Fundamentals of Game Design
Creative and Expressive Play
 Self Defining Play
 Forms of Personal Expression (Avatars)
 Understanding Attributes
 Creative Play
 Constrained
 Freeform (Sandbox)
 Storytelling Play
 Game Modifications
 Level Editors
 Bots
Self Defining Play
 Self defining play lets players project their personality
into a game.
 Avatars
Represent the player in a game-world.
Nintendo Mii
 The boot in monopoly
Can represent a player’s alter ego.
Selecting, customizing, or creating avatars is Self Defining Play.
Self Defining Play
Alter Ego Blood Elf Paladin
Self Defining Play
 Forms of Personality Expression:
 Avatar Selection
Allow players to choose from a number of pre-defined avatars
 Usually humanoid characters (fighting games)
 In driving or flying games, avatars = cars or aircrafts
 Players awarded with new avatars so choose from as they progress
through the game (secret characters)
Avatar Customization
Allow players to customize their avatars by selecting
interchangeable features
 Skills, weapons, clothing, etc…
 Racing games: car paint, new tires, etc…
Self Defining Play
Avatar Construction
Gives the player the most freedom
 Player can construct his avatar from the ground up from a set of
available options.
 Takes Character Customization to a whole other level.
 Games like Lord of the Rings Online and Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
offer avatar construction.
 Choose gender and skin colour, as well the avatar’s strength,
dexterity, intelligence, etc…
*All of these customizable avatar qualities are called Attributes
Self Defining Play
 Attributes
 An attribute is any quality that helps to describe something
Hair colour is an attribute of a person
 Max airspeed is an attribute of an aircraft
Two types of Attributes :
Functional Attributes
 Cosmetic/Aesthetic Attributes
Self Defining Play
 Functional Attributes
 Influence the game play through interactions with the core
 Can be further divided into two subcategories:
Status Attributes
 gives the current status of the character .
 changes frequently.
 ex. the current airspeed of an aircraft.
Characterization Attributes
 Define the fundamental aspects of a character.
 Changes slowly.
 ex. the maximum airspeed of an aircraft.
Self Defining Play
Characterization Attributes (Continued)
 In RPG games, an avatar’s strength, dexterity and intelligence are
examples of characterization attributes.
Each affect the character’s ability to perform actions in the game
• More str = more damage to monsters
• More dex = high evasion rate
Players are usually given points to allocate between these stats
How they choose to distribute points determines the character’s
strengths and weaknesses, which in turn determines that
character’s play style.
When players allocate points to stats, they are defining themselves
in a creative way.
• a player who likes brute force should allocate more points to str.
Self Defining Play
 Problems can arise from allowing players to assign
value into their functional attributes…
Some players will setup attributes in the best possible
configuration, making the game too easy.
Bad for developers
Players who exploit these functional attributes can introduce
Self Defining Play
 Ways to approach this problem:
 1. Give players a fixed number of points to assign amongst all
their attributes.
Allows players to make interesting choices without unbalancing
the game
2. include a set of default or recommended settings
Players can get into the game quick
 Good for new players who don’t understand how these attributes
affect game play.
Self Defining Play
3. Allow players to earn the right to set their attributes, by
playing through the game.
ex: Levelling Up in MMORPGs.
 Players are rewarded with more points to distribute among their
stats as they play the game and level up their avatar.
 There is most likely a level cap to prevent players from getting
too overpowered.
Self Defining Play
 Other game genres have player-adjustable functional
attributes too! (not just RPGs)
In FPS games, choosing a different weapon changes your
character’s attributes.
Character will have greater aim if the player chooses a sniper rifle.
The perks system in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare
Lets players set function attributes called ‘perks’ to make their
character run faster, take more hits, or reload more quickly.
 Offers more character customization to the FPS genre.
 Allows for more unique and personalized styles of game play,
specific to the player.
Self Defining Play
 Cosmetic Attributes
 Don’t have any effect on the player’s ability to perform actions
or overcome challenges.
 Things like:
Paint on a car
 Hair colour of an avatar
 Decals or insignias
 Guild symbols
Mainly used as a way of expressing oneself in the game world.
Makes games more fun at a low implementation cost.
Don’t need to be tested or balanced as thoroughly as Functional
Creative Play
 Games that offer creative play allow players to…
 Design/build things.
 Save their creations.
 Share their creations.
 Computerized creative play falls into 2 categories:
 Constrained Creative Play
 Freeform Creative Play
Creative Play
 Constrained Creative Play
 Players can only create within artificial constraints imposed by
Provides a structure for the players creativity.
Play Limited by an Economy
Ex: In Sim City, players have to start small and earn money before
they can construct huge cities.
 Similar to RTS games like Star Craft, where players have to gather
resources to be able to tech up and produce units.
 In this case, economy limits the players ability to wage wars
whereas in creativity games, economy limits the player’s ability
to create.
Creative Play
Creating to Physical Standards
Players are offered all the tools and resources, but they have to
create something that meets certain requirements.
 ex: Spore
 Players can create their creatures however they like.
• However, the creature needs to have a backbone and it need to be
land animal
• Players can’t create creatures with exoskeletons (insects) or
creatures with no skeletons at all (like an octopus).
ex: Roller Coaster Tycoon
 Players construct roller coasters in a theme park.
• But the roller coasters must be designed so that they don’t crash or
make the riders sick.
Creative Play
Creating to Aesthetic Standards
Hard to do because it is hard to test aesthetic quality.
 Some options to test aesthetic quality include:
 Testing against a fixed set of rules.
 Create a system of trends that the player can research.
 Allow the public to vote online
Freeform Creative Play
 Sandbox games
 Few or no rules limit what the player can do within
the confines of the game world.
 Allows players to use all the facilities it offers without
any restrictions on time or resources.
Although play is still constrained to the set of actions the UI
offers, and the machine’s physical limitations.
 These games usually don’t have an end goal.
Storytelling Play
 Games that offer storytelling play…
 Let players create their own stories using the features provided
by the game.
 Allow them to export and distribute stories online.
 ex: The Movies by Lionhead Studios
Provides players with actors, sets, and camera control which they
can use to create movies.
 Lets players export their creation as a video file so they can edit it
using outside software like Adobe Premier
 Requires a lot of time and effort.
Storytelling Play
 A more simpler approach to storytelling play…
 The Sims
Players could take screen caps of their characters and add captions
to these shots.
 They could then arrange the screen caps into story boards and
upload them online.
 Telling stories this way requires less complex software, and players
don’t have to know how to edit video.
Game Modification
 Extremely popular with the hardcore gamer
 By providing the player with mod-tools, your giving
them the utmost freedom with your game.
 Good Business
People will get bored of your game
Allowing players to build mods that use your game engine will
make more people buy your game (to play other people’s
mods, and create their own mods).
ex: Counter Strike, Day of Defeat, and Team Fortress Classic
are all mods of Half Life.
Game Modification
 Level Editors
 Allows players to construct their own levels for a game.
Some even allow players to rebuild the entire game
Generally, a good level editor lets players construct new
landscapes, place challenges in it, and write scripts that the
game engine can operate.
ex: Star Craft II’s Map Editor
Game Modification
 Bots
 Not the ones people use to farm gold in MMOs
 Bots are programmable AI opponents.
Players can create tougher, more smarter opponents that the
default game opponents.
 Players can use bots as sparring partners for practice.

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