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The Art of Computer Game Design
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number of branch-points in the game-tree. The analogy with a computer program, in which a small number of program instructions, through looping and branching, can address a large number of specific cases, is striking.
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Sports Games
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These games model popular sports games. They are anachronisms derived from the early days of computer game design when computer games had no identity of their own. People without original ideas for games fell back on the sports games as models around which to design. This also served a useful marketing purpose: why would a conservative consumer buy a game with a title and subject completely alien to his experience Better to offer him a game he is already familiar with. Thus we have games based on basketball, football, baseball, soccer, tennis, boxing, and others. All of these games take liberties with their subject matter to achieve playability. The most enjoyable aspects of the computer game have very little to do with the real game. This is fortunate, for a slavish attempt at replication would have produced a poor computer game. Only by substantially altering the original games were the authors able to produce a decent design. Even so, sports games remain the wallflowers of computer gaming. I suspect that sports games will not attract a great deal of design attention in the future. Now that computer games have an accepted identity of their own, the need for recognizable game titles has diminished.
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I use the title "Paddle Games" to cover the PONG-based games. PONG is certainly one of the most successful and fertile of game designs, for it has many grandchildren and great-grandchildren. The central element of the game, that of intercepting a projectile with a paddle-controlled piece, has been used in endless variations. The original PONG pitted two players in an electronic version of ping-pong, hence the name. BREAKOUT was a solitaire version that required the player to chip away at a wall with the ball. The player received points for each brick destroyed. SUPERBREAKOUT introduced variations on this theme with moving walls, extra balls, and other tricks. CIRCUS ATARI introduced parabolic trajectories for the projectiles and a complex moving wall of balloons. WARLORDS; took the genre even further; up to four players (one in each corner) defend brick castles against a projectile bounced around the field by their shield-paddles. In the above games, the player uses the ball as a weapon to batter; in other paddle games the player must only catch the ball, or many balls, rather than deflect it. AVALANCHE is one such game. In this game, the player is at the bottom of the screen and large numbers of rocks are failing; each one must be caught with the player s piece. The game becomes quite frantic as more and more rocks fall at a faster and faster pace. Another game, CHICKEN, (trademark of Synapse Software) expands on this theme by replacing the rocks with eggs and making each one hatch on striking the ground, forcing the player-hen to jump over it as she moves about.
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The Art of Computer Game Design
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The paddle game-system is a very simple one; although I doubt that it has much development potential remaining, I am hesitant to pronounce such a durable old system dead.
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Race Games
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Some computer games involve a straightforward race. Most of these games allow the player to move at constant speed, but extract time penalties for failure to skillfully negotiate an assortment of hazards. Thus, a player in the APX skiing game DOWNHILL must avoid the trees and rocks; the player s score is based on his time to complete the course. MATCH RACER by Gebelli Software is a car-racing game with oil slicks and obstacles. NIGHT DRIVER is a car-racing game featuring a first-person view of the road. One problem with all of these games is that they are not true games but puzzles, for there is no real interaction in a race between a player and his opponent. Indeed, it is difficult to identify the opponent in these games. A more involved variation on the race game is DOG DAZE by Grey Chang. This is a true game, not a puzzle. It presents a two-player competitive race game with variable goals and asymmetric obstacles. Each player has a dog; hydrants pop onto the screen at random locations; the players must race to be the first to touch the hydrant, thereby claiming it as their own. Players may not touch hydrants owned by their opponents on pain of being temporarily paralyzed. The game has many interesting twists and turns without being overly complex; it demonstrates that the race game can be a flexible vehicle of game design.
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