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  • Game Design Challenge: The Grid

    - staff
  •'s Game Design Challenge is an exercise in becoming a game developer, asking you to look at games in a new way -- from the perspective of a game creator, producer, marketer, businessperson, and so forth.

    Every other Wednesday we'll present you with a challenge about developing video games. You'll have two weeks to brainstorm a brilliant solution (see below for how to submit your answers). After the two week submission period elapses, the best answers and the names of those who submitted them will be posted.

    The Challenge

    Design a game that works within the confines of a 32x32 grid

    Assignment Details

    As video game technology and hardware has advanced, developers have been able to make their games far more visually complex, with new rendering techniques, more detailed 3D models, and higher display resolutions. While this increased visual fidelity is all well and good, a real designer doesn't need to rely on stunning visuals to make a good game.

    For this latest Game Design Challenge, let's put that philosophy to the test. Rather than working with a high-definition display, with thousands of pixels to play with -- what if you had to make a game that worked within the confines of a 32x32 grid?

    That's a very small canvas to work with when it comes to making a video game, but there are plenty of examples that already work within a similar framework. Look at Checkers, Chess, or even Connect Four -- they might not be video games per se, but they all demonstrate the types of experiences designers can make within a limited, grid-based play space.

    Over in the digital realm, adventure game veteran Brian Moriarty (Beyond Zork, Loom) has implemented a similar idea in his game design course at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. He even created his own grid-based game design engine, dubbed Perlenspiel. If you're looking for inspiration on how to make a game that works within a tiny grid, feel free to read more about Moriarty's engine on his website or on GameCareerGuide's sister site, Gamasutra.

    Functional Colors
    , an example of a 32x32 game designed using Moriarty's Perlenspiel engine

    When it comes to designing your 32x32 game, feel free to incorporate outside instructions or prompts to teach players how to play. If you'd like to put on-screen text below your grid, feel free, just make sure the game itself only uses colored squares on the 32x32 matrix. Good luck, and we can't wait to see what you come up with!

    To Submit

    Work on your ideas, figure out your strategy for coming up with a solution, and ask questions on the forum. When your submission is complete, send it to with the subject line "Design Challenge: (title)." Please type your answer directly in the email body.

    Submissions should be no more than 500 words and may contain up to three images. Be sure to include your full name and school affiliation or job title.

    Entries must be submitted by Wednesday, May 16 

    Results will be posted Tuesday, May 22 

    Disclaimer: is not responsible for similarities between the content submitted to the Game Design Challenge and any existing or future products or intellectual property.


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