Results From Game Design Challenge: Your Cheatin' Heart

By Danny Cowan [02.27.18]

 While codes and glitches let players cheat their way to victory in single-player games, these methods don't typically give players an unfair advantage over others. Cheating is more of a problem in online games, as many MMOs employ countermeasures against hacking and other subversive activity that upsets game balance.

In rare cases, though, some games actually encourage cheating. The unreleased Penn & Teller's Smoke and Mirrors features Buzz Bombers, a shoot-em-up minigame in which the first player is given distinct advantages (higher scores, stronger bullets) so that they'll always defeat their opponents. There's even a "Cheaters" version of Monopoly in the works, which has built-in mechanisms to encourage (and also catch) cheating.

For Game Career Guide's latest Game Design Challenge, our readers designed games with built-in cheating mechanics. Here are our top picks!

Best Entries

Bernard John (B.J.) Badger, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy Alumnus, Cheat Code (see page 2)

Matthew Whitby, MSc Student/Game Design Intern at University of Portsmouth, Cheat Coding (see page 3)

Zane Wilson, Student at University of Montevallo, C.O.N. (Combatants of Nations) (see page 4)

John Wang, Student at University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Control Freak (see page 5)

Jase Goodson, Student at University of Montevallo, Street Chess (see page 6)

Senny Nguyen, Student at University of Montevallo, Vampires, Witches, and Hunters (see page 7)

Bernard John (B.J.) Badger, Florida Interactive Entertainment Academy Alumnus, Cheat Code

The best game is the one where you decide the rules.

Cheat Code is a game about breaking the boundaries of games. It contains a number of small, retro-style games with their own objectives, secrets, and quite often hair-wrenching difficulty. However, it also provides a Game Genie-esque cheat utility, which allows the player to alter a few values at a time in the program. With the right tweaks, the player can increase their health or firepower, skip to advanced stages, or even change the program's logic.

At first, the player is provided with only a few cheat codes. They are challenged to accomplish certain objectives in the sub-games, such as complete the first stage or attain a high score. As the player completes challenges, they are rewarded with more cheat codes, and given more complicated and difficult goals. Eventually they are faced with goals which would be downright impossible without the use of cheat codes, such as reaching an area outside of the normal play area. In many cases, there are multiple cheat codes which could be used to accomplish the goal.

As the player pokes holes in the sub-games and explores their untamed outskirts, they'll discover Easter eggs and deal with the problems of navigating places that weren't built to be explored. Especially savvy players might be able to figure out patterns in how the cheat codes work and modify them to achieve different effects. There could even be ways to cheat the menu system and discover unfinished sub-games hidden in the program's junk memory...

Matthew Whitby, MSc Student/Game Design Intern at University of Portsmouth, Cheat Coding

High Concept

Players compete in a frantic warehouse to deliver as many parcels as possible but can attempt to smash in a cheat code at any point for an unfair advantage. They must be careful however, for fear of being caught in the act and catch the receiving end of the Ban Hammer.

Game Overview


The setting would be in a factory or warehouse, with cardboard boxes appearing on conveyor belts or on shelves. The levels will have players weaving between shelves, through either a wide range of levels or being procedurally generated. The visual style will take inspiration from Gang Beasts or Overcooked. Each player will be distinctly color coded and vibrant.

Competitive Multiplayer

All players can see the entire map and each other running around, meaning all the important information is shared. Players will be actively working against one another to score the most points. Additional team game modes can also be added, but the focus would be on couch competitive gameplay.


Cheat Codes

At the start of each round, players will be given three cheat codes. (E.g. UP, DOWN, UP, X, X, A) The button combinations will be randomly generated to keep the game-play dynamic. If the player can complete any of the cheat codes they will be given an unfair advantage. Some examples include:

The cheat codes will also vary in length, with the more powerful cheat codes requiring a time commitment in order to complete them but also is more likely to attract the attention of other players.

