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Game Design


Talk about game design, ideas, theories, issues, and anything related to gameplay here!


I'm going to collect and collate the data on game design tricks whenever I can find them. Initially, they'll come from the responses to Jennifer Scheurle's tweet, but there's plenty out there to include.

Submitted by souri on Wed, 13/11/19 - 6:45 PM Permalink

I've only followed a little of what happened there so I don't really have anything of value to say about all that. The actual responses to the tweet are what I'm more interested on, and there's some really valuable tips there, especially for an amateur like myself when it comes to game design.

Submitted by mgarcia on Mon, 02/12/19 - 12:29 PM Permalink

"some really valuable tips".. which tweets? I find it hard to read tweets, and I only saw two.. from OP
"Assassin's Creed and Doom value the last bit of health as more hit points than the rest of it to encourage a feeling of *JUST* surviving."
"In Hellblade, the game breaks diegetic UX to let players know of the potential permadeath that is a myth, but effects emotion and playstyle."

It's interesting trivia, to call them 'design mechanics' is a stretch (ie 2015-16... it was all about screen shake), IMO anyway


Hi guys, so I am still in the development stage of my first iOS game :P

I will be outsourcing the coding to an online freelancer (not through Odesk, Elance, Freelancer or any 3rd party sites).
I will be providing him with all the graphics, sounds and also the Game Design Documents.

My concern is that I feel like I have no real protection against him from finishing the game, then uploading it himself on the iOS store.

Besides a written contract (I don't know how effective that is internationally and for freelance work), are there any safety measures, methods or programs I could use to prevent him from stealing the game?

Any tips will be greatly appreciated!

Submitted by Flowspark on Sun, 13/04/14 - 4:30 PM Permalink

Hi there, my tip is to employ him through Odesk. They create watertight contracts for you and so long as the dev is not in China, you should be able to sue him into oblivion if he releases the game with all your IP.


I’m here to pitch my game proposal; this is for anyone that interested on making a game with me, gamers and people who can help. Criticism is welcomed.

The Immortal Racers (Still working on the Name) Proposal


A racing action game that is inspired by super meet boy, Powerstone, Mario kart, Naruto, prince of Persia, Jet set radio, sonic and road rash.

The Immortal Racers is a third person view fantasy racing action game, where racers from all around the world are competing to become the next immortal being. A racing game that combines both platforming skills and strategy.

Game play:

The player will have a variety of racers to choose from, the racers themselves will have different type of skills and spells, ranging from defensive skills, to offensive skills, and support skills.

There are three rules, 1. there are no large vehicles allow, such as cars, buses, tanks, and etc, only small ones like skateboards, roller skates, jet packs and etc are allowed. 2. Racers are able do whatever it takes to win. This includes, attacking, destroying the environment, setting traps and etc and 3. racers aren’t allowed to teleport or use teleporting devices. Two ways to win, defeating all your opponents or being first to cross the finish line. If it’s a time limit race, then the one that’s closes to the finish line wins.

Gems: Throughout the race tracks, racers can pick up gems, gems have a wide variety of uses, they can be use to heal the racer, to activate skills, and increase stats. Racers will need a certain amount of gems to activate skills and spells, gems can also be used to buy and upgrade equipment.

All racers have a heath bar, mana or rage or stamina bar (depending on the type), and at least 3 skills or spells.

Racer Skills:

All racers have jump, dash (ground and air), slide, basic attack, basic defend and use special skills and spells. All racers will have equipment according to their type.

There are six types of racers, offensive, Defensive, Speed, Technique, Special and all rounders.

Offensive(rage bar): Offensive racers are runners who specializing on attacking their opponents and knocking them off the race tracks, the only type that can do normal ranged attacks. Their weaknesses are Technique type racers. This type is designed more for people who like action games.

Technique (stamina bar): Technique racers are able to dodge, wall run/jump, slide, double dash, grind, and double jump, to reach the finish line, they also can dodge all basic attacks. Their weaknesses are defensive type racers. This type is designed for people who enjoy platforming.

Defensive (rage bar): Defensive racers are able to take on a lot of damage, can’t be thrown off race tracks by others, and can set traps . Their weakness is special type racers. This type is designed for people who like to use strategy.

