The Game Design Document (GDD) it the blueprint from which a computer or video game is to be built. As such, every single detail necessary to build the game must be addressed in the document (or support documents). If it’s not in the document, then it probably won’t be in the game.
Below you will find an outline for a generic Game Design Document. The problem is that no generic GDD will be able to address all the various genres for which a game may be created. For example, consider the games PacMan, SimCity and Doom. All three games required detailed design documents, but if you think about it, those documents would be entirely different! As such, when using the outline below you will find sections that will be totally meaningless to your game. But also, there will be sections that your GDD requires to describe the game. Just because it’s not in my outline, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t belong.
The GDD is a reference document. Members of the development team will constantly be using the document to find specific information for their specific needs. Consider the size such a document may grow to in order to document every piece of the game. We don’t want the GDD to cause information overload and then become a prop under somebody’s wobbly desk. As such it is important that you organize and format the document to make it easy to use. Also note that some of these sections might not appear in the GDD itself but instead would appear in supplemental documents such as an Art Bible or Test Plan. This helps make the overall document more manageable and readable.
One last comment, a game design document is meant to be a living document. Just as when the artist changes the design of his painting every time he takes his brush to the canvas, a computer or video game evolves as code and art are created. The GDD then is the communication tool from which all the members of the team can follow that evolution.
Game Name – Perhaps also add a subtitle or high concept sentence.
Version Number, author, date
Table of Contents – Make sure this includes all the subsections to make finding material. If practical, hyper linking the document will help here.
Design History – This is a change listing quickly describing each major version and changes.
Section I - Game Overview
Game Flow Summary – How does the player move through the game. Both through framing interface and the game itself.
Look and Feel – What is the basic look and feel of the game? What is the visual style?
Project Scope – A summary of the scope of the game.
Play Flow – How does the game flow for the game player
Mechanics – What are the rules to the game, both implicit and explicit. This is the model of the universe that the game works under. Think of it as a simulation of a world, how do all the pieces interact? This actually can be a very large section.