I am taking a software engineering course and got an understanding of basic concepts used in designing solutions for businesses.

We come up with requirements, do use cases and user scenarios and it all makes sense in the business context.

However, I am more interested in video game design and I am wondering what sort of design techniques are used by both indie developers and large companies such as Blizzard. What is confusing to me is that I can't seem to pull out requirements from something like a storyline, which is the basis of most video games. I have an idea on how I want certain features to be implemented, but otherwise I have no solid plan. When I tried to research video game design I mostly got information on storylining and character design...which is important of course but I am unsure how to translate this into a model a software engineer can use for actual implementation.

  • 2
    Indie/hobby? Ad-hoc/big ball of mud mostly. Blizzard? They won't tell. You have found what there is to find, this topic is nearly undocumented and polluted with wild guesses such as this comment.
    – wondra
    Mar 16, 2018 at 6:24
  • It would not surprise me if these sort of companies (like Blizzard) had their own game engines, which in all the sense are going to be secret of industry (for obvious reasons). It would not surprise me either if these engines would have been implemented over other engines like Cry, Unreal, Unity (to mention some of the famous ones)... Most of them are. I think many of the questions you are struggling with fill find the answer in these engines. Or at least these could provide you with a fairly good starting point.
    – Laiv
    Mar 16, 2018 at 7:58
  • @Laiv typically, it is not hard to find the names of in-house engines big companies use or which engine was used for particular indie game. The tricky question is the workflow/design itself. You can make an educated guess when it is a "public" engine based on its architecture. For in-house engines, however, usually not even the general architecture is known, just (incomplete)list of its technical capabilities if anything at all.
    – wondra
    Mar 16, 2018 at 8:24
  • It's not surprising you can't find a way to go from a storyline to a game design, because these things are completely unrelated. The same storyline could be used for a 2D scrolling platformer as for a first-person shooter. Companies like Blizzard have game designers, who actually design the actual game-play, which feeds into the requirements for the software. These are completely separate to the writers who come up with the storylines/lore. Mar 16, 2018 at 11:30
  • "We come up with requirements, do use cases and user scenarios and it all makes sense in the business context." No, it does not make sense. As problems you describe are exactly same problems in any kind of business, not just game dev. Sorry, but that school taught you "ideal" or "optimistic" approach. Approach that might work in theory, but is useless in practice. For question as a whole, there are multiple fields od study that try to figure out how we should make software. Often with many books and courses to learn them. So your question is just too broad.
    – Euphoric
    Mar 16, 2018 at 13:57

2 Answers 2


My impression from people within the industry I have spoken with is that there is a fairly simple process, similar to business cases.

  1. Start with a format choice. 2d platform, First Person Shooter, Card game, Point and click adventure etc

  2. Add your twist or twists. You can rewind time, perma-death, crafting, multiplayer, etc

These two give you the basis of your engine choice. Unity, Unreal etc

  1. Characters, Locations and Roughed out plot: You are a rich adventuress trying to find a mysterious artefact in a series of 'tombs'

This gives you a list of assets to make,

  • get 10 concept sketches of 'lara'
  • make best one in 3d
  • add animations 1 through 10
  • record voice acting for scene 12b

and functionality to program

  • add inventory screen
  • add weapons that shoot
  • implement damage from monsters

Because your engine is virtually chosen for you by the type of game you want to make and the skills of your dev team, implementing each task is a fairly well known process within that engine. And can be simply defined just like most business specs eg:

  • When I click on 'Buy' I should go to the 'payment' screen

  • When I click 'fire' the gun i'm holding should fire

The tricky bit is when you go off piste with some new game mechanic which hasn't been done before.

  • there will be 100 people all on the same server
  • when I look through the portal I will see through the exit portal
  • when I shoot the wall holes will appear

Rock, Paper, Shotgun has some columns that give an in-the-trenches view of game design:

A particular interesting article about Into the Breach, for example, describes how the game's UI design focuses on eliminating randomness and uncertainty, so that the player can always tell exactly what is going to happen the next turn.

Some areas of game design are little different from regular applications and lend themselves easily to use cases or user stories - basically everything that deals directly with the UI.

The storyline is a bit different, partially because in many games it doesn't affect the way the game works much (or at all). But if you look at some highly voted answers over at the Writing Stackexchange, you'll see that there are also some well-established and logical design principles in that area.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.