Breaking into the Industry: Selling a Game Doc

Hello Ladies and Gentlemen of the forum.

I am relatively new to this forum and a just had a couple questions for those of you who are already professionals in the industry or have industry related business knowledge--that is if you permit me.

Just a little background information on my questions. I have a couple of minor game documents that I have written that would make some great short pc, live arcade or virtual console titles as well as one major game document that I have really fleshed out. It is roughly 400 pages and encompasses the whole idea of a game document from start to finish (gameplay, story, controls, etc). It is also the beginning of a potential trilogy.

I also have a professional comic book artist who I have worked very closely with to draw up some concept art for my game document.

Basically my question is... is it possible to get into the industry by selling my intellectual property outright or do I need to be in the industry before anyone would be interested in the work that I have created?

On that same token, is it necessary for me to have a pretty proficient understanding of art, animation, programming, texturing, storyboarding or any combination/variation of those before I would even get a passing glance?

And lastly, is it completely unheard of for a person to get into the industry by pitching a game idea without having any "real" understanding of the creation of a game? In that same category, hypothetically if I could do that, could I still retain creative control of my IP and thus be considered a game designer (contract related)?

This seems to be a very active forum full of knowledgeable people from my experience thus far and I look forward to hearing any feedback from you folks. Thanks for taking the time to read and respond back.



  • Peris
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    Peris polycounter lvl 12
    400 page designdocument for a live game? That's pretty crazy, and probably the wrong approach. I don't have much game design experience, but I know that a good designdocument can be as short as 8 pages or less. Keep it clear and simple and readable to get your ideas across to the team.
    is it necessary for me to have a pretty proficient understanding of art, animation, programming, texturing, storyboarding or any combination/variation of those before I would even get a passing glance?
    yeah, you need to know how at least some basics of this, otherwise your just designing games that are technically unfeasable, you need to know the limitations of your resources and design around that.
  • Wahlgren
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    Wahlgren polycounter lvl 10
    You also have to remember that every guy in the world has a game idea that is totally way awesome and supercool and it will be the best thing ever. I myself have around 20 probably.

    Not to be a downer but you pretty much have to fight your way to the top to get into a position where you can make your own game (or do it yourself) and not even then would it be your game. There would be designers, writers, company execs / (guys with money) etc warping it into something that´s not really yours in the end.

    But... thats just like my opinion man. It might be wrong but i´ve never heard of a guy getting in this way. :)
  • Vrav
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    Vrav polycounter lvl 10
    It's all opinion I guess, but here - a good read:
  • doc rob
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    doc rob polycounter lvl 12
    Here's the short answer: Nobody will ever, EVER make your game for you, let alone buy the idea. It's just not going to happen. Ideas are the cheapest, most plentiful thing there is. . . that means your ideas and everyone else's are worthless. They have zero inherent value. Execution is the only thing you can assign value to. If you want any of those games made, make them yourself. If you want to get paid, get a job making somebody else's game.
  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi interpolator
    I say it's good practice for you to become a designer.

    Much like us artists make art in our own spare time to keep up with our craft and constantly improve, designers such as yourselves should be making game design documents to constantly keep up with your craft.


    Think of your idea like a movie plot. It might be ripped off, it might not be. But it's usually more about the execution of the storytelling.
  • sicsided
    Agree with everyone else, everyone has ideas for games so you have to be able to put in some hard work to get your idea across along with putting in the work to make it.

    My best advice, if you have your design docs and ideas, but don't have the know how yet on how to do it digitally, make a board game. Lots of games start out as board games, to iron out the kinks of a design and to see whether it could be fun or not. Also, take a look at free to use engines, learn how to mess around with those and get your ideas out of them. Basic scripting and programming will definitely boost your credibility, especially when you have a bare bones working version of your idea.

    Here's a great article from on designer positions ->
  • rooster
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    rooster mod
    what doc says
  • retleks
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    retleks polycounter lvl 11
    Vertical slice, period.
  • Luxury
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    Luxury polycounter lvl 11
    what rooster says
  • Ryno
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    Ryno polycounter lvl 14
    I've got 19+ game ideas that absolutely would be best sellers. And I actually know how to make games, doing it as a profession for the last 8 years. Many are documented, and some even have some minor bits of content created for them (concepts, models, textures, etc.).

    ... Of course so does the guy next to me.

