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Dynamic Elements of

Games
Dynamic Elements of
Games
 Many different things to talk about
here
1) Defining Emergence
2) Four Properties of Emergence in
Games
3) Play Engines
BIG IDEA 1: Defining
Emergence
 "Emergence" is behavior that appears when
system components interact (i.e. are in
motion
– this behavior sometimes can’t be envisioned from
knowledge of what each component does in
isolation

 Simple rules beget complex behavior

BIG IDEA 2: Four
Properties of Emergence
in Games
 Discovery - The emergent properties of a
system form an explorable space. More
complexity generally means more space.
 Challenge - A game’s emergent properties
form its “strategic vocabulary.” New scenarios
and obstacles can emerge.
 Narrative - story emerges from game events
 Fantasy – emergent properties don’t
necessarily support the fantasy.
fantasies.

source: Marc Leblanc

Emergence in Games
 Discovery - The emergent properties of a
system form an explorable space. More
complexity generally means more space.
 Challenge - A game’s emergent properties
form its “strategic vocabulary.” New scenarios
and obstacles can emerge.
 Narrative - story emerges from game events
 Fantasy – emergent properties don’t
necessarily support the fantasy.
fantasies.

source: Marc Leblanc

Conway’s Game of Life
 created by Cambridge mathematician, John
Conway in the 1960's
 fascination with the idea that the rudimentary
elements could produce fantastic results
 wanted to create something super simple -
observable on a 2 dimensional checkerboard

John Conway

Example: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

Example: Properties of Emergence - Discovery
Iterative Design of the Formal
System
 Conway experimented with formal rules
 System makes squares on the board
“on” or “off” based on their adjacency to
the other squares around them
 He “playtested” different rule sets with
associates at Cambridge for years

Example: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

Game of Life Rules
 If cell is alive, it survives in next
generation if there are 2 or 3
neighbors also alive

 Cell dies of overcrowding if

there are >3 live neighbors, and
it dies of exposure if there are
<2

in next generation unless
exactly 3 neighbors are alive.
(In that case, the cell will be
"born" in the next generation)

Demo

Example: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

Demo

 R Pentomino
Example: Properties of Emergence - Discovery
Demo

 R Pentomino
– Stable patterns emerge
– Oscillating patterns emerge
– Another surprising pattern emerges!?!
xample: Properties of Emergence - Discovery
Stable Patterns

xample: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

Oscillating Patterns

Glider!

xample: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

Alive?
 Conway thought if a self-reproducing
configuration could be found then his
rules would create a mathematical life
form
 Conway publishes a challenge in the Oct
1970 Scientific American
 MIT engineers meet the challenge quickly
by hacking a DEC-PDP 6 computer

xample: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

xample: Properties of Emergence - Discovery
Demo
 Glider gun
 Puff train
 Other fun stuff

– (Game of Life groundbreaking work in the

field of artificial intelligence)

xample: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

Recap: Discovery is a
property of Emergence in
games
 Simple rules beget complex behavior
 The emergent properties of a system
form an explorable space.
 More complexity generally means
more space.
 Can anyone think of other Discovery
examples that emerge in games?

xample: Properties of Emergence - Discovery

Halo: “smart” NPCs

xample: Properties of Emergence – Challenge + Narrative

Recap: Challenge is a
property of Emergence in
games
A game’s emergent properties form
its “strategic vocabulary.” New
scenarios and obstacles can emerge.
 Can anyone think of other challenge
examples that emerge in games?

xample: Properties of Emergence - Challenge

xample: Properties of Emergence - Fantasy
Recap: Fantasy is a property
of Emergence in games
 Emergent properties don’t
necessarily support the fantasy.
absurd fantasies.
 Can anyone think of other absurd
fantasies created in games?