Special(Mana bar): Special racers have twice the amount of special skills of other racers, hold the most gems and have all types of skills, a glass cannon. Their weaknesses are speed types. This type is designed for people who enjoy playing mages in RPGs.

Speed (Stamina bar): Speed racers are the fastest racers, but are easily knocked off race tracks and bumping into objects can dramatically slow them down, their weakness is offensive type racers. This type is designed for people who like racing games.

All rounders (1/3 of all bars): All rounders racers are the jack of all trades, they have no strengths or weaknesses, and this type is designed for beginners

Offense types will have weapons.

Defensive type will have armor or shields and traps.

Speed types will have small vehicles such as roller-blades, skateboards and etc.

Technique types will have gadgets that will enhance their skills.

Special types will have magical orbs that will enhance their spells and skills.

All rounders will be able to have all equipment but will be basic.

Race Tracks:
The race track will be balanced for all types of racers, each track will have multiple routes to pick, the player must choose wisely on which route to pick and picking the wrong route can make it harder for the player, the player can force other racers into the wrong route too. Some tracks will have a Hungry monster chasing after all the racers, and who ever is caught is eaten and will lose the race. Tracks will be filled with monsters, obstacles and traps. The track will be filled with gems, which also makes the players aggressively fight for the gems. The tracks will also have hidden items that can help the racer.

The player will have many choices while racing, for example, will you try catch up to first by running, or stop and collect gems to use a special skill to catch up. If your heath is low, will you use your gems to heal, or risk it and save up to buy upgrades? Should you save up gems to use your best skill, or use a bunch of low level skills? Can your racer take their opponent head on, or should you avoid the confrontation? And with different types comes with different strategies, for example, if you’re a defensive type, you will have to carefully set your traps, and which traps to pick and etc.

Art direction:
The style will be stylized and wacky, and rages from unrealistic to realistic characters and even parodies of famous character, for example, a racer who is a hopeless lover whose special skills are based on love, one of its skill will be falling in love with whoever is in first place, allowing it to catch up to him or her, or blowing a kiss as a ranged attack.

Racers will range from samurais, ninja, zombies, clowns, mutant boogers and etc anything is possible.

Tracks can be mundane or the racers can be swallowed by a giant monster, and race inside the monster and the racers must escape by exiting the anus.

So yeah that’s basically it, if this proposal gets enough interests, I will do a more detail proposal, adding game modes, single player modes, and multiplayer mode, and the story. Also here is some of my latest artwork; something to show you guys what I am cable of.

Artworks:(yeah I don’t do much illustration I been practicing more)

Thanks for Reading.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 19/12/11 - 11:19 PM Permalink

Wow, that's a lot of info! I find that the best games keep a focus on 1 or 2 core features. We used to call them the 'pillars of gameplay'. These are the things that your game is going to do better than anyone else. It might be something like 'co-operative gameplay' or 'exploration' or anything really. When you are evaluating a potential feature for your game you should see if it is supported by one of your pillars. if it isn't, then it should be cut (or at least prioritised very low).

With your design above I can see that there are many ideas. It mixes a lot of styles and has an overwhelming number of options to the player. Racing games are often about precision, speed and control (forcing the player into making split second decisions), but you reference mario kart which is a lot more forgiving and is focused less on memorising the racing line and more on fun interactions and power ups.

Blending different styles can work, but it can be tough. Having many different features is also a sure-fire way to development hell. As a rule of thumb, always take your initial game design and cut it in half. After you have done that, cut it in half again. Even then you will probably have something that is too optimistic. By focusing on 1 or 2 core features and removing all else you will not only have a design that is achievable, but the game will be better for it.

Submitted by Jacka (not verified) on Tue, 31/01/12 - 12:56 PM Permalink

At the high level, the concept is pretty sound - there's plenty you could do with a racing game with combat elements where the players aren't confined to vehicles. Making it a 2d sidescroller would reduce some of the complexity making it quite suitable for a little indi project too.

