Assignment 1: Game Review

Thursday, October 26, 2017
Comments are due by 11:59pm on Tuesday, October 31st

Write a review of a computer game. Pay special attention to game design issues such as challenges and Costikyan's design concepts.


Use the following outline for your review. Please label each section/paragraph so that I can quickly see if you have included all the required information. Your review should be one or two pages long (or the equivalent in Canvas).

Game: The name of the game and the publisher. Please list the developer also, if you know it. What platforms is the game played on?

Object: What does a player have to do to win the game? If the game doesn't have a winner in the usual sense (e.g., for an open-ended game like World of Warcraft or Everquest, or for cooperative games) then what are players trying to accomplish?

Challenges: What challenges does the player face? Are they primarily physical (e.g., timing) or mental (e.g., puzzle-solving)? Does the game present a variety of challenges, or are all challenges similar (or the same)? Can you choose or adjust the level of difficulty? Are the challenges too easy or too difficult? Do you find the challenges interesting?

Actions: What actions can a player do? If your game has a large number of actions then summarize the most important actions or kinds of actions. Are there actions which could be added to make the gameplay better, or actions which should be removed from the game or altered?

Rules: How complicated are the rules? How do they compare to the relatively simple rules of chess? Can the player read or otherwise learn the complete set of rules, or are some hidden inside the program? Do you think the game could be improved by changing the rules? If so, how? If not, why not?

Graphics: Are the graphics 2D, 2.5D, or 3D? Do the graphics add to the game or detract from it? Do you notice any anomalies in the game? For example, in the original Everquest monsters would sometimes walk up a tree as if it were a very steep hill. What options does the player have for changing the game display?

Music and sound: How are sound and music used in the game? Do they add to the game or detract from it? Can the player control game sounds from within the game? For example, can you listen to music but not sound effects, or vice versa?

Game AI: How is AI used in the game? If the game has computer opponents, are they the right level of difficulty (or can they be adjusted to the right level)? Does the AI cheat (or do you think it cheats)? In other words, does it have access to information or actions that players don't have? Have you noticed any particularly smart or stupid things that AI opponents have said or done? Are actions by AI opponents repetitive?

Physics: Does the game make good use of a physical model? Have you noticed anomalies (e.g., a monster's corpse sticking horizontally out of a hillside)? Note that in some abstract games there isn't a physical model so these questions aren't really applicable.

Costikyan's design paper:

How does this game do with respect to the terms and concepts described in Costikyan's 1994 I Have No Words & I Must Design paper?

• Identify one aspect of the game that is well done with respect to one of Costikyan's design concepts and explain why it does well in that regard.

• Also identify one aspect of the game that is not well done, and explain why not. Explain how you would change the game's design to improve that aspect of the game. Think in terms of getting the most bang for the buck and write about how relatively small changes in the software could result in big improvements in the game design.

It's important to give a good explanation as opposed to just mentioning one of Costikyan's concepts. It's also important to make your explanation specific to the game that you are reviewing, and not just restate Costikyan's definition of the term.

Make sure you use the 1994 version of the Costikyan paper for this assignment. Also, I am referring to the concepts explained in the second section ("So What Is a Game?") and the third section ("Other Things that Strengthen Games"), so you should write about things like decision making, goals, diplomacy, narrative tension, etc.

Summary and Conclusions:
What are the best things about this game?
What are the worst things about this game?

Comment on the reviews of two other students
Read the reviews written by two other students and comment on them. Minimal comments will receive minimal points. You don't need to write a lot, and shouldn't write a lot, but come up with something interesting to say.

Turn in

Turn in this assignment by posting it in the Game Reviews discussion in Canvas.

In the past I have had students present their reviews in class, but since this is a hybrid class we will present and discuss the reviews in Canvas. Please post your review in the Game Reviews discussion in Canvas and comment on two of the other posts in the discussion.


5 Game information and object of the game
10 Challenges
5 Actions and rules
5 Graphics
5 Sound and music
5 Physics
5 Game AI
10 Identify one thing from Costikyan's design concepts (decision making, diplomacy, etc.) that is done well in this game and explain.
10 Identify one thing from Costikyan's design concepts (decision making, diplomacy, etc.) that is not done well in this game and explain. Explain how you would improve the game in this regard.
20 Quality of writing: persuasiveness, right level of detail, writing style, organization, grammar.
10 Summary and conclusions
10 Comments on the game reviews of two other students.