    I'm going to go with retleks' comment on this one. If you have no experience, you will only be able to sell this or get funding if you have a vertical slice with content and gameplay fully fleshed out for a small bit of the game. Even then, it will be a very difficult sell. Not that it can't be done, but it is very unlikely.

    Every game artist and programmer I know has several (sometimes very good) ideas for games, and some capability to actually get them made.
  • TheWinterLord
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    TheWinterLord polycounter lvl 10
    Start as a games tester and show competence, move up the ranks. Many game designers at Massive have started that way. I dont think any company will hire a game designer with no experience just like that. To increase the chance to get in anywhere is to get secondary abilities like creating maps, learn scripting etc. If you show interest in one or more areas such as those mentioned, aswell as knowing ALOT about games when trying to get a quality assurance job will definetly help.
    (Even if you are in the company get your idea going anywhere might take many years.) (thousands of reasons)

    Problem: smaller project type means smaller studio who makes those and being a person who do not know a lot about making games (production) they are probably harder to get into because each persons skills counts more. (in a larger studio people get more specialized tasks)

    If you really want to do something, you can.
  • danr
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    danr interpolator
    400 pages of unproven design is pretty crazy. Game design docs are reference - they're filled in, tweaked, updated as development goes on, dependent on how diligent the studio is with maintaining this stuff. Whole chunks get added then thrown out as that bit of design is proven not to work, and details like control schemes evolve almost constantly. With a bigger game, this could well hit 400 pages, but it's rarely locked down until well into development.

    but what you have is an ideas doc, not a design doc - it's good to quickly mention the specific details, but 400 pages just reeks of self-indulgence and impractibility. No-one but no-one is going to trawl through 385 pages that at best are likely to change, or at worst are totally ditchable
  • Rick Stirling
  • Mark Dygert
    +1 to what everyone else said. Especially Rick's article, don't be "that guy".
  • Justin Meisse
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    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 14
    core gameplay should be fun, story, art-style etc.. are all after the fact. If it isn't fun with stick-figures then it won't be fun with photo-realstic characters, a dramatic plot and epic music.
  • dolemite
    Maybe you should post your game idea and get crits.
  • Rick Stirling
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    Rick Stirling polycounter lvl 13
    Reading this thread I feel like I've just plagerised your minds.
  • dolemite
    Really good article rick!
  • moose
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    moose Polycount Sponsor
    I think you could "get into the game industry" by pitching your idea, however you'd need to pitch it to people who will make the assets, program it, record and create audio, etc - get a crew on board with it, excited, and make that shit happen. Or say fuck it and do it all yourself!

    If you manage it well and finish the game, people like it and everyone says its the second coming of the easter bunny, get some marketing skillz, put it out into indie shows (I totally just typed "shoes" first. funny), try to win some awards, get it on XBLive, PSN, PSP, PC, whatever... And if the stars align right, and random guy A at Company X sees it and gets excited enough to say "hey buddy guy! that looks like somethin the people like and we can make money from!" You then "break into the games industry" ;)

    ^^ what doc rob said too.

    If you go the route of doing it all yourself with your own team etc, you'll have ownership, pride, and happypants that you accomplished, demolished, and made a sweet game. If you pitch it to some studio folks, or other people you dont trust, you could run into problems that Rick mentions, and also what happens in Grandma's Boy.
  • Thegodzero
    Ideas are priceless, In other words they are also worthless.

    CONTENT, can be given value and sold. Make CONTENT; art, code, sound, or levels. Levels if you want to design a game experience.
  • Reverenddevil
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    Reverenddevil polycounter lvl 9
    Did you hear that?
    I think I heard this guys soul crushed...
    Yep, it was!
  • Mark.N
    Find a buddy or two and whip up a prototype, nothing big, a level or even a piece of a level, that can show the gameplay/overall experience in a compact package. Like Justin said, if it isn't fun with stick figures it isn't going to be fun in full next-gen or stylized or whichever art direction you choose.

    Starting small wouldn't be a bad idea. Make a flash game or a total conversion mod for one of the popular games out there; something manageable that can be done in a reasonable amount of time. That way if the idea doesn't flesh out then you didn't just waste a years worth of work.

    Just another artists opinion.
  • konstruct
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    konstruct polycounter lvl 13
    Peris wrote: »
    you need to know the limitations of your resources and design around that.

  • JacqueChoi
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    JacqueChoi interpolator
    I disagree with 90% of this thread.