I think the abilities aspect is what needs the most refinement at this point. I think you'd be best to give each player a "ability" bar and then limit each class to a couple of abilities. Giving them too many options is likely to make it overly complicated when they're needing to negotiate the environment at high speed and watch out for other players trying to attack them too. If you still wanted to have a wide array of different abilities, perhaps players could make a selection before the beginning of a race.

Your art direction is something that really needs some development at this point. I think your concept art is quite good and shows a clearer direction than the "anything and everything" direction (or lack thereof) mentioned in the document. A tight, focused art direction will give you a much, much better result than picking bits and pieces from all over the place.

Looking at your concept art, you've got what appears to be a tengu - a demon who appears in the Japanese religion Shintoism. Now couple this with your race goal - that of attaining immortality and you have a potentially interesting direction. Maybe you've got an Asian inspired direction, or potentially more interesting, maybe you've got characters from different ancient mythologies - Shinto, Egyptian, Greek, Norse or whatever else all vying for the prize of becoming an immortal god. Now that's not necessarily in keeping with other aspects of your document - kitsune on skateboards and frost giants with jetpacks might be a bit of a clash (although it is kind of an amusing concept), but it's an example of a more focused direction. Think about what you really want your game to be about and go from there.

Submitted by Nuobz on Fri, 03/02/12 - 1:09 PM Permalink

Hey some really good tips there, and i really like the idea of players being able to select what abilities they want before racing, it adds a lot more strategy, and yes I will consider the art direction more, using mythological creatures would be cool.


At the moment, most people can commonly agree that melee combat in games is not what it could be.

I've played my fair share of melee combat games ranging from Dynasty Warriors to Oblivion, frankly I've only played one game that had a combat system that felt like it worked on a scale of realism.

I'm coming from the standpoint of a seasoned veteran of martial arts and military background, and games are really just hack and slashes - though are getting better and better as we master and insert more and more motion cap into games.

Regardless, awesome looking melee between two characters is usually two preset motions cap animations that are set in space, and each character can't move out of that space. Meaning it's linear and has no freedom of movement. You could have something like AC or AC2 with their 'X to kill' system, though that makes the game a fully functional line up and die method or people who have a good finger. Then you have complete freedom which turns into Oblivion where the player moves around like they have helium balloons attached to their feet.

None of these essentially harness the true aspects of combat. Looking for ideas here that incorporate thinking systems that render movements based on rules (much like Ai does). Combat really involves, stability, footwork, and speed.

Submitted by Snacuum on Mon, 08/03/10 - 10:48 PM Permalink

It's for this reason that I'm baffled as to why games haven't leapt on the Euphoria middleware that's present in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, and GTA4. The system that blends together purpose-based animation (like mo-cap) and reactive-based animation (like ragdoll physics.) The similar to A.I. algorithms set in the middleware decides what parts of the body will be controlled by a preset animation and what parts will react to the environment.

I think I remember seeing a tech demo video where a character that was shot while ascending stairs reacted realistically to both the environment and as a animated dying human would. Euphoria detected that the entity was shot from the front and required a death animation pushing him backwards. It detected the force and gravity physics and found that the entity was placed on stairs which is considered and uneven surface. Ragdoll physics were initiated on the legs while a "grabbing for the hand rail" animation was placed on the torso.

A system that uses this for melee combat would be good, the physics would run only on body parts hit with enough force from the attacker, While smooth motion capture animation would run for actions initiated by the player. All the while the game knows what environment the characters are present in and can adjust placement and movements of limbs accordingly.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 01/05/10 - 2:53 PM Permalink

i would love to see something like that in games but our controlers are so prehistoric there needs to be more emphasis on virtual reality motion control i know the wii has something close to it but would be nice to have a suit or something that you can wear and do the motions for would need a difficulty setting for those that are not as active


Whether you know some from a test you've taken or found, or whether you have your own which might address design issues, post them here. I've recently taken to trying to answer a few questions which might commonly pop-up in Design Tests during interviews, especially considering I feel my answers for the design test I took recently must not have hit the mark the studio was looking for.

I'd appreciate if this was just a thread of questions, but if you do want to reply to one feel free to post, it's always good to see other's viewpoints.

