Step 3 – Premise

GOAL: Explore the potential themes that are coming through.
DELIVERABLES: Write down the Theme, Moral Conflict, Design Principle, Premise, Tone/Genre, and Fantasy

It’s about finding what all those ideas are leading us to. Finding order in the chaos of the big bang, which is the brainstorming phase. This is the first attempt to create this documentation, but it should not be the last. You have to keep returning to it, refining it, and redefining it as you go. This will be the North star of the project during production, it can still evolve during the concept phase but not anymore once production starts. Try to fill those in. If it’s unclear, leave it blank for now.


AKA: Why

It’s something that all aspects of the game should speak to.
People should be able to have different opinions about it. Ask yourself, “What is your opinion of [Theme]?”.
This is not a good narrative theme if there is no potential conflict.
The whole team can use the theme to look in the same direction.
“A director is asked a thousand questions a day, so if you have a single theme unifying your movie, you can deal with all the details.” – Francis Ford Coppola

The Conversation” – Privacy.
The Godfather movies” – Succession.
Apocalypse Now” – Morality.
“Star Wars”: Good and Evil
“God of War”: Redemption
“Destiny 2”: Home


It’s what the protagonist and antagonist’s conflict is about. They have different opinions about “Theme.”

God of War”: Revenge VS Forgiveness.
The Godfather movies” – Family values VS personal values
Apocalypse Now” – Morality.
Star Wars” – Doing what is right VS doing what feels good/easy.
“Destiny 2”: Home we are born in VS Home we choose


The design principle helps us narrow down what the story is about. While the Theme is broad, the moral conflict helps us get one layer down; the Design Principle really directs how we tackle the theme.

I believe it’s essential not to have the judgment of right and wrong at this point. If, within your theme, you already decided what is right, then the story will be one note or expected. The antagonist shouldn’t just be in the wrong from the beginning. He should aspire to the same goal as the protagonist but use the (morally) wrong way. (morally, depending on the author’s world vision).

  • How are we going to talk about the Moral Conflict?
  • This is the frame, the box, the point of view with which we decide to limit our story.
  • What’s the controlling idea/theme?
  • I think the best way to discuss the theme is by…

Godfather”: By exploring how the next in line to be the head of a mafiosi family struggles to stay true to his own value
“Star Wars”: By exploring how a talented young apprentice will struggle to stay on the light side despite his personal inclination towards the dark side
“God of War”: By confronting Kratos consequences of his past that he can’t escape.
“Destiny 2”: By exploring how displaced aliens species fighting each other are finding a new home and friends in unlikely places.


What is the story?

This is actually what most people often focus on and limit themselves with. In a way, this is the easiest part, but it can only be solid if we have all the other parts on that page.

A story is comprised of 5 main elements:

  • An inciting Incident
  • A Protagonist
  • The Protagonist’s Goal
  • Obstacle between the Protagonist and his Goal
  • Action or Choice that the Protagonist has to make to overcome the obstacles

I used this sentence below to check if I have all the elements required to tell a coherent story.



AKA: How

  • The tone is how the fantasy will be expressed.
  • The type of atmosphere.
  • What’s the genre?
  • Tone VS Mood
    • Mood is what the audience feel from consuming a piece of art.
    • Tone is what the author feels about the subject matter of their art.

Ex: Gritty, light-hearted, comedic, dark, suspenseful, etc


AKA: What

What experience are we promising the players? In which shoes are they going to run and shoot aliens?
This is what most players will talk about and be excited about and what the title the player will earn should speak to.

“The big bang theory say nothing about what banged, why it banged, or what happened before it banged”

Alan guth