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How should I structure a design document?

I'm planning to apply for a game designer position at a big company. But the problem is, according to my CV, I'm not fit for being a game designer. (I'm a programmer).

But, I don't like this and still would like to try my chances. Even though I'm a programmer, I have lots of ideas which I can put on paper in any detail depth imaginable. (It's not like "bro, I have this cool game idea in which you fly a spaceship and you see these scary monsters just like in ....", I can really make it professional).

To be able to achieve this, I want to send a game design with my application, written in proper way, that will make it easy for them to accept me.

Question is, what is the proper format for game design documents? Is there a template? What is the detail level? Where can I find a final game design document for a released professional game?

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I wouldn't recommend to send your design, because some day you can find out your game being published even when they didn't hire you. Have you concidered to apply for game tester, then get a propotion to game desiner or other industry related role? –  rraallvv Jan 15 '13 at 14:20
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unlikely, @rraallw. Ideas are worthless, it's the execution that counts. –  Philipp Jan 15 '13 at 14:25
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@jsnoob: I would recommend you to remove the part about trying to find a job from your question, because it will likely distract people from your actual question about how game design documents look. –  Philipp Jan 15 '13 at 14:27
    
It might help if you can actually transform one of those ideas into a real game (no matter how small it may be). By doing this with a small team you'll quickly learn what the format for these documents is (since they are used mostly for communication with developers etc). Besides, I don't think it's just one document, I imagine it being a large set of documents about the design, techniques, gameplay, art, financial docs etc. –  Thomas Jan 15 '13 at 15:14
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marked as duplicate by Byte56, Noctrine Jan 15 '13 at 19:46

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4 Answers

Reality

This is not the way to approach getting a job as a game designer. It won't happen, not this way. At least not with any company worth working for. First of all, if you have to ask what a professional game design document looks like, even though you say you can make it "look professional", you are not getting the job. Game designers have worked on several projects, they have a proven track record, and they certainly know the formatting of a game design doc. I know this all sounds harsh, but it's the reality.

Be a game designer

You can be a game designer without working professionally as one. There’s nothing stopping you from designing games. And if you want to do this professionally, that’s exactly what you have to do. You should have many finished game designs, not just on paper, you should make your own working prototypes. As you likely won’t have anyone to make your games for you, you need to do them yourself. We’re not necessarily talking finished products you can release on Steam, but it would help a lot. If you can prove you’re able to come up with interesting gameplay mechanics all wrapped up in a nice package that actually sells, well, then you’ve got a lot better chance than the guy who just sends in a game design doc… that document will likely not even be read.

The game designer position

I don’t think the game design position is what you think it is. There are very few game designers in the world doing just game design. Most have a lot of other responsibilities. If you do work solely as a game designer, well, then your job on that project can be over before you know it. It’s very likely you won’t get to be involved in a project from start to finish, you might be there just from the start and do a game design doc, and then you’re done. From there someone else is in charge, like the producer. Game design is more about game rules and mechanics than it’s about “this MMO where we have the whole planet in our game, and you can just like, live in apartments, buy things, and yeah, there should be discos where you can be like all virtual reality on the dance floor, when you’re actually at home in your apartment, but in the game! So it’s a game, but VR, inside of a game. And, oh yeah, there should be…”

Getting the job

Basically I’m saying you can’t get a job as a game designer without having designed a few games. It’s as basic as that. There are a few ways to get there. A) like I’ve said earlier, you can start making your own successful games. B) You can work on countless games in other roles, testing, programming, concept artist, whatever it takes, and eventually get to the producer role. From there you can eventually get to a game design position.

The game design doc

To actually answer concretely at least one of your questions:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/3384/the_anatomy_of_a_design_document_.php

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Check out first couple of answers in this topic:

You can also check following ones:

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I'd actually say this question is a duplicate of the first question you listed. Thanks for finding that. –  Byte56 Jan 15 '13 at 18:14
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There are no guidelines or rules for that. But keep in mind that it should be practical, write it down in a way you could use it as reference when developing it. You should have developed a few games haven't you? (If not you will probably have a hard time getting a job as game designer.)

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My advice is this: don't apply for this job. Build something and write multiple designs, then apply for a job. Emphasis on "build something" here.

Don't expect that you can whip up a design document before hand and pass it off and get someone's attention. They don't have to be long, but they can be. Are you ready to make a well done document 15-20 pages long with concept art? Again, a design doc doesn't always have to be that, but it can be.

Do though go create a game, or at least the prototype-concept of a game. An excellent way to start is to make a mod for a game -- Half-Life 2 for example. You're a programmer, so that means you can actually implement your ideas.

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