CAP 211 - Interactive Design and Game Development

On Game Design: Chapter 12


This lesson discusses material from chapter 12 of Rollings and Adams On Game Design, which covers sports game design. Objectives important to this lesson:

  1. Introduction to the chapter
  2. Sports game elements
  3. Special design issues
  4. Design script
Introduction to the chapter

In their introduction to the chapter, the authors point out that sports games often present a different challenge from other games. The players of this sort of game may be experts on the game being simulated, and will require a higher degree of accuracy in the simulation than players of war games, adventure games, or other types of games. This concern is directly related to the observation made in the CAP 101 class, that the most difficult thing to animate is something that the audience knows well.

This type of game also presents a terminology issue, discussed in the sidebar on page 372. The authors establish an operational vocabulary for this chapter that clarifies the issue and allows more understandable discussions:

  • player - this word is used to refer to someone who is playing the game that you are designing; a customer, a member of your audience
  • athlete - this word refers to a character/avatar that is playing the game you are simulating in your game; example: if you are designing an American-style football game, the avatar for the quarterback is an athlete in your game
  • game - the computer based game you are designing
  • match - this word is used to refer the simulated sports event you are modeling in your game, the simulated event that your athletes are playing; this usage will be difficult for some readers, since this word is not used generically in all sports
  • sport - the kind of athletic event being modeled in your game (e.g. baseball, boxing, curling, etc.)

You should note that the authors have chosen specific meanings for these words for this chapter. These meanings are not universal definitions, and other authors will define these and other words differently.

Sports game elements
  • rules - the rules of the sport being simulated, or a subset of the actual rules, as required by the game play that will be allowed; generally, you will not represent every rule of a sport in a game because it would be tiresome for the player if you do
  • competition modes - different sports lend themselves to selections of different modes, such as single-player, team, competitive, cooperative, and computer-only; the authors note that sports games may include a computer-only mode to allow the player to become the audience for a fantasy game match up
  • victory and loss conditions - The majority of the discussion under this point addresses issues that might better have been covered under the "modes" section. The game might be played under any of the models listed on pages 373 and 374: season mode (following the play of a real team trying to win a championship), exhibition mode (more like a learning mode, in which the outcome does not affect your standing), sudden death (a short game concept, in which the first side to score wins the match), round robin (you play against all other teams a specific number of times), tournament mode (players must play in pairs, eliminating one team with each match), franchise mode (playing continues over several seasons)
  • setting - different courses (golf, skiing), different stadiums (baseball, football), different venues to show off graphics, different weather to vary outdoor sports, crowd sounds to add realism
  • interaction model - the game may switch the player from one athlete/avatar to another in a team sport, or it may stay on one athlete for the entire time the game is played
  • perspective - the authors recommend not using a first person perspective for a sports game, because the player will miss their usual role as a member of the audience; the authors recommend a third person perspective, an overhead perspective, or a moving camera perspective that follows the action of the match
  • user interface design - The authors discuss the inherent problem in mapping sports actions to a game controller. Their concept is a bit specious, in that any game maps the movement of an avatar's body to a controller of some sort. Sports games may be more extreme cases, in that they model actions in which the outcome of the game depends a great deal on the agile movement of the avatar. They make a good point that sports games are meant to be quick, so the interface must be easy to learn (there is no such thing as intuitive), consistent from one mode to another, and allow the player to play the game more than think about playing the game.
  • player roles - does the player play as one athlete, multiple athletes, a manager, a coach, or some combination that changes as the game progresses?
  • structure - the main point of a sports game is match play (page 378), and the game should provide an interface for managing game resources; a sports game may also allow access to statistics about how well the player has done in any of the modes listed under victory and loss conditions
Special design issues
  • physics - It is necessary to use a physics engine that will model believable action in the game, but the authors make two observations that lead them to recommend something less than complete realism. The player does not have access to the tactile environment of the game (the ball, the field, the weather, etc.), and the player is not (usually) a sports professional. We can add to this that the player only has access to the game controller to operate their avatar in the game. This reasoning follows the same logic that says you will not want to implement all the rules of the real sport: making the game too real will make it less fun than a simpler game.
  • ratings for athletes - The authors list several factors typically used in sports games to rate the performance of an athlete/avatar. This is similar to the properties that a player will be able to level up in an action adventure game, but for a sports game simulating real life personalities, the properties tend to stay where they are set.
  • AI design - The authors hold a higher standard for the Artificial Intelligence that is written for a sports game than those for other game types. They believe that more human-like behavior is required for a sports game. This is debatable, in that I have heard criticism of the AI of many game types. It is good advice in any game type to make your AI adjustable to accommodate your player's comfort level, and to make it as good as you can to make the game less irritating. No one likes it much when a team mate runs in front of you, regardless of whether you are trying to shoot an enemy or score a touchdown.

It may be more effective to move ahead to the sports game worksheet on page 393. Some of the issues are covered in the remainder of the chapter, and some are illuminated by the questions. Consider question 1, that asks what is the sport you are simulating, whether it is real or made up, and whether you want to pursue a license from a governing body. You may not have a choice about that license. If you are making your own baseball game without reference to the real world, you may find you can do that without a license, but if you are modeling real teams and players, you had better have licenses from everyone concerned before you start. Made up games can require licensing as well. Consider the Quidditch games in the world of Harry Potter. No one really plays Quidditch, but the concept is copyrighted, so you cannot make a game about it without license to do so.

Assignment 5: Group assignment: pick a sports game with which you are familiar. If your group members are not all familiar with the same game, let the unfamiliar ones interview the others as subject matter experts.

  • Use the appropriate worksheet from this chapter to analyze the game in terms of the questions a designer should have asked about it.
  • Provide a short analysis of the game for each point in the worksheet.
  • The paper must be typed, and printed or emailed to me by the start of the next class.