Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Back when I first started as a game designer, I assumed that game design docs were like screenplays. You wrote one- usually a meaty fucker coming in at around 200 pages- had it bound all nice and neat, then passed it out to what I assumed would be an eager as hell team who were dying to know what MY vision was! Man, what a fucking joke!

Making games is NOT like that...not at all. And over the years, I've seen my game design docs drop from 200 pages to 5-10 page pamphlets. Sure, if you add up all the additional docs that get written as production rolls on (and other team members have added ideas and mechanics and assets that make YOUR original vision a MUCH IMPROVED TEAM vision, then you prob. surpass the 200 page count). But initial docs, anything beyond 10 pages and you are just writing to hear yourself write...get a fucking blog for that, yeah?

And even with just 10 pages, you still end up changing around 80% of the gameplay once you actually get into the game making process.

So as you examine this, the CALLING ALL CARS design doc/pamphlet, that we wrote some 9 months ago, keep in mind that the game you will play next month (if you are so kind as to give our l'll title a shot),that this doc is NOT the game you will play. A good 50-80% has been changed, cut, or adjusted during the game making process. And hell, reading back over this myself, my knee jerk on some of these ideas (ex: different criminals affect player car in different ways) was: fuck, that's a great idea! Why did we cut that?!?

But there is always a reason...and often times, some of the stuff that reads great on paper does NOT turn out great in execution. Better game designers prob. have a higher paper-to-game ratio, but I ain't one of them (as I keep telling you ass holes who accuse me of being arrogant, even when I fucking TELL you I'm still learning the craft!!!)...

Anyway, so here's the doc...hope you get a kick out of it...











And now, gotta get back to tuning! This thing is almost done!



grasshopper said...

March won't come soon enough for me. I have been waiting for a fun multiplayer chill out kinda game. I also thought the wording was kinda funny on page 10 when referring to purchasing new cars and maps, I know it would work on me if you did it that way. Can't wait to see what made the final cut.

PlayStation Museum said...

DAVE!! THANK YOU for posting the game design doc! I find it so interesting to read the designer's vision. Last week I read the game design document for the PS1's cancelled Ghost Rider and I was totally glued to the document. You can't go wrong with a Castlevania-like action game. And then I have the almost 200 page document for a vertical shooter (Not Dark guns, I'm currently seeking permission to post this unknown shooter...yes you can destroy landmark buildings too!). Who the hell writes a 200 page document for a vertical shooter?? And then the game never comes out. Game designers certainly don't get enough credit for the amount of man hours they put in on a game.

I think this is one of your best posts (besides the focus group posting).

Anonymous said...

How do you post all these materials w/o violating your NDA? Good stuff though..I wish I could do the same, but I would probobly end up in a ditch bound in electrical tape.

Anonymous said...

Awesome! This will come in handy for my research. Thanks Dave!

Sean Hobin said...

Thank you for posting this. I've started to read through this and am excited to see the rest, especially as it's from an established industry professional (no matter how much humility you have).

Anonymous said...

Very interesting. Thanks for sharing.

Remembering some of the interviews you have done in addition to the blog I would say you changed a lot of the details while keeping the concept.

It's a sign of inelegance to accept others ideas...after all how else do we gain knowledge.

Anonymous said...

Great Post.

What I found hilarous about this is that, at my old game company, because we're small, publishers used to FORCE us to produce the 200 page game document regardless of necessity.

Anonymous said...

Awesome Post! Thanks for taking the time to put up the design doc.

Good luck on the final tuning, and good luck to me on finding a PS3.

Anonymous said...

Do you consider your own podcast now?

Anonymous said...

Dave, thanks for sharing this with your blog readers. It's cool to see the steps that went into getting the game made. Looking forward to playing it.

wtfgrouch said...

Very cool post, Dave.

I think its very cool how you let us into your world.

As for CAC, I cannot wait for this game to come out. Once your done with the tuning, are you going to be able to give us a release date... just wondering.

I'm trying to see if I can do something for the launch of the game at the store, maybe like a tournament or the winner of a 4 player game gets a prize or something.... we'll see.


