Concept Document

For this assignment, teams will submit a concept document for a game. This document should cover the high points outlined in the lecture on design elements. We go into more detail about the structure of the document below. You should also refer to our
writing guidelines for proper formatting. Refer to your notes from ENGRC lecture, too. Finally, we have provided several examples from previous years for you to review. Understand that this year, the order of elements will differ a bit to past versions, so adjust accordingly.

As we said in class, the key to writing any document is to understand the audience. The audience for a concept document is a publisher. This is someone who sees numerous concept documents and wants to get through them as fast as possible. So, create a short (2-3 page) document that is easy to read, punchy, clear, and direct. The most important information should be at the front of the document; that way if the publisher decides to quit reading, they will still get most of the major ideas (and might come back to the document if the other ideas out there are worse). Remember, this is not a treatise; this document is basically a pitch to secure funding for the game.

Table of Contents

Document Contents

The exact formatting of this document is up to each team, though you must follow our writing guidelines. We do require that the document consist of at least six primary sections. Each section should be clearly labeled with a heading. If the section contains more than a few paragraphs, you should break it up into subsections that label the contents of each subsection. You should also make use of topic paragraphs when appropriate. We provide you with several examples below to illustrate what we mean.

Front Matter

The start of the document should have “Concept Document” at the top. Afterwards you shoul follow with the team’s name, followed by a listing of all the team members’ names. The game name and the date will be the last part of the front matter.

IMPORTANT: Do not use the memo style of the team workflow. This is a formal document.

High Concept Statement

The first primary section of the document is a short statement of the core vision of the game. It is a distillation of the thematic focus that defined earlier in the first ENGRC lab and and in Assignment 1. Use one or two sentences that are player focused. That means it should describe what the player can do, not what happens to the player.

As a great example of a high concept statement, consider this example from Forgotten Sky (Spring 2008):

Eons after a forgotten catastrophe drove mankind to take refuge deep within the earth, a young man has the audacity to dream of the sky. With nothing but a thin, swaying rope preventing an untimely end, guide Caelum through the ruins of past shelters as he ascends to the surface.

While this is one sentence, it is two parts. The first part establishes the setting and the world. The second part establishes the role of the character and what the player can do.

Gameplay Sketch

To compliment the High Concept statment, the team must include at least one sketch of the primary player mode. Include caption work (a label, a title, and short caption to explain what we are seeing). The you should include a regular single, short paragraph explaining this sketch. Remember to follow our guidelines for figures.

We consider the concept statement and the sketch to be the most powerful attention-getters in the document. These pieces must immediately grab the attention of your potential investor and get their emotions (and their pocketbooks!) invested in the game. Before handing in this document, the team should consider this matter clearly and make their best effort to avoid a boring school-type assignment response. Make it engergetic, amazing, and thoughtful in its approach to securing a sponsor.

Important: When looking at the past examples, you will notice that the Gameplay Sketch was located later in the document. In more recent years, the placement of the sketch was moved to the front, for the reasons noted in the previous paragraph. You want to grab attention!


To outline the special features, create a bulleted list of the key features of the game. These features should include the primary player actions, and the challenges that the player may face. This list should be short and focused. Write it as a bulleted list with no more than six bullets.

Make sure that you follow the guidelines for bulleted lists. The bullets should never be more than two lines, and a single line is best. The team’s feature descriptions needs to be tight and efficient. When we review this document, we will be checking to make sure that the feature descriptions are “punchy.” The descriptions should use active (not passive) voice and should sound exciting. Teams will be graded on their use of verbs, specific language, and parallelism in their lists.

Design Goals

In this section, tell us what the team is trying to achieve in this game. Who is the audience? How do you plan to reach them? Justify why this game will reach them. Avoid wording that says something like “we plan to appeal to core and casual gamers alike,” which absolutely everyone tells us in their presentations and is basically meaningless.

Design goals are also where the team reveals what types of feelings or emotions the players should experience. If you subscribe to the Earnest Adam’s “wish fulfillment” school of game design, now is the time to say what wish is being fulfilled. Describe the primary player objectives and say why these objectives support the team’s design goals.

This is a bit more more abstract that describing the game’s features or the high concept statement. To give you a good idea of how to craft this section, look at the concept document for the CS 4152 game Project Aurora (later titled Alone in the Night). Do not emulate this document’s format. CS 4152 uses a slide-presentation for its concept documents, while CS 3152 is a normal documen. See the examples below.

With that said, Project Aurora is useful because it has one of the most extensive design elements sections that we have ever seen. We are not looking for something that extensive. Teams should limit their writing to a few paragraphs covering the main design goals.

