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  • James Portnow's Game Design Challenge: The Gun

    - James Portnow
  •  James Portnow's 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.

    Each Wednesday I'll propose a design question. You'll have one week to answer it (see below for how to submit your answers). The following week, the best answers and the names of those who submitted them will be posted along with some commentary.

    The Challenge
    Design a new gun for a first-person shooter game.

    Assignment Details
    Most people consider it a bad day when they wake up to emails like this, but you consider it a challenge:

    To: Design_Staff
    From: Marketing_Staff
    Subject: Competing product
    Dear Designers,
    It has come to our attention that a rival company is releasing SLAUGHTERFACTOR: Xtream Legacy of Killing 7: The Return of Killing! in the same marketing window that we are planning to release our FPS. SLAUGTERFACTOR advertises that it will have "the biggest machinegun in the history of history." A random survey recently taken at Rusty Pines Retirement Home shows conclusively that machineguns are no longer considered fun. We believe we can get an edge on SLAUGHTERFACTOR by removing all machineguns from your game. Management agrees.
    Looking forward to the product!

    Okay, so marketing and management just canned all the machine guns in the game that you're building, and you have to come up with some new guns quickly. Here's what we know about the game:

    • It's a sci-fi/fantasy FPS, so pretty much anything goes.

    • You're aiming for a Teen rating; there can't be too much limb severing or head exploding.

    • Characters can wield two one-handed weapons at a time.

    • You've got killer art staff, so new models, animations, and the like aren't a problem.

    • Your physics engine is top notch and easily tweaked. It's very designer friendly.

    What do you know about the guns? The game design document includes an example gun, but you know that there's a lot more to a gun than just the handful of attributes listed in the table shown:

    Special Bonus Challenge!
    Think you guys can name all the tweakable attributes of a gun? Post your answers on the forums and let's see if you can collectively create a comprehensive list by the end of the week.

    To Submit
    If your death ray just isn't working right, go to the forums and ask your fellow designers for help. When you're ready, send your meanest nastiest waffle cannons (or whatever weapons you come up with) to with the subject line "Design Challenge: FPS Gun."

    Entries must be submitted by Tuesday, May 6, 5 p.m. PDT. Be sure to include your full name and school affiliation or job title. Please try to keep your answers to 500 words or fewer -- unless they're really good!

    The responses for this challenge will appear the week of May 12.
    The next Design Challenge question will be posted Wednesday, May 7.

    Disclaimer:, James Portnow, and entities associated with James Portnow or GameCareerGuide are not responsible for similarities between the content submitted to James Portnow's Game Design Challenge and any existing or future products or intellectual property.


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