Ban Hammer

All players come equipped with a ban hammer. If they see a player they think are attempting a cheat code they can go over and hit them with a ban hammer. If the player was trying to cheat, they are banned for a short while giving the other player the chance to score or enter cheats of their own.

If the player isn't cheating however, the attacker is stunned for a brief moment as punishment for their liberal use of the ban hammer.


When the players aren't cheating or hitting one another with ban hammers, they have a job to do. Boxes will appear across the map and need to be collected and returned to the players corresponding deliver point. Each box delivered is one point.


Long term - Get the most points to win the round.

Medium term - Identify a player attempting to cheat or find the path to a parcel.

Short term - Enter a cheat code or deliver a parcel.

Zane Wilson, Student at University of Montevallo, C.O.N. (Combatants of Nations)

C.O.N. is a 2-D fighting game based around deceiving your opponent to gain the upper hand in battle. It is more focused on the single player aspect although, the game does have a multiplayer component. The game takes place in the future of earth, about one thousand years. Every three years there is a global fighting tournament held around the world, hosted by a conglomerate of wealthy fighting enthusiasts. Many different people and organizations enter participants for an array of reasons. Such as, a military testing out a new robot or perhaps a lone martial artist aiming to prove themselves.

Normal people do not enter the tournament because of the aforementioned entrees. Killing is allowed and not everyone is so kind as to spare their opponent. This is where you come in. The placer character is a normal schmo who bet his friends that he would enter the tournament. Why did you do this? No one knows, and once you enter there is no turning back. Now the only rule in the tournament is that contestants may only use innate abilities. So, no guns, armor, gadgets and the like. This is a problem for your character because they will be facing highly advanced robots, mystical martial artists, wild animals, vengeful ghosts, strange aliens, impossible demi-gods and overpowered superheroes. The only way you stand a chance is if you have gadgets that could protect you and/or hurt the opponent. You have snuck in and placed various items among the stages.

In game your character would function much like a joke character from a normal fighting game. All punches, kicks, and grabs would be very weak and not have much range. Conversely, all opponents would be on the verge of being overpowered with fast startup on all special moves, OTG's, lots of meter and high damage. Some planted items will be in the open and the player will simply have to walk over them to pick them up. Others are hidden, and pieces of the environment must be destroyed to find them. Like destroying background objects in Street Fighter II. Items will range from defensive to offensive. Such as a helmet or a straight up gun.

However, it is not as simple as using them outright because if caught you will have one warning and the next will mean disqualification. To use these items requires a special input like normal special moves. However, each item will have multiple inputs. Different inputs activate the items in different ways. For example, one input for a bat would be a hard swing. It is slow but does a lot of damage. At the same time, it would be easy to see and get caught. Another could be faster and instead of damage has a passive effect. Executing combos can give a chance to use an item with impunity since the opponent is being knocked around and cannot see it. Items would also break after several uses.

John Wang, Student at University of Ontario Institute of Technology, Control Freak


Both players will set up a trio of units on a limited starting area of a grid-based map. The game starts when both players are ready. Players will try to destroy their opponents units using the attacks and power-ups of their own units. Each player can control their units through setting up a control map for each unit before the game starts, however, players will be able to control their opponent's units in addition to their own by using the controls mapped by their opponent. Each player's mapped controls will be accessible through the keyboards of both players, though they will not be aware of which keys their opponent mapped. Friendly fire is permitted.


Destroy all of your opponent's units before yours are all destroyed.


  1. Matchmaking: Players will choose between 1v1, 2v2 or FFA. They will then be put into a matchmaking system that will place them against a player with similar skill.

  2. Control setup: The player chooses a control scheme that will determine the movement, and attacks of their units.


All units have damage, Health , a attack cooldown, max movement counter and a movement cooldown. There are 3 types of units,


For each unit has 6 buttons dedicated to controlling it. The player is able to use any key on their keyboard, except the ESC key to map the controls.