Market Segment

The “market segment” section includes details on how the game compares to other available games. Make a good faith effort to understand your game’s competition. While this game should have new elements, it is very rare that students in this class have a completely original game that is unlike anything else out there.

In defining the game’s market segment, identify the following:

Genre: Does this game fit in an existing genre? If so, which one and why?

Platform: What must the customer have in order to play this game? Not everyone has a game controller.

Competition: What games are most similar to this one and why? Provide 2-3 examples.

Unique Selling Points: What makes this game different from your competition?

Each of these should be a separate subsection with its own heading. Do not present these using bullet points; use complete paragraphs. That means either subsections or topic paragraphs.

Additional Details

The last section can include information not relevant to core gameplay such as story, characters or music. It can also include additional gameplay details like a description of sample challenges. The team can add anything interesting. However, keep it short, as this is not the gameplay specification.

If you cover more than one topic in this section, remember to break it up into subsections. We do not want a single mass of text covering unrelated topics.


We have provided several examples of solid concept documents from semesters past. These documents are not perfect; they all have flaws of some sort. Several of them violate the writing guidelines. That is because the writing guidelines are a reaction to the issues in these documents, and we do not want you making the same mistake.

We have also made substantial changes to this document over the years. For example, Market Segment used to be a generic section called Overview. It included both the design goals and the player objectives. We found that combining these two made it a bit difficult for students to get this part of the document correct, so we reorganized this document. You should follow the latest format.

As a result, you should not copy the structure of the documents below, but only use them for them inspiration. Look at the types of information that they contain, and the way in which they present this information. But organize your document in line according to the six sections outlined above.


Developed in Spring 2019, this concept document for Roasted! is strong is several ways. The high concept statement is intriguing enough for an investor. The format and document design is clean and clear. The verbs for the Features section are strong and unique. And finally, the sketches provide insight to the team’s vision and are supported with good captions.


With a solid concept articulated for investors, this concept document for YoyoBoy stands out. Notice the brief but skillfully worded high concept document that has a well-crafted description, followed by an effective concept sketch that demonstrates the the main concept (the yo yo as movement). The features list deploys strong verbs, and the design goals are precise and mature, conceptually. You should also pay attention to the competition section, where the team not only lists its competition but also clearly announces why YoyoBoy will beat out that competition.

Arc en Ciel

Arc en Ciel was created in Spring 2015 where it won the Audience Favorite Award. It also was selected for the Boston Festival of Indie Games during an extremely competitive year. With the exception of the rules on figure captions (because this document has no captions), this is exactly the type of document you should emulate.


Teddington won Most Polished game at the 2016 Showcase. This is a very well-structured document, the high concept statement is strong enough to pique the investor’s interest, and it uses captions correctly. While the features could certainly be more exciting, the overall structure is exactly what we are looking for.


Dispossessed was a game developed in Spring 2015. This is an very solid concept document and a good one to emulate. Our only complaint is the Sidestory section at the very end. It has a lone topic paragraph. If you have only one topic paragraph, why cannot it be a simple paragraph?


Resonance is an older game, developed back in Spring 2013. This document shows off the types of things that we are looking for in Additional Details, should you choose to provide that section. It does not quite follow the writing guidelines, since the subsection headers are all different parts of speech. But otherwise, the formatting and content is exactly what we are looking for.


The oldest game, here Lifted was one of the top games in the Spring 2010 semester. This document has one of the best understandings of unique selling points. They are still a little too long, however, and the entire document could be punchier.


Due: Sat, Feb 12 at 11:59 PM

There are two steps to handing in this assignment. The first step is to submit the file. From your Google Drive, teams should convert and then submit a PDF file called conceptdocument.pdf containing all of the information above. We ask that the file be a PDF so that we can annotate it and return it with feedback for possible revision. Understand, too, that the grading team will be looking at your Google Drive to evaluate the equal and fair writing and editing contributions by all team members. This is done by opening up the revision history in the Google Doc.

The second step is to complete the CATME survey. Later in the semester, we will distribute these surveys at the same time that your two-week report is due, but we want an initial survey to see how your group is doing. You should recieve an e-mail instructing you how to fill out the survey. The link inside that email is specific to each student. Use it to enter the survey (you cannot log in using another method).

As the prospect of revision implies, this is not the final draft of the concept document. Teams will have later opportunities to revise the concept document. However, you should take this assignment very seriously, as this staff will use this assignment to evaluate the suitability of your game (e.g. is it feasible, is it suitably difficult, etc.). If the team’s proposed game idea is rejected for whatever reason, then all the staff’s concerns must be addressed in a revised concept document within one week. Then, if the game proposal revised concept document is still not acceptable, the team can no longer receive an A for the project grade.

With that said, this almost never happens in this class. We always try to provide extensive comments on this assignment so that each group can be back on track by the revision.