    Don't let anyone tell you what you can or can't do.


    If you want to design games, then theres a long hard road to take to get that to happen. I think you know what that answer is, and know its too difficult for 99.9% of the people who try.

    The big, and not so easy step is to prove yourself to people who you want to work with:

    The easiest (but still very difficult) way of doing this, is through experience, and working on numerous titles, and maybe working your way up to a Senior position at a well reputed company.

    The next step is proving to investors/publishers you have that ability, and that your ideas are golden moneymakers.

    That would probably require a few AAA titles, possibly as a Creative Director, or Lead Designer.

    It can be done. That's probably the most easiest road to get to your goal.
  • rooster
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    rooster mod
    jox wrote: »
    I disagree with 90% of this thread.

    The easiest (but still very difficult) way of doing this, is through experience, and working on numerous titles, and maybe working your way up to a Senior position at a well reputed company.

    i dunno, that piece of advice sounds like what 90% of the thread is advocating :)
    i think the basic idea is that no-ones going to listen to your idea if you're new to the industry and have no relevant experience. getting a job in a senior position probably will get you some pretty valuable game design experience, and people will listen to you :)

    best advice to become a games designer tho is to design lots of games- and make them too. use any prototyping method you can, be it programming or on paper. but coming up with the initial idea is only a tiny percentage of what a designer does.. you need to show it to people, get them to play it, and change stuff when (not if) they say it's shite :)
  • ElysiumGX
    If you have an idea for an XBLArcade/WiiWare game...create it. If you have a great idea for an iPhone game that will make you millions of dollars...create it (everyone and their mother is these days). Make small games. Lead a mod. Build up a reputation. Find a publisher. Earn experience and trust. Get funding. Build your game. Fail. Leave the industry and become an astronaut.

    Ideas are worthless without implementation.

    Also, I have half a dozen amazing game ideas that I'm not going to share with any of you. They're mine! And soon, you will all be begging me to share them with you.
  • Pseudo
    I'll pass on some great advice that I heard from a designer,

    If you think you have what it takes to be a good designer, take the game of chess and pick one rule that you would change, what you would change it to, and why it would improve the game.

    If you have a good answer to that question, then you may have a knack for it.

    Either way, you aren't going to sell a 400 page design doc with no relative experience.
  • SlappyBag
    Makes mods! Even with no "practical" content creation skills you may be able to get a mod team together of semi-skilled people and begin on your game.

    That process enough will teach you a huge amount and will either make you or break you.
  • rooster
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    rooster mod
    Pseudo wrote: »
    take the game of chess and pick one rule that you would change, what you would change it to, and why it would improve the game.

    cluster grenades! sclaboomsh!
  • dolemite
    I have this idea for a sweet mini game. It's like "the prisoners dilemma" but it involves two men in adjacent public bathroom stalls and a glory hole.

    oh that'll be $4.50 if anyone wants to use it.
  • ArtsyFartsy
    I agree with every argument made here, even the ones that contradict each other.

    Another method I can recommend is getting really really rich, and then pay someone to make your games.

    But just coming up with game ideas is boring. Game development is rewarding only because of the endless hours you spend building the assets and coding for it. There's just endless joy when you get that perfect material shader for your model after days of minor nerve-wrecking tweaks.

    But here's my question: If everyone is so full of great ideas, how come the last game I played with great writing was Knights of the Old Republic - 5 years ago? ::Cough:Fallout3Sucks:Cough::
  • Mark Dygert
    Pseudo wrote: »
    take the game of chess and pick one rule that you would change, what you would change it to, and why it would improve the game.
    Only have two pieces, simplify the rules and give it a casual name like "Squares".
  • Wahlgren
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    Wahlgren polycounter lvl 10

    But here's my question: If everyone is so full of great ideas, how come the last game I played with great writing was Knights of the Old Republic - 5 years ago?
    Personal opinions. ;D

    You should try plants vs zombies. Not any good writing of course but hideously fun. That came out a few weeks ago :)
  • low odor
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    low odor polycounter lvl 12
    Because good ideas does not equal the power to exectue them
  • robodonkey




  • Daaark
  • notman
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    notman polycounter lvl 14
    lol, this thread is now full of win...

    In reference to the original post... first time, last time.
  • Vito
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    Vito polycounter lvl 13
    What everyone has said here is pretty nice and accurate and said a lot less nastily than I would have written it, if I had seen this thread earlier.

