Game design document

From VNDev Wiki

A game design document (a.k.a. GDD) is an in-depth document used by the development team to outline a project and keep everyone on the same page. It is useful for even a solo dev, as it helps control the scope of the project and nail down aspects of the game to focus on. The GDD normally contains written descriptions and visual images (i.e., references, concept art, etc.).

There's no industry standard for what a GDD should contain or how they should be formatted, so any team making one can customize it to best suit their own needs.


The GDD is considered a living document, meaning that it should be revised and kept up to date as the game changes. Whether a visual novel is being made by a solo dev, an indie team, or a large organization, the GDD is useful for multiple reasons:

  • It helps solidify “ideas” into concrete story and gameplay elements
  • It has the latest concept and design goals
  • It forces the team to maintain realistic expectations for the game
  • All important information is in one location
  • It contains information needed for a future pitch deck or press kit for publishing and/or marketing purposes

Basic Contents


Since visual novels generally focus on the story, this is usually the most in-depth section of the GDD. This section generally contains the following:

  • A short summary of the story
  • The setting (e.g., modern-day Japan, 1780's Paris)
  • The genre and tone of the game (e.g., mystery otome dating sim, dark comedy slice of life)
  • Any major or recurring themes in the game
  • The narrative structure of the game (e.g., will it be a kinetic novel? Will the story branch according to player choices? Will there be multiple endings?)
  • Summary of the story branches (if applicable)


There should be enough info about the characters in the GDD to give a clear understanding of their personalities, roles, and arcs in the game to anyone who reads it.

Information to include for each member of the cast may be their:

  • Name
  • Gender
  • Sexuality
  • Occupation
  • Personality
  • Background
  • Appearance (with visual references)
  • Relationships

Some character information may be genre or setting specific. For example, the GDD for a game set in a school may specify the club activities the students participate in.


Assets are generally any art or audio files in the game. Listing the assets in the GDD is important in order to determine if it’s possible to create and implement them all into the game.

While creating the GDD, the team should discuss how many and which assets they can reasonably create within their time, budget, and skill restrictions (see scope). It’s normally better to plan on including fewer assets and only adding more if there’s extra time, money, and energy later in the production schedule than to overscope the number of assets, force the team to crunch to complete them, and end up cutting incomplete assets anyway.

Some teams indicate which assets would be needed to create a minimum viable product if they plan on releasing the game commercially and/or pitching the game to a publisher.


Various art assets that are typically used in visual novels are:

Any variations to the art assets should also be listed, such as facial expressions for each sprite or time of day differences for backgrounds.

At a minimum, a background is needed to cover the game screen, however not all visual novels use sprite art or CGs.

Examples of VNs without sprite art: Dear Devere [VNDB]

Examples of VNs without CGs: Cinders [VNDB]


Various audio assets that are typically used in visual novels are:


Extra Contents



Audience Demographic


Production Timeline