Game Development Reference
The team is very small during this period. It typically consists of the designer, the tech
lead, a concept artist, and a producer (who may only spend part of his time on the
The main goal of concept development is to decide what your game is about and to
write this down so clearly that anyone can understand it instantly. During this phase
you decide on your major gameplay elements, create concept art to show what the
game will look like on the screen, and flesh out the story (if there is one).
If you work for an independent developer, this phase will probably not be funded by
another company. Unless your studio has an amazing track record, it's unlikely that
you will find a publisher willing to pay you to sit around and think up new ideas.
The documents that come out of concept development are the high concept, the game
proposal (or “pitch doc�?), and the concept document.
The High Concept
The high concept is a one- or two-sentence description of what your game is about. It's
the “hook�? that makes your game exciting and sets it apart from the competition.
A strong high concept is also valuable during the development phase because it helps
you decide which features to include and which to leave out. If game development is
like trying to find your way through a jungle of possibilities, the high concept is a path
that has already been cleared so that you don't get lost. Any feature that doesn't con-
tribute to the game's main focus is a direction you don't need to explore.
The high concept should have some of the following elements, adapted from Bonnie
Orr's list at screentalk.biz 1 :
1. The player must be dealing with a BIG PROBLEM. If your game has a story
line, it should have both internal and external conflict.
2. Some of the visual scenes are huge. We don't see a couple of fighter planes
in the sky. We see dozens or hundreds!
3. The player is an ordinary hero in an extraordinary world or an extraordi-
nary hero in an ordinary world. The Metal Gear Solid series is about an
extraordinary man. Final Fantasy Tactics Advance uses an ordinary boy.
4. The concept must be original. There may be several games about fighting
off an alien invasion, but what if the story is from the alien's perspective
(for example, Alien Hominid )?
5. The concept is a twist on a well-known successful game title.
1. Orr, Bonnie. (2002). “High Concept.�? SCREENTALK. <http://www.screentalk.biz/art043.htm> (19 January 2005).