    I, too, have hundreds of pages of "design" docs for a game I wanted to build. The problem I had with not knowing anything about art or programming is that they're not the sort of docs that anyone could actually build a game out of, because they're narrative, not functional or technical. I had no idea if the battle system would be fun because I hadn't sat down and figured out all the rules and then played it with real people over and over and over again.

    I sat down and learned how to program and found an artist and built it and threw most of it away, but the artist used that as his stepping stone into the industry and is now all sorts of big shot famous.

    A few years later, I saved a ton of money and hired an art team to build a one-level demo of a project I wanted to do, and I did the programming for it, and later hired more programmers. Good market research would have shown it was a train wreck of an idea before I even started, but it was fun until we ran out of money. Most of that team works in the industry, now, too.

    The other piece of information you're missing is there's no-one to buy the idea in the first place. Studios, the typically small companies that have programmers and artists who actually build the games, are run by people with ideas; that's how studios are started and that's whose games they build. Publishers have in-house teams and studios they own and occasionally fund and publish completed titles from independent studios, but they don't just buy ideas, either; they have Presidents and VPs and accountants and janitors who are all working for that company because they think it's an "in" that will one day let them make a game about their idea.

    "Vertical slice," building a portion of the game on your own, really is the best way to do it, not just because it's the fast-track, but because only by actually building and playing it will you discover if your ideas are any good or not.

    Protip: they probably aren't. Mine weren't then. Fifteen years later, mine sometimes might be now, and I'm not writing hundreds of pages to prove them out, I'm building them.
  • Wahlgren
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    Wahlgren polycounter lvl 10
    This guy above me. I like him. He speaks truth in a manner i would never be able to.

    Vito. Im interested in the game thing that you actually tried to do. What was it? Got anything to show? Don´t wanna?
  • Vito
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    Vito polycounter lvl 13
    The game was Perilith, a Final Fantasy-style RPG for the PC, which in the mid-90s would have been a big deal. We went from 8-bit 2D to high-res 2D to web-based to 3D over several years. The artist was James Green, who went on from that to Epic Games, UbiSoft, and now runs his own studio, and the only thing we ever released besides screenshots was the Perilith Knight Quake 2 model (Polycount review here). I eventually saw something very close to combat system I designed in some Dreamcast RPG.

    The project after that was Unrealty, which built real-world buildings in 3D using the first Unreal engine.
  • EbolaV
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    EbolaV keyframe
    "a magic cowboy hunting dinosaurs" cool, who wants to make that with me :P hehe
  • dejawolf
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    dejawolf polycounter lvl 11
    like everyone else here, start at the deep end, work your way up.
    modding is awesome, you learn a million things about how other people make games, so you can apply it to your own games. you also learn about their mistakes, so you can avoid making them yourself. try making some simple mods, to test various aspects of your game idea,
    and see how people.
    oh and if you get into scripting: don't be frightened if you're facing off against a document with 20 000 lines of code. throw yourself in, try and adjust certain stuff, and see if the game crashes.
    if it doesn't, it means you're doing something right. experiment. see what you can do with the game. half life and mount and blade are 2 games with enormous scripting potential.
    mount and blade is a medieval game where you ride around on horses, but some crazy bastard has made a battlestar galactica mod for it. nuff said.
    crysis is also extremely moddable, and perfect for machinima.
  • ArtsyFartsy
    I just had a genius idea for a game.

    It's a sim game, and you're a fresh game designer trying to pitch your game ideas to publishers and build your own empire. You've got to manage finances, contacts, self-promotion, sleeping with the secretaries etc.

    I'll call it - 'Game Dev Tycoon'. Brilliant!!
  • Elhrrah
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    Elhrrah polycounter lvl 8
    You want a really easy game to mod? Try Scorched3d. The game is free, and the only thing that you really need is a text editor; they start calling you names when you step up to XMLmarker. The community is small, extremely small, which means you won't become popular with anyone, but the anti-mod coalition isn't active anymore, which means that you won't be shut down by screaming idiots. the latest version also added Lua, which means you can add even more complexity.

    When it comes down to it, it doesn't matter what game you mod, but rather how far you get into it. The skills you can pick up, the contacts you can make, and the time you can waste talking about calzone recipes are worth it. If you try modding a game like Crysis, you can even get hands-on experience with some of the tools you might be using in a paid position.
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