Here are some questions I found on some random internet blog somewhere (can't remember the link now):

1.Describe the relevant differences between a PC gaming experience and a console gaming experience. How do these differences, if any, affect how you would design a game?
2.What do most people mean when they mention or ask for non-linear missions, and what are the best ways to provide this?
3.Halo, GTA3, and Battlefield 1942 are all examples of games with multi-modal gameplay, whereas Quake, Project Gotham Racing, and MechWarrior are not. What does multi-modal gameplay mean? What design considerations do you need to make to incorporate multi-modal gameplay in your game or mission?
4.What are the design considerations between single-player and multiplayer levels/maps?
5.Real-Time Strategy (RTS) games and Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) are 2 very PC-centric game genres with extremely successful games. Describe how you would redesign the controls and interface for one of these popular games (Age of Empires, StarCraft, WarCraft, EverQuest, Asheron's Call, etc.) and make it usable and fun using the Xbox controller, and discuss the considerations that would have to be made to redesign the game.
6.What mission/level design considerations do you need to keep in mind when designing a 3-D flying game? What is unique about them from a design perspective (for example, as opposed to a First Person Shooter)?

I'll probably post some of my own creation later.


Out of curiosity and intrigue, I will pose three questions to anyone who stumbles along this thread:
1. What is your favourite game genre to develop?
2. What is your favourite game genre to play?
3. What do you think is the most popular genre in the marketplace at the moment?

Ok, it's not all for curiosity. Kind of looking to survey developers and want-to-be developers and whether they think they are their own typical player and whether they find that they enjoy playing what they may enjoy developing.

Submitted by Sabre070 on Tue, 20/01/09 - 3:27 PM Permalink

1. RPG/RTS and RTSRPG or Arcade style games (platformers) or (my long time project) a MMOFPSRTSRPG space sim..

2. FPS/RPG/RTS - It depends what mood I'm in. I like elements of all of them but I don't like some elements of each.

3. Either FPS or RPG. Most new games are FPS due to the graphics quality that we develop now (in comparison to 5-10 years ago). RPGs have the WoW, TES and Fallout games. It is also shown more and more in non-RPG games that there are RPG elements coming in (however minute). For example: Red Alert 3's powers/command thingos w/e they were called. Games that weren't meant to be RPGs ended up having lots of RPG elements - it is what people want these days, the ability to customize their game to their play style.

Thats my 3 sentences worth..

-- Sabre

Submitted by souri on Wed, 21/01/09 - 2:32 AM Permalink

1. no idea :/ I guess for me it would be more about the art and how much creativity is involved rather than a particular genre. I mean, have you seen mini ninjas? How awesome would it be to work on that! Anyway, it wouldn't even matter if it was even pixel art or low-polygon stuff, as long as it's interesting work. But if you put a gun to my head, I would say casual puzzle game.

2. online FPS with focus on class based teamplay with objectives.. so Enemy Territory:Wolfenstein, Quake Wars, and Battlefield 2.

3. most popular? Man, that's a hard one (that's what she said). Wasn't Wii sports the title with the most number of sales ever? Ok, it was lumped in with the Wii, but there are games that have some absurd numbers of sales that just don't register in the regular gaming websites that I visit (which cater for a certain niche, I reckon). Heck, how many sales did Bejewelled get? Over 25 million, wasn't it? By that count, I would say casual games.

Submitted by Soul on Wed, 21/01/09 - 11:54 AM Permalink

1. If I was employed in the industry, I'd have to say working on an RPG would be awesome. In fact, working on just about anything would be awesome. However, as a wannabe game designer I think genres can be potentially restrictive, and in my own time tend to ignore them as much as possible.

2. RPGs that aren't too heavy on stats, or FPS games that aren't too heavy on the shooting. Or just about anything within the two genres with an interesting gameplay hook, or an engaging narrative.

3. I would hazard a guess that casual, family-oriented games are probably topping the charts right now :)



Wow this place is dusty. Like it hasn't been cleaned in ages. *sigh* reminds me of home.

*cleans the dust of a chair*

*cough cough*

Well then lets get down to business. The apparent chances of somebody stumbling over this post is nigh on nil but my mother always called me an optimistic individual. Since the topic is design and since by a miracle of chances my interests lay in that particular area, I would like to bring forth a question, a query if you will. Nay a debate of such fury that the very gods themselves shake in fear of the fan boy might. But enough enough let me tell you a tale.