Example Controls:

*players will always perform their own action first if both players bind a single key


Every Unit has a attack indicator, which can only be seen by the player controlling them. This indicator moves with the player and the direction the player faces. When the a unit's attack button is clicked, the unit launches an attack. Any units in the indicator will take damage once the attack strikes the indicator.


Each unit will have its own movement counter. Once the movement key for that unit is clicked, the unit will move in that direction, and consume a movement. When moving, units must be facing the direction they wished to move in. Otherwise, the unit will only turn to the direction inputted. Units are only able to move if they possess a point in their movement counter, otherwise, they will only be able to turn.


-Cycle your focus between your units, making efficient use of unit cooldowns

-Figure out your opponent's control patterns, use their units against them

-Try to see if you can map your keys to gain an advantage over your opponent's key mapping

Jase Goodson, Student at University of Montevallo, Street Chess

Street Chess follows the same rules as Chess, but with one exception. Throughout the game, each player may make up five rules during their opponent's turn.

Suppose you are about to lose your rook to an opponent's knight. You could simply state Knights cannot take rooks. OR you could come up with a convoluted rule that changes the entire game. "A knight can only take a rook if you possess at least one of each of your opponent's pieces, excluding the king."

Be sure to write these rules down so you and your opponent can refer back to them later in the game. Rules must be applicable to each player and cannot be one-sided. You cannot say "My king gets to move as many spaces as I want, but your king cannot move at all."

Remember, your opponent is not the only player who has to abide by the new rules. You must also follow any rule you make. This double-edged sword has the possibility of completely revolutionizing a stereotypical chess game. The complexity of each rule is left up entirely to the creativity of the player. New rules can change turn order, movement direction and spaces, taking pieces, bringing pieces back into play, or anything the players can think of.

Senny Nguyen, Student at University of Montevallo, Vampires, Witches, and Hunters

This is a board game with uses of cards and dice. The theme of the of the game is of course about Vampires, Witches, and Hunters.

The game is a chase game with a cheating mechanic within the game. The objective is to hunt down the enemy players, but the problem is you don't know who's an alley and who's the enemy.

Everyone will receive identification cards. 1 vampire card, 1 witch card, 1 hunter card. You choose what you want to be at the beginning and put the other cards to the side.

Everyone has 3 chips that will be called "gold".When you run out you lose.

On the board will be spaces throughout with many start spaces (depending on the maximum players count) and no end space. The paths loop around.

D6 is available for you to move around the board.You will move around using color coded pieces indicating where you are on the space.

Spaces will either be empty or allow you to draw "Fate" cards with an indicator on the space."Fate" cards are cards that either help you draw "Expose", "Scan", "Hidden Veil", "Heal", or "Weapon" cards."Expose" lets you see an opponent of your choice their current identity. This is one of the cheating mechanic because this allows you to know whether they are an alley and enemy. Least abundant card besides "Hidden Viel"."Scan" cards are cards that let you see anyone of your choice their inventory which either consist of "Heal" or "Weapon" cards. This is also another cheating mechanic."Hidden Viel" are cards that will deflect "Exposure" cards. There is only 1.

More abundant cards:"Heal" cards allow you to change your identity depending on what you are. If you are a Vampire you can revert to being a Witch.If you are a Witch you will revert to a Hunter.If you are a Hunter it will have no effect."Weapon" cards can be used when you catch an "opponent", which is when you land on a space that is shared with someone else on your turn.If you are a Vampire you can not use a weapon.If you are a Witch you can use a weapon on a Vampire or a Hunter and gain 1 gold.If you are a Hunter you can use it on a Vampire or Witch for 3 and 2 gold respectively.

These are the effects of when you catch an "opponent" by landing on the same space with no card aid. If Hunter and Vampire share the same space Hunter lose 1 gold to them and they turn into a Witch. If a Witch and Vampire share the same space Witch will lose 1 gold and turn into a Vampire.If a Witch and Hunter land on the same space Hunter will lose 1 gold and turn into a Witch.If the same identity land on the same space there is no effect.

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