My Vision Doc outline

 Posted by (Visited 16823 times)  Game talk
Jun 192007
 

Here is the full outline of what I have developed over the years as my preferred Vision Doc format. Usually I do a one-sheet before this, which could literally be the first two pages of this. It’s mostly tailored towards largish projects, but could apply to smaller ones as well.

The purpose of this sort of doc is to make sure you have a core reference for “what you’re making” that you can hand to both internal and external folks. Losing sight of what you’re trying to make is a common pitfall on larger projects, and can be disastrous.


Fiction summary (1 page including art) – a brief intro to the game as an experience

What is the game?

  • As a game (1/2 page) (describe the mechanics at way high level)
  • As an IP (1/2 page) (describe the IP at a way high level)

The world

  • Main cultures/aspects (1 page)
  • Player roles/races (1 page)
  • Monsters/opponents (1 page)
  • Environments (1 page)

Gameplay overview

  • Core objective (1/2 page)
  • What do players do? (1/2 page)
  • Main system A overview (like, say, go over the basics of advancement, or whatever else is your commonest activity) (1/3 page)
  • Main system B (1/3 page)
  • And more… (other systems that are not as core) (1/3 page)

Gameplay

  • Intro (really brief)
  • Newbie experience (1/2 page)
  • Typical session (1/2 page)
  • Interface (1/2 page)

Systems

  • Major game segment (like say, combat, or economy, or socialization)
  1. System (1 paragraph per)
  2. System
  • Major game segment
  1. System
  2. System

The IP

  • Look and feel (1/2 page, is list of reference art sources)
  • Gameplay (1/2 page, is list of gameplay references)
  • Tone (1/2 page, a list of tonal/fictional references)
  • IP outside the game (1/2 page, how you plan to push the IP further)

Marketing

  • Yes’es – bulleted list of things you ARE (one word or short phrases)
  • No’s – bulleted list of things you are NOT (one word of short phrases)
  • Target audience (1/2 page)
  • Platform and business model (1/2 page)
  • Competitive overview (1/2 page, list of competitors in the space)

Technology

  • R&D technology – stuff you are writing (1/2 page)
  • Technology re-use – stuff you are using wholesale (1/2 page)

  25 Responses to “My Vision Doc outline”

  1. Raph’s Website » My Vision Doc outline

  2. Thank you. I’ve been looking for a good format to write up a document for an upcoming project. This seems to be a good layout (with some modifications due to the scope of the project). I’ll try it out!

  3. Thanks for sharing. Reading this, that brought me this question. Is there there a “software development process” that is mostly used for mmorpg or is it really up to the project leader? RUP, waterfall, anything else?

    Just curiosity.

  4. No, there’s no standard development process. It varies by studio and even by project team. More and more teams have gone Agile in some form.

  5. Templates are nice. Samples are better. 🙂

  6. Good format. Was suprised that target market or ‘who is the customer’ was not listed under ‘what is the game’ in section 1. Perhaps it’s implicit for some genres, but it seems it’d serve as a guideline for others. (e.g. “yes, we are building a tetris attack clone. But it’s a tetris attack clone for Texan Grandmas!”)

  7. Thanks for sharing that information! I am always looking after the “Great Template”, that could be handily used to tame any project, so I really appreciate it 🙂
    No obstant, these days I am becoming more and more convinced that there is a template for every game designer. Of course, having the possibility to use some format that is known to have worked well, as in this case, is very good, especially when this kind of templates are so scarce and dificult to find. But, could it be that it can be only profitably used by some persons?
    Every person is different. Every designer (or almost) is a person (or so I believe :P). So, is there a great template that could push all of our collective cognitive processes through a standard channel?

    Since every designer tends to have their own (and usually unique) templates, I am not sure at all.

    What do you think?

  8. […] Raph’s Website » My Vision Doc outline (tags: gamedesign gaming games documentation onesheet vision concept) […]

  9. Kim,

    I tend to put that near the end these days because starting with marketingy stuff often seems like a bad sell even for the marketers. If you can get everyone excited about the game proper, then the “who’s it for?” section will fall into line.

    But I did used to have it right up front, in the first few pages.

    Isilion,

    I doubt there is a One True Template. As you say, everyone is different.

  10. […] Raph posted his “Vision Doc” so that would-be developers like some of you could see what needs to be dreamed up before you go running off to make the next big MMOG. Check it out here. […]

  11. I don’t believe that having a “who is it for” section in a game vision document is as useful for designing a game as you might think. It’s letting marketing concerns drive the development of game systems, and in many cases that just doesn’t lead to a viable game.

    Figure out what the game is and is not first, then figure out who the customer is likely to be. Doing it the other way around is fraught with problems, not the least of which is basic misjudgements about people in the target market.

