I am Dalilean and I am a gamer. There I have said it. Damn, feels like a weight is lifted from my shoulders… They say the first step is to admit the problem. Now the second step is doing something about it.


As more than a few of you know, I decided to design a game.

Right now I feel like I am at a critical point in development. I am looking at the aspects of the game, from a game play point of view. This means I am past the story, the conceptualization, and now I am dealing with issues of “What specifics do each character have”, “What options and results do the actions of the player have in the game.”

I got to wondering, How much do I show possible investors or developers without showing too much?

I worry that I give them a copy of the Game Design Document; they will just say thank you and nothing else. Then, several years later, I will see my concepts seeping into games. I have learned from previous experiences that not everyone is honest and that a healthy level of paranoia goes a long way in this world.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Hey good to see that you came here :) \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2010 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ Nobody's gonna copy/steal your idea. Sorry, but there are millions of ideas out there, the value comes in being able to successfully execute that idea and make something real about it. This is a common pitfall I see in novice game developers. \$\endgroup\$
    – davr
    Aug 19, 2010 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @davr - You would be quite surprised. I agree successful execution is key, but ideas are still very valuable. \$\endgroup\$
    – Nate
    Aug 19, 2010 at 20:04
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    \$\begingroup\$ Btw, if you are the same Dalilean as on DeviantArt, wow. Atmosphere is obviously your forte. I would exploit that as much as possible with really good concept art. \$\endgroup\$
    – drxzcl
    Aug 20, 2010 at 7:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, this is the same Dalilean. Wow, I am a celebrity...just kidding. Thanks for the comment though. I really apreciate it. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 23, 2010 at 13:03

5 Answers 5


Game development studios and Publishers do not accept unsolicited design documents. If you send them one directly it will be immediately trashed. Any dev studio has far more ideas than it has time/money/resources to build them and so they aren't looking for stuff from the outside. Also as a legal protection if they are working on something unannounced that has similarities with a document that was submitted to them, then proving they were already working on those concepts can become costly. It's just safer to not look at those things.

Most of the indie community are self starters. They decide to build games because they have some concept they want to explore and start making it on their own. You aren't going to find an untapped resource of programmers & artists that desperately want to make someone else's work.

If you really want to make your game, then find out how to simplify your idea to match your ability and start building it on your own.

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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 on the unsolicited design document comment. Sadly, there's no way you're going to get a studio to sign an NDA on a game design either. The smart investor typically doesn't get involved unless you can prove you can finish the implementation of your design. \$\endgroup\$
    – jpaver
    Aug 19, 2010 at 18:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Or have lots of money yourself and pay for someone to do it for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – speeder
    Aug 19, 2010 at 21:22

Since you mention "investors" - investors care less about your Great Idea for a game, and more about the team you've put together. Do you have people with a strong track record of executing a project, getting it done, and doing it well? If not, you'll have a hard time getting investment capital. The design doc is the first 1% of the work, after all.

That said, if someone does want to see your design doc and you're really that paranoid about it, my advice would be to consult a lawyer in advance and have some kind of NDA (Non-disclosure agreement) that the other party can sign before you show them anything that would be potentially damaging to you if they "steal" it. NDAs are pretty common in this industry. As others have said, no one is going to steal your idea (they have too many of their own as it is), so it comes down to how paranoid you want to be.

And for the love of all that is holy, have a working, playable demo to show. That is the bare minimum bar to hit if you're trying to get funding. If all you have is paper, then you have failed to show any ability to turn it into reality, and you'll be politely shown the door.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Following on the playable demo comment, is it within the realm of possibility to get anything like that going either by yourself or with a few trusted associates? It would really help with the elevator pitch. \$\endgroup\$
    – drxzcl
    Aug 20, 2010 at 7:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Most investors, especially VCs, will never sign an NDA. blog.guykawasaki.com/2006/01/the_venture_cap.html \$\endgroup\$ Aug 27, 2010 at 0:10

Just show them the design document. Game ideas/design are rarely the main factor in ones success. It's how you implement the idea and the team that puts it together is what will make the difference. You need not to worry about people copying your game idea, that is, if your game ideas were truly revolutionary, you will have many copycats but will always be one step ahead of them. Only you know how to implement your ideas in your unique way and no one can copy that. If your ideas was easily copied, it is not because someone stole your idea, it is because you did not have the ability to carry out that idea in a successful way. You will need this level of confidence to gain investors trust.

  • \$\begingroup\$ +1 It's all about execution, and only you can do YOUR idea. \$\endgroup\$ Aug 19, 2010 at 18:50

Why Your Game Idea Sucks - courtesy of Escapist Magazine.

Seriously, the only thing that you should show investors is a completed game (or close to completed). As others have pointed out, they're not going to look at "ideas on paper", and if they did, probably couldn't tell if the idea would be successful or not. Really, who would have predicted that a 140-character-maximum messenging server would succeed?


The main thing to show them is your passion and excitement for the game. Show them as much of your game as needed to get them to share your excitement. It is better to risk showing them too much and get them sold on it.


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