + Sample GDD Templates 2

Looks really good and organized. Now you don’t even need to look inside to know what are these sections about. Here’s how you can do the sections:

How To Plan Your Indie Game + Sample GDD Templates 3

But you can also expand them much more.

Trello-Based GDD Plan

In Trello you can create even better thing. It may not be as printable, but its accessible from phones and computers. And many people can edit it. It looks very easy to read and sections are really well separated:

How To Plan Your Indie Game + Sample GDD Templates 4

It looks better than normal PDF, and there are many online interfaces like this one.

Do I Need GDD As Solo Developer?

GDD is required to increase developer efficiency but also for better teamwork between designers, artists and coders. It’s mainly used in teams because it existed long before indie gamedev became a common thing.

Can you imagine the chaos that would occur in bigger teams if such plan didn’t exist? That being said – yes, you need it as solo developer. You absolutely can’t create good product without first overthinking every major step and noting everything.

How To Make My Own GDD

You can create such plan in Google Docs, Microsoft Publisher, and many more. Google Docs is free and online, which is great. Trello is great for beginners as well. Probably the most important thing is noting core features.

Trust me, the shade of grass color isn’t as important as the main gameplay mechanics that will entertain the player and keep him on the hook. Therefore you need to create a list of main features and a detailed description under every section.

How Will Your Design Document Look Like?

Do you know what I love about plans and GDDs? Because your list contains main core features and things to do. So you can easily mark them as done if you finished them.

That’s boosting our motivation. And if you know how many core features there are, you can estimate how many days you will spend on each feature, write it down, and then follow this plan. That’s great system that helps to get things done.

Not only that, but creating an application with a plan is faster. Without plan, you will be rewriting it and starting over many times due to the mess and bugs. And you can even give them versions, like “Movement 1.3” or “Combat System 2.0” – isn’t that great?

Usually games have versions, but if you treat your game with super care, you can also give versions to game components. Creating design document before game is as important as writing article title before article. And its benefits are huge. Just try it!

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