  12. For my part, I’m not sure I would agree with you, Tarek. I understand what you are saying, I think — don’t let marketing concerns disrupt your personal “vision” for what would make for a fun game. That’s all well and good, but I saw many hugely-detailed tabletop wargames come and go throughout the so-called Golden Age of Wargames (roughly the 1970s through the 1980s). Some were ingenious; yet only a precious few sold more than a handful of units.

    Any creative endeavor has to have a context, or you could chase variables indefinitely and never create an actual product. I’m a former broadcaster, and I found it enormously helpful to imagine a single person sitting and listening to my show, and imagine what that person was like. It’s a basic discipline for radio deejays — so much so that Program Directors often devote weekend staff retreats to the subject of building an imaginary Core Listener profile with their on-air people.

    When it comes to game design, how could it not help? So many basic questions about your consumer base’s habits would influence your choices on your game: Is the person younger than age 12? Older than 16? How much time does he/she have? How intelligent/well-educated/logical is this person? Does he/she like fast action? Or detailed strategic choice?

    It’s sort of a chicken/egg story, admittedly, because ultimately any design process for ANYTHING pertaining to entertainment (well, any entertainment that is actually worth the beans) is inevitably going to be more art than science, which means that ultimately the only way to find out if your project is any “good” as a marketable commodity is to see if anyone else thinks it’s good AFTER it’s produced… or at least built up enough to see what a test/beta audience thinks of it. And even after all that is said, the whole process is still heavily weighted by the designer/artist/developer/deejay’s own personal tastes. And that is as it should be, because heck, if you are working on a project you really cannot stand, there is NO WAY you will EVER make it good, because it’s that little extra bit of personal flair that can ONLY be generated by natural passion for your project that will make that project great. Or sink it if you’re wrong.

    Which, by the way, is why I am no longer in radio: the marketing consultants have killed it. (I feel homicidal urges every time I stumble across yet another “classic rock” station that plays Smoke on the Water on a Hot Top-40-style rotation.) So yes, there IS such a thing as TOO MUCH marketing analysis.

    But, presumably, that’s why we have smaller, agile companies emerging like (ahem) areae. Right?

  13. […] My Vision Doc outline, from Raph’s website. […]

  14. I understand what you’re saying here.

    Yes, you should be aware of how large your target audience is likely to be before committing to develop, produce, and publish a game. Getting an estimate of the size of your market will help with budgeting and scheduling, certainly.

    It may even be helpful in designing elements of the game like the user interface.

    However, if you end up changing gameplay drastically based solely on marketing concerns, then perhaps this isn’t the correct game for that market, or the correct market for that game, and another game design/different game might do better.

  15. […] you know it works and it’s what people are interested in. Thanks for the jump start! :3 Here is the full outline of what I have developed over the years as my preferred Vision Doc format. Usually I do a one-sheet before this, which could literally be the first two pages of this. It’s […]

  16. […] you know it works and it’s what people are interested in. Thanks for the jump start! :3 Here is the full outline of what I have developed over the years as my preferred Vision Doc format. Usually I do a one-sheet before this, which could literally be the first two pages of this. It’s […]

  17. […] you know it works and it’s what people are interested in. Thanks for the jump start! :3 Here is the full outline of what I have developed over the years as my preferred Vision Doc format. Usually I do a one-sheet before this, which could literally be the first two pages of this. It’s […]

  18. […] There’s certainly no absolute or even widely accepted format, but in a blog entry entitled My Vision Doc outline posted yesterday, veteran developer Raph Koster revealed his preference. If you follow the link, […]

  19. I think that Takek’s last comment outlines very well the whole issue. However, I believe that both approaches might be good, depending on their context.

    For example, if you have been contracted to develop a game “that sells a lot”, you probably would do better some marketing research, to identify possible holes in the market that you could fill with a successful product, as David says.

    If you want to develop a game because you had a dream and you believe in it, and your goal is to sell the prototype to a big company, then I would do as Tarek says.

    Of course, that is only an opinion.

  20. […] My Vision Doc outline (tags: M game_design) […]

  21. […] you know it works and it’s what people are interested in. Thanks for the jump start! :3 […]

  22. […] There�s no set rule, so I can just tell you how I do it at ths point. […]

  23. […] In Praise of Good Design [a blog entry on what is good design, outside computer games]Koster, Raph, My Vision Doc outline [what a Vision Document could be]Bethke, Erik, Structuring Key Design Elements [how to narrow down […]

  24. […] Raph’s Website » My Vision Doc outline (tags: gamedesign gaming games documentation onesheet vision concept) del.icio.us […]

  25. […] on Wed, 2007-06-20 15:09. Folks designing a new MUSH ought to have a look at this entry from Raph Koster’s blog. It has a really nice template for developing a “vision document” for a game — getting yourself […]

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