xample: Properties of Emergence - Challenge

ample: Properties of Emergence – Discovery + Challenge + Narrative + Fantasy
ample: Properties of Emergence – Discovery + Challenge + Narrative + Fantasy
ample: Properties of Emergence – Discovery + Challenge + Narrative + Fantasy
ample: Properties of Emergence – Discovery + Challenge + Narrative + Fantasy
The Sims: personal
development?

ample: Properties of Emergence – Discovery + Challenge + Narrative + Fantasy

RECAP BIG IDEA 2: Four
Properties of Emergence
in Games
 Discovery - The emergent properties of a
system form an explorable space. More
complexity generally means more space.
 Challenge - A game’s emergent properties
form its “strategic vocabulary.” New scenarios
and obstacles can emerge.
 Narrative - story emerges from game events
 Fantasy – emergent properties don’t
necessarily support the fantasy.
fantasies.
BIG IDEA 3: Play Engines
 Play engines occur when players combine
system components in unexpected ways.
Example: Play Engines
 Designers wanted a competitive game that
illustrated emergent complexity
 Had idea that if characters with varying
qualities were let loose on a game board,
each trying to achieve its own objective,
interesting things might result
 Created a software prototype using blobs for
each character. Designers could tweak the
values in each blob by adjusting a table of
variables

Example: Play Engines

Example: Play Engines
Character attributes
1. Weight
2. Speed
3. Energy use
4. Movement type (erratic, straight, diagonal)
5. Special qualities (ex: explosion radius, egg-laying time,
punch strength, transformation time, % wind-down, %
wind-up, time between teleports,
6. Immunities (ex: Disasteriod immune to Time Bomb, Big Al

Example: Play Engines

Game rules
 1 player or 2 player game
 5x9 grid
 Up to 12 toys in your toybox
 Object: be the first to get 21 toys past your
opponent’s start row

Example: Play Engines

Play Engine Examples
Punching Roaches: quickly many fast moving
Ziggys onto the board where they run out of
energy. Then send a few punching Kangas out to
punch them across the finish line
Bomb Shield: Disasteroid + Walking Time Bomb.
Disteroid destroys any toy in front of it. Time
Bomb blows up all toys near it except Disasteroid.
Send Disasteroid out followed by Time Bomb.
Time Bomb makes Disasteroid walk faster.
Together they form a quick moving path of
destruction across the board.

Example: Play Engines

Mini-Exercise!
 Write down two board games, one
card game, and two video games.
 Make them all different types of
games.

play video
Example: Play Engines
Play Engine Examples
 Magic The Gathering is a hothouse of
emergence and play engines. Sometimes
cards must be banned because engines are
discovered that are too powerful.

Example: Play Engines

Play Engine Example
 Deus Ex: LAM’s

Example: Play Engines

Play Engine Example
 Warcraft III: expert players to find play
engines that allow them to dominate
online. Sometimes the designers
“patch” the problem by tuning variables.
Sometimes the designers wait for the
online community to figure out a
counter strategy to the play engine.

Example: Play Engines

Example: Play Engines
Play Engine Example
 NFL football: 3-4 Defense dominated for years
before offensive coordinators figured out counter
strategies.

Example: Play Engines

RECAP: Play Engines
 Another type of emergence occurs when
both system components and players
interact. These are called “play engines”.
 Play engines occur when players combine
system components in unexpected ways.
 Can anyone think of other examples
of Play Engines?
Design Exercise

 Why?
– Hands on exercises best way to
communicate game design concepts
 How?
– Break into groups of 2
– Go along with the following Connect
Four slides
Connect Four (normal)
Set up:
 Draw a 7 wide x 6 tall grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the grid
and a second player uses an X to represent units. (Note:
any two symbols or colors can be used as long as they
are different).

Rules:
 Decide who goes first. Each player, on her turn, chooses
a column in which to place a unit. She draws units at the
bottom of the chosen column as if gravity dropped them
from the top. Units stack on top of one another when
they "land" in the grid.
 Players take turns dropping units until one player gets
four units in a row - horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
 The first player to get four in a row wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and end time
of the game next to the game grid.
Connect Four (alter grid size)
Set up:
 Draw a 8 wide x 6 tall grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the grid
and a second player uses an X to represent units. (Note:
any two symbols or colors can be used as long as they
are different).

