A game design vision statement, also known as the vision document, is essentially the “elevator pitch” of a game. It’s composed of all the primary goals you have for the game, refined onto paper. All the important mechanics, gameplay elements, storyline and feelings you need to portray to achieve your primary vision for the game, the things that will set it apart.
Having a vision statement for a game helps crystalize the motivation and end result that your team is striving for. This is especially important as the team grows with more ideas and communication of the design elements becomes more important.
What makes up the vision statement?
It should contain a brief explanation of all the main areas of focus for the game. It should not be exhaustive, ideally no more than a few short paragraphs, or even as short as a couple sentences. It really depends on your particular game goals.
Be sure to capture what is most important to your game. You might want to project the mood or attitude of the game in your words. Feel free to add some pictures or reference some of the sources of inspiration for the game.
The actual game design and technical documents would be where all the nitty gritty details reside. The vision statement is just a guide post for all the details.
Why is it important?
- It gives clarity for the game’s main goals with a singular and succinct reference.
- Provides a focus for all future design decisions. Do they support or conflict with the original guidelines? Should the core vision change or the design element be thrown out?
- Easily communicate your design with others. It helps ensure everyone on a team is speaking the same language, and is moving toward the same destination as the design is fleshed out.
- Great tool to pitch your game to publishers, bloggers and other business interests.
Too many design decisions and adjustments made outside the scope of the initial vision could lead your game in a completely different direction. This isn’t necessarily bad, but it should be an intentional shift and be reevaluated within a new vision statement. If you don’t, you could end up having a serious divide in your core features. Gameplay, story plot twists, artistic design or just simply that obscure fun factor you had pictured might not feel the same.
Here’s a made up example for a vision statement for something like, say a battle car racing game you.
Battle Racers is a marriage of Mario Kart + Borderlands + Quake. It’s a dog-eat-dog vehicular race inside an ongoing raging battlefield, with a fun racetrack slapped in the middle. The tracks will be set in a demolished urban modern world. The environment will feel immense around the track. The races will have an AI or environmental obstacle element added throughout in real time, as well as the multiplayer elements. You will have to react to procedurally generated threats that pop up as you race through the track, such as enemy tank convoys that cross the track, or mortar fire launched from far away.
Huge emphasis on highly customizable cars and a vast array of upgradeable features, with a huge focus on sporting armaments that would make a panzer tank look like a toy. Bolt on thick steel armor, missile launchers, giant blowers that shoot flames and make your vehicle rumble like a parade of monster trucks. You will be able to take cars to an EXTREME level with these mods.
This is a fast paced brutal game. No sissies allowed.
Fallout’s vision statement
Here’s a great example from the original Fallout design.
Mega levels of violence. (you had better give us that Mature rating right now)
You can shoot everything in this game: people, animals, buildings and walls. You can make “called shots” on people, so you can aim for their eyes or their groin. Called shots can do more damage, knock the target unconscious or have other effects. When people die, they don’t just die – they get cut in half, they melt into a pile of goo, explode like a blood sausage, or several different ways – depending on the weapon you use. When I use my rocket launcher on some poor defenseless townsperson, he’ll know (and his neighbors will be cleaning up the blood for weeks!)
*** This is the wasteland. Life is cheap and violence is all that there is. We are going to grab the player’s guts and remind him of this.
A puzzle game from the 90’s, published by LucasArts.
Meet Manny Calavera, travel agent at the Department of Death. But there is trouble in paradise. Help Manny untangle himself from a conspiracy that threatens his very salvation. Manny, a true working stiff, is stuck in his own personal purgatory with the ultimate dead-end job. Employed by the Department of Death, Manny must pick up people in the Land of the Living, bring them to the Land of the Dead, and set them off on a four-year journey across the underworld–an excursion that all souls must make before they come to their eternal resting place. Manny cannot move on until he meets his sales quota, but what he does not know is that the cards are stacked against him. He is caught in the middle of an embezzlement ring that is preventing him from getting the right clients. Manny soon finds this out and steals a prime prospect, setting in motion a chain of events that not only threaten his job but also the eternal destiny of his soul. At the heart of Grim Fandango is a gripping story about one man’s journey in a dark underworld fraught with mystery and intrigue.
Want some further reading? Check out Ryan Shwayder’s blog post about the importance of the vision statement.
Interested in seeing real vision statements? Check out our GDD Vault for accessing Game Design Documents that have real vision statements, ideas around conceptual design, and more!
What about you, how have or haven’t you used vision statements in your designs? Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts.