How To Write A Game Design Document (GDD)

By Bolaji Rasheed

What is the best way to handle the development process of a game? This is a common and important question among all indie game developers. Not to worry, the answer to this question is quite simple!   

In order to manage your indie game development process effectively, having detailed documentation is a must, and the famous game design document (GDD) is the best way to do this.   

But first, you need to understand why it is so important for the completion of your project. 

A GDD is a highly descriptive design document that is created from the collaboration of designers, programmers, and artists. This document serves as a guide throughout the game development process. Indie game development processes are often hampered by placeholder arts, malfunctioning code, and clashing mechanics among others. In times like this, having a good GDD will serve as your lifeline.


Tips for Writing a Good Game Design Document (GDD)

Write in Stages

Normally, your mind is filled up with different ideas and concepts when starting a GDD. The best thing to do at this stage is to create a comprehensive template for your document. This template should contain Backgrounds, intros, and major descriptions. Each phase of your development process should follow this template. This will help to keep your GDD organized as the development process becomes more bulky and complex. Having a complete GDD before starting the development process is not compulsory, however, the GDD should be at least two weeks ahead of your team’s current state of work.

Make Room for Changes

During the different stages of indie game development and sometimes in the final days before release, several changes and modifications will have to be made to the GDD. Always have discussions with your team members and never discourage them from submitting new ideas even if most of it won’t make it into the game – who knows what idea will be best for the game. That’s why it is important to make your GDD flexible enough to accommodate changes and new ideas.

However, only one person should be in charge of making changes to the GDD itself. This person should focus on including only the key ideas and cutting the less important ones.

Pay Attention to Readability and Language

Readability is a very important factor that can determine how good your GDD will be. Your headers, font style, formatting, indentation, and punctuation should be uniform and consistent. Using keys and legends to explain some technical or complex parts of the GDD will help reduce confusion.

Also, your GDD should be written in simple, concise, and clear language. The simpler it is, the easier it will be for everyone to read and understand it. Your GDD should reflect your team’s culture and team members should give feedbacks about the readability and clarity of the GDD.

Use Visual Aids

The GDD is a very important document and everyone should be able to fully understand its contents. You should take advantage of visual aids such as concept arts or graphs to quickly explain some very technical or difficult concepts in the GDD. With this, every member of your team will fully understand the information conveyed to them and the development process will move a lot faster.


Online document editors like Google Docs are great for GDDs because you can add links to visual aids and other documents!


Set Priorities and Realistic Goals

When building indie games, you can’t implement all the ideas you or your team members will propose; you’ll have to cut some. Then, you need to set the priorities of the remaining ideas and come up with a reasonable deadline for the implementation of these ideas.

Complex enemies, mechanics, level behaviors, all look good and exciting on paper, but you should have it in mind that making them a reality can disintegrate the greatness of some game elements. Always play new ideas in your mind before putting it in the GDD. This will greatly help to keep your goals embedded in reality.  


In the course of your indie game development, there would be lots of difficult things to do and a lot that can go wrong. Having a good GDD means you have something to fall back on when something goes wrong or some mechanics just don’t work out.

The GDD is a detailed journal of all your struggles and victories and some sort of behind-the-scenes of a complex and rigorous process to produce a game to be enjoyed by all. The GDD says a lot about your game, and it is a testament to your hard work, so you should put a lot of passion into it. Good luck!  

Get Started on Your Own Game Design Document

If you’re not sure where to get started, there are plenty of templates online! Here is one made by Benjamin Stanley. If you know of any resources that can help developers make their own GDDs, please share them in the comments!

Best Free Productivity Software and Tools for Game Development and Promotion

By Tim Youngblood

Whether you’re on a team or designing a game by yourself, staying organized and managing your time is essential. I’m a very unorganized person, I misplace things all the time in my hard drive and even my house. Since I’ve been working online the past few years, I learned how to essentially “idiot proof” everything I work on so I can’t lose it. Since you probably don’t have much of a budget, free tools are essential as software licenses for game development tools you might need can get very expensive. Here are some free tools that I used to make what used to be a weakness of mine into a strength.

