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  • James Portnow's Game Design Challenge: MMORPG for Kids

  •  The 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.

    Each Wednesday will 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.
    Oh no, here he comes, Tex, the Ten-Gallon Hat, the moneyman. He strides over in his black cowboy boots and bolo tie and tells you to round up the design team. When everyone's assembled he says:

    "Y'all know what's the next big thing? The next big thing is children's Ma-Morp-Gahs. Build me one of them!"

    He doesn't show up often, but when he does it means big changes. The problem is he's always right. As the click of his boot heels recedes, you start to break down the problem.

    The Challenge
    Design a communication system for an MMORPG targeted at children.

    Assignment Details
    As you start running through the challenges of building a children's massively multiplayer online role-playing game, you realize that the principle concern is safety. If it's not a safe and nurturing environment for children to play in, you can't make it. Here's what do you need to think about:

    1. Filtering foul language: no permutation of a swear word can get through your chat filter
    2. Protection: there are all sorts of scary people in this world, and most of them are on the internet. You have to make sure that a child can't get into a bad situation or give away the location of his or her school or home.
    3. Maintaining a positive environment: You don't want people to feel bullied or threatened. You may not be able to eliminate this, but mitigating it as much as possible is certainly a goal.

    Unfortunately for you, it's an MMO, so players have to be able to communicate with their friends.

    To Submit
    This is probably the hardest challenge has given you to date. It's technical and complex, and the stakes are very high. If you need help with it, talk to other designers on the forums. Once you think you have a solution, fire it off to for testing with the subject line "Design Challenge: MMORPG for kids."

    Entries must be submitted by Wednesday, May 28, 2008, 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 June 2, 2008.
    The next Design Challenge question will be posted Wednesday, May 28, 2008.

    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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