High Concept Documents: What are they?

A High Concept Document (HCD) is a summary of the experience of a game, used for both personal and marketing purposes. You can write a HCD to establish your central idea before exploring it in your Game Design Document, and use it almost verbatim when preparing a pitch. I’ve only used a HCD for a Space-
Station building game, but I immediately found a HCD to be the best way to quickly establish your idea before stretching out the complexity in your documentation.

At first, I followed Joshua Lebowitz’ Ink High Concept Document, a good example of a HCD in action. His HCD had the following structure:

  • Game Title
    • One sentence description
  • Platform
  • Features
  • Premise
  • Gameplay

The example allowed me to produce a document that effectively summarized the key aspects of my game, but after more research I found that Ernest W. Adams provides a more detailed example:

  • Game Title
  • High Concept Statement
    • 2 lines to succinctly explain the idea of the game. This needs to be simple; if it’s to hard to understand, would customers be interested in buying it?
  • Features
    • List all of the game’s key features
  • Overview
    • Player motivation
      • What does the player try to accomplish?
    • Genre
      • The genre, or genres this game targets
    • Licence
      • Does this game require an Intellectual Property licence? Explain here
    • Target Customer
      • Who will buy this game?
    • Competition
      • games on the market that compete with this one
    • Unique Selling Points
      • What is new in this game? How will it stand out?
    • Design Goals
      • What aesthetics is the design targeting?
  • Extra Details
    • Any other marketing details worth mentioning that the reader may enjoy

The addition of the Overview section provides significantly more design insight into my own ideas. Considering some of the marketing facets at the beginning of development will help me better realise how my product may look to consumers. Adams’ model is far more sophisticated and provides a far deeper well for drawing out an idea. Following this structure will make the transition from HCD to GDD quicker and easier, and the idea more mature with a deeper level of understanding behind it.

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