Google Docs

Most people are familiar with Google Docs these days so I won’t talk too much about the basics. I prefer Google Docs over Microsoft Office for several reasons. Obviously, Google Docs is free, unlike Microsoft Office, but I would still prefer Google Docs even if Microsoft Office was free. Google Docs allows you to share documents with your team so you can all collaborate on them since it’s cloud-based. It also works on just about any device with an internet connection, this is really nice because I read a lot of documents on my phone.

Google Flowcharts are also great for laying out things like skill trees, item progression, and story arcs before you add them to your game. I’ve also noticed that Google Docs tend to have less formatting issues when you copy and paste them into a CMS (Content management system). My favorite feature, though, is that you can use voice to text on your smartphone to dictate writing. That’s how I wrote this article. Obviously, voice to text doesn’t transcribe your words perfectly, so you’ll need to come back and edit it when you get to a computer. But it’s great for capturing your word vomit so you can come back and edit it later. Like they say in writing classes, great papers aren’t written, they’re rewritten.


A very early screenshot of Origin Story‘s spell tree


Trello is another nice organizational tool that’s cloud-based. It allows multiple users to share and access it on any device with an internet connection. Of any task management tool I’ve ever used, Trello has the easiest interface to use and probably the only interface that works really well on a smartphone. The system itself is pretty simple, users can make boards and put as many columns on these boards to slide cards across. You can put hyperlinks inside of cards for easy access and you can send alerts to other users to let them know when you’re done with your task.

The free version will allow you to do anything you need and pretty much all the Trello Gold version will add is the ability to upload bigger files. The free version allows users to upload files up to two megabytes, which probably isn’t enough if you’re dealing with Graphics assets or video files. Tools like Asana and Jira allow users to upload large files, but you can get around that in Trello if you just add a link to Dropbox on a Trello card. You can make as many Trello boards and cards as you want.


Here’s a screenshot of the Trello board we used to develop the Game Borough website



Editors Note: You can schedule posts inside of Facebook for free now!

Even if you hate social media, if you’re trying to promote your game, you will eventually have to join the fray. Ever wonder how larger social media profiles post so damn much at all times during the day? It’s actually much easier than it looks. You don’t have to be glued to a device 24/7, constantly posting things in order to get the number of posts you want out on social media. Pretty much every professional social media manager uses delayed posting tools like HootSuite. While HootSuite doesn’t work very well on mobile devices, I can’t really complain because it’s the best free program that I’ve used for social media.

HootSuite allows you to schedule posts up to months and even years in advance. This way, you can schedule a month’s worth of social media posts in one sitting. It also makes posting the same piece of content on multiple Networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Linkedin much easier. Whether you’re promoting your game or just reposting evergreen content, this will save you a lot of time.


You can add just about any social network to Hootsuite.


Grammarly is basically spellcheck on crack. It’s great for making sure that you use proper grammar when you’re writing emails in a hurry. It can also help you keep typos out of your game dialogue. It works inside of most content Management systems and social media platforms. It might not sound like a very significant boost to your productivity, but you’d be amazed how much time you save when you don’t have to read things three or four times before sending them. I’m a professional copy editor with two writing degrees and Grammarly still saves my ass all the time.


Scott Allen, a novelist, loves Grammarly as much as I do. Image courtesy of


Stopwatch Extension  (Online or Offline)

Even if you don’t have employee hours to monitor, being aware of how much time on average it takes you to complete a task will help you manage your time better and set more realistic deadlines. I don’t really have a favorite stopwatch tool because most of them work just fine because it’s a relatively simple program. I usually use a browser-based web extension because most of the work I do is online. Some stopwatch extensions allow you to categorize and log your time which can be helpful if you do a lot of different tasks. I’m not an expert on stopwatch apps by any means so if you have a favorite program, let us know in the comments.

*What are your favorite free productivity tools? If you think there’s one we left out that you’re not getting kickbacks for as a sales representative, let us know in the comments!