UE4 Development Diary: the brief

08 November 2017

Categories: UE4



  • Science fiction
  • 3rd person
  • Between 3 and 4 minutes of gameplay (must have a 4 minute timer)
  • A space ship which is entering an atmosphere and is about to crash
  • 3 goals in the game:
  • 2 escape strategies which fail with at least 1 challenge on each
  • Final goal with 3 challenges to complete in time to be successful
  • 'Alien' style industrial working ship with appropriate visuals
  • Player begins with the ability to walk, run, jump, fall and use things
  • Player must gain the ability to double/long jump, destroy weaker obstacles, shoot projectiles which can push or pull enemies/objects
  • Enemies are optional
  • Highly encouraged to download assets, not make my own

Must include in project

Level Design Document (see below)

Debriefing Document

  • Breakdown of how and where each technical requirement has been met in the brief
  • Description and discussion of effectiveness of each design principle
  • List of all assets used including SFX, models and texture sources. Any that come from Unreal are to be labelled "Unreal example content"
  • List where the level deviates from the design if relevant

Level Design Document


  • Professional formatting and structure
  • High level design features including early design diagrams and sketches
  • Gameplay narrative describing the player experience as they play the level
  • Maps pinpointing items of interest and expected routes showing logical connections and close ups for specific gameplays

Audience: who is going to be using this document? Programmers, integrators, game designers, environmental artists, game/creative director, producer and of course the client.

Motivations: what does the document need to be used for? Building the level and environment, programming the level, testing the level, cost and manage the process and sell the concept.

Consider readers and writers: readers need information to do their jobs and writers need a process to do theirs (but they may also be readers).

Motivation: forces a pre-production process and separates design from making.

  • Enlarge image

The Last of Us is a good example of a title page. The highlight on Ellie shows that she's a main protagonist (and also a bit of a badass). You can also see from her expression that she's been/is going through a lot. Joel on the other hand is reserved and is holding back in the dark, which reflects his personality and traumatic past. You don't have to have played the game to see this, which is what makes it a good title page/poster.


Not all of the below needs to be implemented, but sticking to this structure will aid in creating a good document


  • Title page
  • Image that tells a lot about the game
  • Game title - "Level Design Document"
  • Which level is it?
  • Copyright and privacy statements

Mini pitch

  • Imagine someone only reads this part of the document
  • High concept
  • Elevator pitch
  • Large image(s)

Version/change log

  • Table with version number, date, prepared/modified by, description
  • In reverse order (top of table is most recent change)
  • Hyperlink to the change made in the description
  • Page section
  • Edits, additions, removals too


  • Word has a built in method for this

High level devices

Onion diagram

  • Middle: core gameplay, what will the player be doing most often?
  • Outer layers: occasional player actions
  • Visual ranking of the player activities


  • Does your level/gameplay/situation have a meaning? Hidden subtext?
  • Are you trying to show something?
  • Are you trying to change people?


  • Image + image = image
  • It's like X but with Y change to make Z


  • A small set of rules or statements which must hold true for the level
  • Star Wars Battlefront: pure good and evil, vertical combat,


  • Your level name on top. Pillars holding it up with supporting concepts
  • Clear statements of emotion/concept/style

X – hard to define unique aspect of the game


  • Narrative/meta game concept
  • Where the player has come from and where they're going next
  • What power abilities has the player's avatar when they reach this level
  • One page
  • Use excerpt of game map if available


  • Player experience
  • Story: explain what happens step by step (the player will do this then...)
  • Objective
  • Visual references

Level design

  • Challenges and goals
  • Brief paragraph describing each
  • Linearisation
  • Flow chart or linear of what the player will be doing (I.e. those challenges/goals)
  • 2D Bubble diagram
  • Circles joined by transitions (I.e. enemy segments, shortcut, etc.)
  • Maps and views
  • Drawn from bubble diagrams
  • Use squared paper
  • Eventually use a map with elevation with key zooming and notes

Game design

Combinations and permutations

  • Powers and abilities allocated for this section of the game
  • Can be bullet lists, good if it's diagrammed

Systems and entities

  • One page on each system
  • Title type etc.
  • Table representing its parameters with values and ranges and effect of interest to the designers
  • Paragraph describing the behaviour