Little Blog Adventure

A gaming "sketchblog"

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Game systems

1. Creating mods (modifications) to existing games is a common practice, not just for computer games, but for any form of games. Does this imply that any game can be considered a game system? Why/why not?

Any game consists of elements which can possibly be re-contextualized into a new game. This is obvious with digital games, but perhaps slightly less obvious for non-digital ones. To illustrate with an example, let us look at football. Considering the game's components to be it's rules, pieces (the football, goal posts) and the playing field, we can see that these elements can be combined in different ways to produce new games. Popular variations like indoor football and beach football are recognisably similar to the original, but it's not impossible to consider a new game using the components of football that's quite different from the original.

However, the real question is: how open a game system does a game make? A game like Snakes and Ladders is possibly too specific to be a system capable of supporting a wide variety of games. Chess, on the other hand, is open enough of a game system to support a wide variety of variants.

So yes, all games can be considered game systems, but not all are open game systems.

2. Consider a game which you feel could be successfully modified. How could this game be generalized into a game system? How much of the unique character/flavour of the game can be retained? How generic can you make the game system? How easy will it be to create new, unique games from the game system?

Half-Life 2 is a good example of a highly modifiable game. The game ships with a full set of editing tools that streamlines and simplifies the process of modifying the game. Because of this, a large community of modders has sprung up around the game.

The tools allow a modder to modify aspects of the game- from levels to characters to weapons and even right down to the core game mechanics. What it provides is Half-Life 2's game engine- consisting of it's graphics, sound, physics engines, scripting capabilities and networking code. Using these as a base, modders are free to create as simple or as complex a game as they wish.

Many mods retain the unique character of Half-Life 2 by re-using the games graphics and sound as well as it's weapons. This makes the mod aesthetically identifiable as a creation built around Half-Life 2. On the other hand, an ambitious modder can drop every single part of Half-Life 2's gameplay and create entirely new art and sound effects to make a game as different from Half-Life 2 as possible. For example, one modding team is developing a Wing Commander-style space combat simulation called Eternal Silence using the Half-Life 2 engine.

Describe one new game designed on top of the game system you proposed in question 2.

A puzzle game in the style of The Incredible Machine, where players put together sets of parts to create an intricate machine to fulfill various objectives. This would leverage Half-Life 2's robust physics engine to showcase a form of gameplay that was only partially explored in the original game.


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