Is there a formal format for documenting the game design process?

Before you answer with "The Game Design Document (GDD), of course!", in my opinion (and lots of people's opinions as well, I think) a GDD is used for presenting a finalized product, and not documenting the actual game design process.

What I need is a tool to aid me in the process of designing a game. It has to have some sort of categorization of ideas (e.g. in the set of elements that Greg Costikyan has proposed, it could have sections for goals, resources, challenges, etc., although it doesn't necessarily have to fit Costikyan's ideas), it has to be aimed towards the iterative design process (which means that it has to have inherent non-linear capabilities, non-existent in the GDD format) and it has to be as universal as possible (suitable for both video games or board games).

If such a tool doesn't exist, I propose to start a collaborative effort from the game designer community, working towards creating it, producing a tool that's as standard and universal as possible.

P.S. Although the formalization of the game design process has been proposed several times, the closest I could find to a formal format is this document.

  • 2
    Is there any reason to believe that there is a canonical process for game design? It seems to me like asking for 'the template for writing'; there are generalizations that can be made and even documents that could be created that could help some people, but no tool is going to be one-size-fits-all. Maybe you want something like Jesse Schell's Book Of Lenses (and the accompanying deck of cards)? Commented May 21, 2012 at 22:14
  • Right, but I'm not asking for a template or a canonical process. What I'm asking for is a tool of the nature of — for example — a Venn Diagram, or a Mind Map, both of which are not by any means templates or canonical tools, but they can be used as general purpose tools for writing, regardless of genre, form or style.
    – arturovm
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 23:26
  • About the book of lenses: not quite so. It is a design framework, not a tool per se.
    – arturovm
    Commented May 21, 2012 at 23:27

2 Answers 2


Maybe this won't answer your question either, but it might get us closer.

  • First, a short glance at Jason Bakker's "A GDD Template for the Indie Developer" will stress the need for Breaking down components, keeping it simple, lists are a great tool for knowing what you'll do (as in a To Do or shopping list). Analysis itself being key in the process of game creation.
  • Second, I would suggest a good look at Stone Librande's suggestion of "One Page Designs". Stressing the need to show the relationship between elements in a more visual way.

Still, I agree with Steven, no tool will ever fit all needs. So:

  • Lastly, I would add a key component to the process of Game Design: Document Design itself. So we keep this ever-evolving and so that every project has the right document to it. Making the document is the process itself. A living document, changing all along the project.

I happened to come across this post in my daily search for innovative game design ideas. You might want to try this from lost garden. I am curious as to what you think? The original document you posted I use for developing large quantities of game concepts, so I am not sure if it exactly ideal for describing the design process. I would be interested though in helping to create a template for documenting the game design process. If your looking for a game design document template you try this one out.

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