There once was a Skill Tree based level up system in a popular game. Many people came from far and wide to bask in it awesome power. It had three branches per class and allowed for specialisation in certain areas. For many years this was the norm and the Level Up system was made king. But this king was restrictive, power drove it mad and it would change its mind at the drop of a hat. It power drove it mad and its dictatorship reign cast a dark shadow over the rpg land. People hid in terror as it spread over game after game.

But our tale has a hero and darkness cannot triumph forever.

You may ignore my grandiose way of introductions but this tale is not singular to any game its quite the plague throughout the rpg genre. This skill based tree is my nemesis and I battle it day after day. I find it restrictive and hampers the ability to create my character the way I wanted to create it.

I put it to you brave champions of the new dawn. I have my thoughts but no man can design by himself. I put it to you plainly, if you would design a level up system for a RPG. Lets us see if your idea is better then mine. I will post my ideas up after the first brave sole takes a step forth.

(for the purposes of this topic all ideas belong to their respective posters)

Submitted by Soul on Wed, 11/06/08 - 12:34 PM Permalink

OK, this won't answer your query....

Ignoring the idea of leveling up, or RPGS in general, what we're interested in here is a reward structure that is (at least) two-fold:
1. It allows the player to feel more powerful/successful/important within the game space.
2. It allows some measure of selection, allowing alterations to the interaction within the game, enabling more "individual" expression through play.

It might be helpful to think of it in terms of agency - we need to both increase it, and potentially change its nature to satisfy the player. From this framing, there are multitudes of approaches we can take, and each are highly dependent on the systems unique to each design. Because this reward structure is but one system within many, and each system *should* be tightly integrated within any design, without further specification it's near impossible to answer the question...

Submitted by StephenWade on Wed, 09/07/08 - 7:04 PM Permalink

I'd like to know what *specifically* you find in the skill-tree based system that is restricting your ability to shape the character the way you want. There's not really any obvious flaw in the tree kind of structure, but it's designed to do specific things (as Soul pointed out) and there are obviously things that it cannot do.

Supplementing the system with whatever you wish to increase your ability to 'shape the character' is a good thing, but you have to weigh up how cluttered and difficult the systems become for the player to understand.

Assuming you DO have a tree-based skill/level up structure ...

Likely scenarios where it comes undone is if the player stumbles upon a situation that they'd like to solve in a particular fashion - however because of the decisions they've made in the past, they aren't specialised in the correct way to execute. If the player has travelled down the tree, and somehow come to a point where they aren't able to play the way they want to play, then

a) the tree and it's impact on play is probably poorly designed in the first place
b) the consequences of 'branch selection' were not communicated clearly to the player,

Remedying either of those is just a matter of taking care with the design and taking care with the presentation of choices to the player, making sure they understand what choices they are making.

If you have any good examples of specific frustrations with the system, i'd love to know more !

Submitted by Bittman on Mon, 29/09/08 - 4:44 PM Permalink

I can see both the pros and cons of a skill tree (as I have played Ragnarok Online and very little WoW [obvious reference in your post]) so:

Skill Trees - the complaint of customising it your way is understandable, especially in such a system as WoW where you're either strong in 1/3, average in 2/3 or weak in all. It is a balanced situation designed to allow "player customisation", but usually creates confusion in new RPG players and entices those who want to plan ahead and strategise. Compare this to the skill tree of Ragnarok Online and you'll see that customisation is heavily reliant upon the class rather than what area of the tree you look at (though some classes have large trees). What are my cons on this customisation however? Well obviously it encourages individuality in an MMO environment. And though WoW is the largest MMO around, people really aren't reliant upon others unless there's a war to be had. What WoW has managed to do, however, is make it that there is no "best build" but a collection of highly viable builds. RO has failed on this point.