Aurelio said...

Good stuff! It's amazing that so many people are afraid to publicly commit their design doc in fear of being ripped off or whatever. As if they're saying they have so little confidence in their capabilities as to think someone else could make their game better, ha.

But anyhow, I hear you. I've worked on projects where there have been massive GDDs where nothing had been adhered to. Game design is a very organic process and if you believe in iteration (which means you believe in making it fun), your game is bound to diverge.

On the flip side, I've also been on projects where there was absolutely no design document, which led to a lot of uncertainty amongst the team on what needed to be accomplished, how, and where the project was headed.

Your 10 page game spec seems like a pretty happy median.

Neil said...

This is great. You should make it as an unlockable in the game or a free downloadable - even though I could just use the PS3 browser to check it out :)

Anonymous said...

Mr. Jaffe that's awesome that this is released but from reading it the game sounds too involved.
A drawn out description like this doesn't show me how it's supposed to be fun.

I guess I am asking why did you choose to make a game like this and what did you think would be fun about it?

Anonymous said...

anonymous...please go away and never come back.

Anonymous said...

it violated my two biggest gaming pet peeves

1) isometric cameras
2) arena style multiplayer

I'm sorry the game just doesn't look that fun.

Anonymous said...

to tell you the truth i thought this game was goin to suck. but now that i read this it completely changed my mind. and i like how your goin to sell extra stuff.really good idea. i hate when you have to ge through a shit load of stuff to buy something. i guess ill be adding this to my downloadable stuff to buy list.

PS. i hope you make a brand new IP after this or GOW 3. becuase god of war 1 is my favorite game to date.


Laquer said...

Yes, Thank you for posting the CAC/CC design doc although i agree with eric... BRING ON THE GOW 2 DESIGN DOC!!!!!!!!!!!!! I would also enjoy seeing some previous design docs from sauch great games as twisted metal

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post, as always :) A few questions, some (or all) of which may or may not be relevant considering the scope of the project (when compared to God of War, for example):

How often do you go back and update your design documents after changes have been made? Is the current design document more or less reflective of the actual game? Is this typical in a game development setting?

Do you ever formalize in a document of some sort (outside of the actual code) lower level details, like how much damage a weapon does? What about at the system and code level, i.e. defining interfaces between objects and specifying method signatures? Is specifying this level of detail even worth it considering how fast these things probably change over the course of a week?

I guess what I'm mainly wondering is how formal is your design process? How relevant are your typical software lifecycle models (i.e. the flow between requirements engineering, design, coding, and testing)?

Can't wait for the game :)


Pisko! said...

Yeah, my game design professor got a kick out of this as every semester that we make a new game he requires the meaty 100+ page document. He posted this on our class forum and I swear I could hear his heart break. It was satisfying.

Thank god for you David.......

Anonymous said...

The design doc is very cool, thanks for sharing it! As a high-schooler, I've never seen one before and have always been curious as to what the game equivilent of a screenplay/storyboard really looked like. Very cool stuff!

Unknown said...


Any idea on when Sony will start selling those Playstation Cards for people who can't use a credit card to purchase from the PSN Store?

I don't have a US billing address, so it won't accept my credit card.

I'll be very disappointed if I wasn't able to purchase fl0w and Calling All Cars.

Anonymous said...

As a game creator who deals with the same dilema daily, I totally feel your pain. "The devil is in the detail" totally applies in the game making.

Anonymous said...


Never posted before, and I know there are a lot of people that leave comments, but listen to this one: dude...that is awesome that you posted this document. As a designer in the industry, I know that this will help guys and gals who are trying their hardest to break in (which is one of the hardest things I ever had to do) and give them an idea of what they can do to submit to developers.

I respect you a lot...I wish more people in the industry shared your personality and vision.

