September 16, 2008

Week 8 readings: Game Genres

Filed under: ECU MInT,GDT3102 Writing for Games — steve @ 1:22 pm

Bates, B. (2001). Genre-Specific Game Design Issues. Game Design: The Art and Business of Creating Games.

Rollings, A. Adams, E. (2003). Genre Worksheets. On Game Design.

Bates (2001) described the following game genres: Action Games, RPGs [Role Playing Games], Adventure Games, Strategy Games, Simulations, Sports Games, Fighting Games, Casual Games, God Games, Educational Games, Puzzle Games, and Online Games of which the latter can be of any genre. Rollings (2003) defined the following genres: Action Games, Strategy Games, RPGs, Sports Games, Simulations, Adventure Games, and Hybrid Games; with the latter defined as a combination of “construction and management simulation” and a war game (p. 439).

Both Bates (2001) and Adams (2003) advise that the design of each of the differing game genres require addressing those specific genre’s needs. However, there are naturally elements that are common to all genres: choice of environment [2D, 2 ½D or 3D implementations]; choice of game engine; interface design; POV [Point of View - 1st or 3rd person, or both]; balance of weapons/gameplay; and, AI [artificial intelligence]. As both these readings are now some years old, and the development of the personal computer and games consoles have progressed in both processing power and graphics performance, one can see that more games are combining elements from the different genres to create a unique game experience in order to offer the player something “new”.

Offering a multitude of gameplay experiences or genres in a single game, no doubt, would present difficulties in managing the AI of the game. It would also require more artwork/models/animations and of course the design of the interactivity to bring it all together. However an RPG could be viewed as offering a number of genres in the one game: it combines adventure, puzzles/problem solving, strategy, action, simulation and even education in the one genre. Add to that the growth in MO [multiplayer online] and MMO [massively multiplayer online] and it is perhaps possible to see that current hardware and software technology is capable of achieving those aims.

In relation to the software, or game engine, technology, Bates (2001, p. 51) makes an interesting point concerning the choice of game engine for a particular game: each has its advantages and disadvantages which need to be explored before choosing a particular game engine. The factors raised by Bates were all factors that I personally had to contend with when identifying software for the Interactive Games Development (iGD) set of courses I developed for the WA TAFE sector from 2007 to 2008. Without going into any more detail than Bates covered in this reading it can be noted that:

[1] Documentation does not necessarily mean ease of use – UnReal had great documentation however applying the documentation to the development environment was extremely problematic, whereas an engine like Sauerbraten, though minimalistic in many regards, had minimal documentation but was an extremely easy development environment to come to terms with. It was interesting to note during the 12 months development of the iGD courses that open source games engine developers made vast improvements to their documentation – no doubt recognising that the documentation was a necessary aspect of getting their engine to be supported by the indie game developer community ;

[2] Lack of cross platform capabilities can mean that some game development environments, and software, sadly, cannot be considered without replacing the development hardware – what happens when the preferred game development environment identified, e.g. Unity, only runs on Macintosh while the preferred modelling environment chosen, e.g. 3DS Max, only runs on the  Windows platform. In a commercial venture this may not be so much an issue however for the independent developer it certainly may be a determining factor;

[3] The look and feel of the game engine is not limited to a particular game genre but also the technology it employs in rendering the 3D world. There are engines using primitive lighting technology -games developed using these engines will look dated as shadows need to be hard baked while textures are flat and do not use normal, bump, glow and spec maps etc. Curiously the Sauerbraten engine offers these high end lighting features while other, commercial games software, do not. Cost is not necessarily a factor here.

[4] Availability not only means whether the engine is “bleeding edge” but also [a] cost – not all engines cost money and there are certainly a number of open source game engines, or collection of libraries to make up a development engine, freely available and cross platform to boot; and [b] whether the documentation that is available to make the learning curve to get up to development speed is useful or not (see point 1 above).

[5] Accessibility – Bates defines this as ease of use, however ease of use is more than a game editor, it also means how accessible the game programmer/scripter has in making calls to the game engine’s functions, parameters and variables. Some engines rely purely on C++, C#, JAVA etc while some engines such as the Torque Game Engine by Garage Games uses their own C++ ‘like’ language. Other engines such as Panda 3D, Ogre, Crystal Space, Delta 3D etc allow the programmer/scripter to code in more than one language, i.e. C++ and Python; C++ and LUA; C++, Python and XML; etc. Not all game developers will be programming geeks and being able to access the game engine using a very high level, easy to learn language such as Python for example opens up the door to the more creative types who are able to extend a level’s interactivity for the benefit of the gameplay experience.


Overall, while there are many genres that the game designer may need to identify with in the proposed design of a game there are equally as many game engine decisions that need to be made to realise the development of that game design genre. As most games are built using existing engines then understanding the flexibility and/or limitations of the game engine would be beneficial in the design of a game’s gameplay: knowing the chosen game engine’s features beforehand could save a great deal of time when it came to the implementation of the game design.



Bates, B. (2001). Genre-Specific Game Design Issues. Game Design: The Art and Business of Creating Games (pp. 47-74). Roseville, California, USA: Prima Tech.

 Rollings, A. Adams, E. (2003). Genre Worksheets. On Game Design (pp. 319-320; 343-344; 367-368; 393-394; 414-415; 439-440; 475). Berkeley, California: New Riders.

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