How to Write a Game Vision Document

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What is the game vision document

A Video Game Vision Document (or Concept Document) is the description of a future game. It must be short, so the reader won’t get bored while trying to understand the product. Also, it must be informative enough, so after finishing the doc the reader could imagine the final product.

A vision document must explain:

  • gameplay and unique game mechanics;
  • game setting and story;
  • the coolest features of your game;
  • concept art if you have so.

The problem is that many game developers don’t understand vision document purpose. It’s not about detailed explanation of every single item in your game. Vision and concept are needed to present the game to the investors, to make the developers interested to work within your team and to make the players hyped and ready to preorder or participate in alpha/beta testing. Sadly, it is much harder to promote your game on the start of the development process without good vision document.

And here we are to explain to you how to write game concept or vision document.

Why game developers need vision and concept documents

At first, we need to state that game vision doc is short and informative. You can read it under 5 minutes and imagine the complete game.

concept document

It’s important, if you need to present the ideas to a new person. Now lets see what happens when you don’t have vision doc:

Game development with the vision document

  1. The team can reread it to know if they are developing in the right direction.
  2. Designers and artist can check the concept to see if their art fits in original vision.
  3. If there are more than 3 people in your team, every member will have the same references and will follow the same goal as other team members.
  4. Publishers, game journalists and bloggers can understand your game under 2 minutes.

Game development without the vision document

  1. The team will get confused with hundreds of references or no references at all.
  2. Designers and artists have no simple guideline of what they have to create.
  3. Every member has to read bulky GDD to refresh memory.
  4. Publishers and bloggers won’t accept GDD as an entry material to simply check your ideas.

Also, the vision document serves one more purpose — clarity of concept. The game may look complete in the game designer’s mind, but a consistent description will show holes in design, mechanics, art or story. By working on a vision document the game designer can polish the idea.

concept vision art

How to write game vision document

There is no template for concept and vision documents, because the document’s content varies for every game. For example, for a Hidden Object game the designer need to focus on visual style and story, because gameplay is simple. And for an economic strategy he has to focus on a variety of available game mechanics.

hidden objects game

Still, there are some points that need to be explained in this document:

  • introduction;
  • description;
  • key features;
  • genre;
  • platforms;
  • concept art.

Let’s explain them further.

Introduction part

In this part the game designer describes the game in a few sentences. The best analogy is the game’s descriptions on Steam or App Store. They immediately tell the reader about genre, setting and story basis.

game concept doc short description

Example: “Divide and Conquer is a multiplayer turn-based strategy mobile game with accent on diplomacy. The player forms the alliances, breaks the oath and tries to conquer the world by being the most tricky leader”.

Yep, introduction has to be short.

Description part

Description may look like a longer version of introduction, but it focuses more on game’s rules, GUI elements, victory and defeat conditions, etc. In general, description part must explain the player experience.

Example: “Every player gets one town on a big hexagonal map. Players take turns to expand their borders, develop an economy, engage in diplomacy and search for resources on a map. Resources are hidden, but the game has obvious logic: flat fields are good for harvesting food, mountains contain metals, rivers and seas has plenty of fish. The nations can form trading alliance like “I give you my fish excess, you give me coal”. Country position is valuable too:  the nation in between may become a “marketplace” for its neighbors. To develop an economy the nation has to extract resources. For example, if the nation is mostly harvesting and selling wheat, it will unlock agricultural skills faster than others.

game description

Every nation consists of people, who has their thought on what’s going on. If the people are unhappy with their leader for too long, they will rebel and throw out their leader. The leader can suppress the rebels, but other countries may interfere in order to free the people. There is no actual battles in Divide and Conquer: nations spend part of their budgets on the military or donate money to other nations armies. Whoever has the most money wins. When the leader loses, his lands and people are divided between those leaders who helped the rebels. If there were none, then the people and lands join the neighbor with the happiest population. When there are no more than 4 independent nations left and their people are happy for the next 10 turns, the game is over. Leaders are placed by the population happiness at the end of the game. The typical length of one game is from 30 to 120 minutes.”