Thanks man, looking forward to buying a PS3 so I can play CAC.

ryan tungate said...

dave! this is stace...you know...stacy tungate! from usc! stoss! thc-caw...etc...

so, i have been trying to sort of get in touch with you for a while, on occasion, i'll just do a search and see if there is some way to just drop in and say 'hi...' its been a while since my last attempt, but hey, what do ou know! ..

ive been following your career for a while now. i am still in contact occasionally w/some of the guys...jason frankovitz. i even heard from dave valvoda a couple times. we are all really thrilled to see hoow well youve done! i cant tell you how happy it makes me whenever i see one of your games in a store. i really cant ! its so great to see you sharpening the edge on this new media. you are changing the world, dave. yoiu are the dw griffith, the murnau, the welles of this medium, and i think you are the 1st great auteur of video games. you will go down i history, my good friend, and i swear it is an honor to have gotten a chance to be your friend! i think you will be remembered in history...thats how important you are!

anyway, impressed as i am, it would be nice to actually get a chance to catch up a bit if you have a minute. i will leave my email at the end and if you have a free second or two feel free to drop me a line...

i hope to hear from you soon. best of luck, and if you are still in touch w/any of the guys, cary or rams, send them a greeting as well...i certainly hope you and your family are in the best of health and highest spirits, and like i said, it wuld be great to hear from you if you get a chance,

take care

stacy r tungate


Zodiak said...

cool to see all the bells and whistles of how the game was made, I wish more designers would do so.

take care Dave!

- Zodiak

Beulaers said...

And then theres my teacher who is making us write a 40+ page designdoc for what is basically a pretty simple platform game with some minigames in it :(.
Thanks for sharing it, I'm sending it over to my teacher :).

Devin Greer said...

I know Calling All Cars isn't going to be anything like God Of War, or even God Of War II, which I have to say, the team you left the game to is fucking amazing. I mean, I just saw a new Video Preview for GOWII at GameTrailers, it it's hard to believe what is being done, fucking great stuff. Nonetheless, you, David Jaffe, are a great game creator in my opinion. So, I will check out CAC when it is released....

-Devin Greer, A Loyal and Eternally Dedicated Fan...

Zodiak said...

It looks very enjoyable for a online multiplayer.

Random thought...wonder if Sweetooth will be a hidden character for nostalgic reasons. Would be pretty cool

Anonymous said...

You need to talk to gametrailers.com to take down the GoW spoilers.
They almost provided a walkthrough of the game already.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting the docs. I love to see how a game begins

Marcelo said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Marcelo said...


Great info you provided us. Regarding this matter, I wanted to ask you if I wanted to start learning on Game Design, what are the first steps I should give? Any books, training, anything that you would recommend? I'm a System Engineer but would like to turn my career to the Videogame Design arena.

Any recommendation you could give me would be great!

Thank you very much for your time, regards...


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the nice post!

Anonymous said...


I just recently watched the "EP BONUS ROUNDS" with GEOFF Keighley Interviewing David Jaffe and other Game developers, and as interesting as I found it to be, it still seemed rather one-sided. It only brought on guests that were aspiring to make shallow, small games (with the exception of the dark brown haired spazz that didn't have anything intersting to say), so it didn't really get into the perspective of someone like Cory Barlog who has a passion to create story-driven games. They needed someone to get on that show and talk about all the things that make bigger games better than smaller games, just as how they talked about all the things that make smaller games better. For instance, the fact that bigger games with a story are far more memorable than shallow games without a story. Also the fact there's usually WAY more you can do in larger games to entertain yourself.

Don't get me wrong, I do like small games that don't have much of a story, but I think both types of games have thier own strengths and weaknessess that should be taken into account. This interview made it seem like shallow 30 min games are the only FUTURE, thats a bunch of bullshit to me. So long as there's demand for larger games and passionate people Like Cory around to create those types of games, they'll never disapear from the market.


MDW said...

Thank you for the game design document! Great!

I have a few questions.

1. How did you turn off antialias font in Word? :)

2. Why layout of the document is... ugly?

3. Why didn't you make more conceptional pictures? More technical pictures. Isn't it necessary for Sony?

The document is very simply. I am really surprised. Thank you for the document. It helped me more than you think. :)

Anonymous said...

Calling all cars sounds real dope!

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