Not Skill Trees - RPG's that don't rely on skill trees usually rely on another way to obtain skills (buying, rewards, obtained at certain levels automatically). Without a skill tree, players are left to concentrate on their own skill and the use of any abilities a character may come with as opposed to who can make their flames hotter by four levels. The major problem without a skill tree is that there is a lack of true character-to-character customisation and more focus on skill. Though this is alright in my books, it loses quite a lot of the strategy a player would usually hold in a skill-tree based game.

Of course both paragraphs above mean nothing, because the largest plague of the RPG world is un-understandable statistics. Why any player would care if their defence is 1 higher than another's is beyond me personally, they might as well just make grades of stats.

Oh, suppose I should suggest an alternative. If you wanted to use skills, without the beloved "skill tree" then perhaps a system that awards skills dependent upon your actions as a player. Of course this would almost be overly complex and people would surely cry foul for not being able to make their necromancer pure evil whilst helping quest-giver #1564 build a church for fluffy bunnies.


The game name is "Mechsoul". This is simple third person arcade
with flying character. Gameplay is similar to asteroids and some type
of japans arcade games "Ray crisis", "Ray storm" with scrolling 3D
backgrounds.The main concept.Idea is simple, the mankind at war with their creation - nanobots.... enemy nanobotsThis
is very small robots created by humans to help with various things,
from healthcare to technical purposes. They become crazy after incident
with 2 space freighters fully loaded with nanobots... nanobots was
separated and after crash they become one huge mass. From this moment
was unexpected thing happens - this "mass" of nanobots become
intelligent and faced the world with cold mind of robots and one
intention - assimilate any of the matter in this universe......Humans
is loosing each battle and there is only Sol system now in their hands.
Deep in the system on one of the satellites of the Mars there is secret
project developing. This project is last hope of the mankind... ...codename "Mechsoul"Target
of this project is creating giant multipurpose mech, that consist from
various parts and weapons, but inside filled with nanobots created
using antimatter technology (AMNB- AntiMatterNanoBot)... This give him
ability to assimilate enemy nanobots while them in small groups and
charge himself with more power. Mech able to "feel" enemy nanobots and
assimilate them, but only after bigger was divided in small groups.
power gained from enemy is used to charge health and super weapons of
the mech. mech also have ability to fly or walk. After first
enemy scouts appear in Sol system the game starts. You drive 50% ready
mech from the middle of the Sol system and goes from 1 simple objective
to another, this is practice. After done prelaunch tests and complete
practice(that can be skipped), you start to annihilate your enemy.
First battles begins from outer side of the Sol system, some human
space ships helps you to destroy first wave.. After this first levels,
your mecha becomes powerful enough to trip over the open space to find
enemy "mother mass". At first levels mecha becomes more powerful, cause
humans ships him new armor and weapons part and at the end of the "Sol"
level you have 100% ready to use mecha with full weapons and armor.
Second part of the game is more hard than first, and have 1 important
feature. As you separated from humans and surrounded by enemy you cant
have supplies and replacement for destroyed parts and weapons, but as
you assimilate more and more enemy nanobots, your AMNB mass becomes
more powerful and in the middle of the second stage unexpected thing
happens, your AMNB mass becomes intelligent too... Also with this thing
you find that many of the new features appears. This features have
"offensive" and defensive" effects.. so if player use more "offensive"
- than mech becomes more evil and destructive and if player uses
"defencive" features, than mecha becomes more kind and have additional
features. Every side have their own features and effects, powerful and
weak sides. At the end of second part you will have 50% of the first
seen mecha and non of human weapons working... Third part is
most hard, because mech approached to "mother mass". The main enemies
is spawned by mother mass big chunks of nanobots.. You must survive and
wait untill mother mass becomes very close to "critical mass".. After
this you can try to destroy it..... But you fail, cause any of the you
weapons too weak (good side) or mothermass to fast cure wounds done by
your powerful weapons (evil side)... After realising this mech assume
his own decision how to destroy mothermass and you will see 2 various
ends of the game based on your mech's alignment (evil or good). if good, than mecha crash into the mothermass and blows up himself and supernova will born in this place. if evil, than mecha start to assimilate mother mass and becomes black hole star.this is rough idea, but any suggestions are welcome

Submitted by vaughan on Mon, 20/08/07 - 4:35 PM Permalink

I was having a read, the concept sounds interesting. But you really didn't say much about how the game will play. How do you assimilate destroyed enemies? What kinds of attacks can you do? Do you die in one hit or have a life bar? Do your abilities level up? What kind of categories will the power ups include?I think when coming up with a design you need to focus more on how it works, and what makes it different.  Otherwise it is just a story. I hope that helps you flesh out your idea a bit more.

