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Basics of Game Design by Michael Moore

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165
CHAPTER 7
ON ITEMS
In many types of games, the playeld is strewn with objects for the
player to nd, and these items perform many dierent game func-
tions, most of them positive. An item is dierent from an entity be-
cause it doesnt perform actions independently of the player’s con-
trol. Sometimes the player has to act to acquire an item and at other
times the item is acquired as soon as the player comes in contact
with it. If players have to carry items with them in their travels, they
are likely to have an inventory where extras are stored. ese items
are dierent from the weapons and other artifacts the character is
wearing, and the player oen has to take time to open the inventory
to switch items or get something to use.
Items are dierent from tokens in board games. Tokens represent
the player in an abstract way during movement around the board.
Occasionally, there are extra items that can be collected or placed on the
board to aect play. For example, the physical murder weapons appear
on the board in Parker Brother’s Clue and they are moved from room
to room as players make guesses as to the identity of the murderer. No
player owns a weapon, however. In Monopoly, on the other hand, there
are houses and hotels that players buy and place on the board on their
properties to raise the cost of rents for other players landing on those
spaces. e players also get deeds when they purchase property and
money as they go past the Gospace or collect rents from other players.
Most board games have a limited number of extra items because they
are easy to misplace during and aer play, and they can add consider-
ably to the manufacturing cost of the game.
Item Categories
In electronic games, items can come in many varieties and do many
things, as noted below. In action games, these items are sometimes
called “power-upsbut they fall into the same categories as items in
On Items
166
other game genres. Sometimes these objects are found on the play-
eld, sometimes they are given to the player as a reward, and at other
times they are bought and sold in stores.
Health and Mana
Potions, scrolls, and other objects help restore a characters health
(Hit Points) or cure negative status eects (poison, petrifaction, stun,
and so on). Most games where combat is involved allow players to
heal or cure themselves during the ght; otherwise, players would
die quickly if they made the wrong decisions about what combat ac-
tions to use. ese items are also used outside of combat to restore
health to characters or remove persistent negative status eects. It is
possible to have health items that can be used only during or aer
combat as well. Sometimes health and cure items have only one shot
and are removed as soon as they are used, and at other times they
provide multiple uses. ese items are almost always removed from
a characters inventory when used up.
Other items are used to replenish a magic user’s mana and act
the same as health items. A mana restorative might have only one
use or multiple uses, depending on how the magic system is set up
for the game.
Personal and Environmental Modifiers
Other potions, scrolls, and objects can be used to modify the char-
acter or an enemy during battle, either improving or weakening an
attribute or putting a negative status eect on an enemy. ese modi-
ers are usually temporary and last only for a certain amount of time
or until the combat ends. Other modiers apply to the game envi-
ronment itself, for example, a thunderstorm or blizzard or a tempo-
rary slowdown of time. e eects can be quite spectacular—for ex-
ample, earthquakes that shake the screen and snowstorms that cause
a temporary whiteout of the playeld—and they sometimes damage
entities so they can be used as weapons, too. Many of these modiers
can be employed via magic spells, the main dierence being that an
item can usually be used only once and is then removed from the
characters inventory while a magic spell can be used repeatedly.
Weapons
In some types of games, the player acquires dierent weapons for
characters and switches out weaker ones for more powerful ones

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