Rules:
 Decide who goes first. Each player, on her turn, chooses
a column in which to place a unit. She draws units at the
bottom of the chosen column as if gravity dropped them
from the top. Units stack on top of one another when
they "land" in the grid.
 Players take turns dropping units until one player gets
four units in a row - horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
 The first player to get four in a row wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and end time
of the game next to the game grid.
Connect 4 (alter movement
properties)
Set up:
 Draw a 7 wide x 6 tall grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the grid
and a second player uses an X to represent units.
(Note: any two symbols or colors can be used as long
as they are different).

Rules:
 Decide who goes first. Each player, on her turn, places
a unit in any open cell on the grid.
 Players take turns placing units until one player gets
four units in a row - horizontally, vertically, or
diagonally.
 The first player to get four in a row wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and end time
of the game next to the game grid.
Connect Four (alter turn procedure)
Set up:
 Draw a 7 wide x 6 tall grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the grid and a
second player uses an X to represent units. (Note: any two
symbols or colors can be used as long as they are different).

Rules:
 Decide who goes first. Each player, on her turn, chooses a
column in which to place a unit. She draws units at the
bottom of the chosen column as if gravity dropped them
from the top. Units stack on top of one another when they
"land" in the grid.
 After she places the first unit she then chooses a different
column and places a second unit. After the second unit has
been placed her turn is complete.
 Players take turns until one player gets four units in a row -
horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
 The first player to get four in a row wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and end time of
the game next to the game grid.
Connect Four (alter turn procedure two)
Set up:
 Draw a 7 wide x 6 tall grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the grid and a second
player uses an X to represent units. (Note: any two symbols or colors
can be used as long as they are different).

Rules:
 Decide who goes first. Each player, on her turn, chooses a column in
which to place a unit. She draws units at the bottom of the chosen
column as if gravity dropped them from the top. Units stack on top of
one another when they "land" in the grid.
 After she places the first unit the player then places a second unit in
any column she wishes. She has the option to place the second unit
in the same column as the first. After the second unit has been
placed her turn is complete..
 Players take turns until one player gets four units in a row -
horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
 The first player to get four in a row wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and end time of the game
next to the game grid.
Connect 4 (alter number of players)
Set up:
 Draw a 7 wide x 6 tall grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the grid and a
second player uses an X to represent units, a third player uses a
triangle to represent units. (Note: any three symbols or colors
can be used as long as they are different).

Rules:
 Decide who goes first. Each player, on her turn, chooses a
column in which to place a unit. She draws units at the bottom
of the chosen column as if gravity dropped them from the top.
Units stack on top of one another when they "land" in the grid.
 Players take turns dropping units until one player gets four units
in a row - horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
 The first player to get four in a row wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and end time of the
game next to the game grid.
Dirty Work
Set up:
 Draw a 7 wide x 6 tall grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the grid and a
second player uses an X to represent units, a third player uses a
triangle to represent units. (Note: any three symbols or colors
can be used as long as they are different).

Rules:
 Decide who goes first. Each player, on her turn, chooses a
column in which to place a unit. She draws units at the bottom
of the chosen column as if gravity dropped them from the top.
Units stack on top of one another when they "land" in the grid.
 Players take turns dropping units until one player gets four units
in a row - horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.
 The first player to get four in a row wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and end time of the
game next to the game grid.

Set up:
 Draw a ?????? grid on a sheet of paper.
 One player uses a circle to represent units on the
grid and a second player uses an X to represent
units, ?????. (Note: any ???? symbols or colors
can be used as long as they are different).

Rules:
 ?????
 Players take turns until one player gets ????
 The first player to get ???? wins the game.

Note:
 For all exercises write down the start time and
end time of the game next to the game grid.
Discussion