Submitted by robomaniac on Mon, 20/08/07 - 11:39 PM Permalink

as I say before - this is rough idea... nothing morein the first lines of first post i wrote about gameplay..."Gameplay is similar to asteroids and some type
of japans arcade games "Ray crisis", "Ray storm" with scrolling 3D
backgrounds."if i like idea - i will prepare "1 pager", where in a few words will be described game , not idea ... name of the first post  - GAME IDEA ;) so we r talking about idea first...


The other week I attended a series of presentations at QUT regarding games and Australian law. Though most of the talks focused on on-line legal issues, one focused on the Australian rating system and it's failings.

For those of you that don't know, although the OFLC claims that games, film and television and rated on the same system, there is no R (18+) rating for games. This means the highest rating a game can receive is MA15+, or else it is Refused Classification, and banned.

The speaker seemed mainly interested in calling for an R rating, though he did spend a lot of time pointing out the various faults, contradictions, and inconsistencies in game ratings.

Some interesting points he bought up were:

The case of GTAIII, which was banned due to it's depictions of violence against women: you could pay for a prostitute (restoring your health), and then after you're finished with 'services', kill her and take back your money;

The case of Man Hunt (I think, I'm don't remember if this was the correct game), where the people rating the game were unable to pass the first section of the game and were worried about the ability for people to kill the same guy over and over (perhaps not realizing that most players would pass the first stage and not experience this);

The famous Hot Coffee incident where by GTA: San Andreas was banned after a third-party mod allowed users to access a sex mini-game that was cut - but not removed - from the final build of the game;

He also showed many other examples of games games were either rated or banned for various, interesting reasons.

I have often considered the problem of rating a medium based on what a user 'can' or 'might' do, rather than what content is most prevalent in the game, and the QUT presentation got me thinking about it again. The vast gap between the content of the game and the possible experience concerns me, so to this end I am calling for a ban on a game that I think allows players to use the otherwise mundane content in explicit ways: Oblivion.

Oblivion is an open-ended, swords and sorcery role playing game, a game where you can kill anyone, loot anything, and play anywhere. Indeed the tag-line of the series is 'Live another life'.

So how's this hypothetical life:

Using the face editor at the start of the game you can make a character that looks like yourself, someone you know, or better yet a psychopath, and head out into the wide open-ended world. You can then proceed to kill all of the many NPCs
populating the world, and strip them of their loot and clothing. You can then hide the bodies in the basement of your very own house you purchased in-game, and using the physics system, grab parts of their bodies and manipulate them into different positions.

But it doesn't end there! You can then open up the Construction Set, the very tools used by the developers to make the game, which is freely available online, and learn to use it with support from sites all over the web, including the official forums and Wiki. Perhaps you'll make mods that allows dismemberment, or make the NPCs drop to their knees and plead for their lives, or even add custom NPCs with the faces of people you know.

Surely this hypothetical situation represents far more gruesome, distasteful violence than most other games. This situation is disturbing and offensive ? and yet entirely possible within the game's vast possibility space.

And therein lies the problem: you cannot rate a medium as open and interactive as games they way you would other media. The content is not fixed. A movie never changes no matter how many times you watch it, even a choose-your-own-adventure
book has a fixed set of content.

But many modern games are an open playground of possibility: sandbox games, modding tools, online community play and voice-chat mean that for many games the play experience can never be absolutely assured. You can never know what the player might do ? in or even out of the context of the game.

It is troubling therefore when a games rating is influenced by these circumstances. You can certainly rate games on the actual content that ships with the game, you can perhaps even rate them on what players are encouraged to do through the
natural course of gameplay. But you certainly cannot rate games on what players might be able to do through creative application of the game space.

After all, perhaps I just want to spend my time in Oblivion skipping through meadows picking flowers.

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