Probably, while reading this you’ve imagined a world map with countries trading, fighting and befriending each other in dialogue screens. That’s the goal of description: to make the reader to imagine the game and decide if he would play it or not.

Key features part

Key features part contains a simple list of unique things the game has. For example, Prince of Persia key feature was parkour system with wall running, spectacular sword combat and unique rewind mechanic. The Bioshock Infinite had unique art style and setting — the flying city of Columbia. Fortnite has breaking and building mechanics, which made one of the best destruction systems in shooter games.

bioshock columbia

So, if you came up with unique story, setting, mechanics, characters, weapons or something else — write it down, because it may become a selling point. There are a few fresh examples:

  • Lady Dimitrescu from Resident Evil 8 — many players liked a tall vampire;
  • Ghost of Tsushima — a rare open-world game about samurais;
  • Fall Guys — a funny battle royale without violence.

Our Divide and Conquer games has a few key features too:

  • it is mostly peaceful game, where the player needs to pay attention to his people;
  • the war is rarely profitable for the aggressor, because the whole world can go against him;
  • the economy is real: there’s no fixed prices, and resources are generated randomly. Sometimes stones may be worth more than gold.

It is OK to list 3-5 features. It shows that the game differs from existing ones while sticking to a common genre or game mechanics which won’t scare the players away. But listing more than 10 unique features is a huge turnoff for the publishers and experienced investors. They understand, that even AAA developers sometimes fail to deliver a game full of uniqueness. For example, Stalker 2 features random teeth generation algorithm — a rather useless feature.

stalker 2 teeth

Genre part

Even if you called the genre in introduction or description part, it is always worth to specify it further. For example, Counter Strike: Global Offensive is a competitive first person shooter with economy system and low time to kill. Its competitor Valorant is a competitive FPS with economy system too, but it also has MOBA elements. And Overwatch is competitive FPS with MOBA elements but without the economy.

fps game vision

Game developers have to specify the genre, so the publisher will know what to expect, what kind of players are the target audience, how much money to give for the development and how to promote the game. It’s obvious, that no game developer can put Divide and Conquer’s key features in an open-world RPG, because it’s impossible to balance all mechanics and make them interesting for the player. So there’s no chance a game like this will ever be finished. But it is possible and relatively cheap to develop a strategy game like this, and it will be profitable even with a small audience.

Platform part

The game developer has to specify the gaming platforms he is planning to launch the game. Strategy games are popular among PC-users, while third person games — withing console gamers. And mobile games talk for themselves: spend less money on graphics and gameplay, spend more on marketing and high-level content.

Concept art

The last advice of how to write game vision document — add concept art or reference images. Art will help the reader to imagine what the creator had in mind. Also, it will explain unusual setting, architecture, characters and events. But to create those concept art the game designer has to find an artist and pay him to paint the concept.

game concept art

The cheaper way to explain something with visuals is to find references. For example, if the game events will be happening in Gothic castles, the game designer can simply find Gothic castles photos. In the case of our strategy game Divide and Conquer we can draw hexagonal map and some interface on top of it.

Mistakes of writing a game vision document

It’s easy to get driven with fantasies and ambitions while developing the game concept. Remember, that the game development budget are limited, so make the concept realistic. Don’t promise the smartest AI ever, photorealistic graphics on Nintendo Switch or no microtransaction in a free-to-play game.

Also, don’t try to simply copy existing and popular games. Every genre has one or two popular games which attract 95% of the target audience. In most cases these games were developed by big studios, and most players will prefer good graphics over polished gameplay. And good graphics needs huge development budget. So, try to create your own subgenre on top of well known game mechanics. Just like PUBG, DotA and Dark Souls did.

Having problems with game concept document? Kreonit studio will help

helping hand from kreonit

If you don’t know how to write the game vision document — ask us to help. Professionals from Kreonit game art outsourcing studio will help you with every question.

If you are busy, you can discuss your game ideas with us, and we’ll write a vision doc for you. Just fill the brief below.

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