How To Design A Gaming Item Or Artifact

An item is an object that can be found during the game and that gives us something: information, a tool to unlock a puzzle, recover life, ammunition, etc. And that provides a temporary function to the player.

There are many questions to answer when designing an item, for example, where are they obtained from? They may be hidden behind boxes that have to be broken, they can also be dropped by downcast enemies, or simply floating on the stage with a light that catches our attention.

You have to define if they are cumulative in the inventory and if so, how many can we carry? It is very common that there are limitations to make the game more interesting. Which brings us to the next point, what penalties do these items have? To balance the difficulty of the game we can make the animation of taking a kit that recovers all our lives is long and leaves us too long vulnerable to attack by enemies, so we must use medical kits that only recover 70% of life, but they are almost immediate.

We will classify the items into three groups.

Recovery items

They can serve to recover the health partially or totally, or they can recover our energy to be able to throw magic, etc.

Attack items

Ammunition, magic potions, grenades, etc. With ammunition it is key to define how many bullets it has, there can be high capacity and low capacity ammunition. In magic’s it is even more critical to know how long the effects last, if we freeze an enemy, or we leave him stunned, how many seconds or turns will he be in that state?

The penalties are very important, for example, the time it takes to reload ammunition can be decisive to not find a nice message of Game Over.

Information or puzzle items

They have the particularity of providing knowledge about the plot, for example, the forgotten journals of a character we are looking for. Those that are part of a puzzle can be perfect to combine, for example, put it inside another item that projects it on a wall. The problem with these objects is that they occupy inventory and their usefulness can be very small if we have an inventory that has a limitation on the weight and we need it to carry heavy weapons.

It would be highly recommended that these items do not occupy space in the inventory, for example, if they are informed that pass directly to a notebook and if they are necessary for a puzzle to be stored elsewhere.

The coherence of the items

The items are a hindrance, a nuisance that we created the player to offer more playability and lack credibility to our story because there is nothing more absurd than to find a life kit in a cave that has not happened and there are only orcs.

Depending on the type of expert game app developers we are creating, we will focus on coherence in two ways. Think of a game like Gears of War, where the important thing is the rhythm of the game, what do we find? Few types of items to avoid disturbing the player (recover life automatically) and are spread across the stage as ‘by magic’.


The second example would be for a game that has a more important narrative load and a less frenetic rhythm, such as Bioshock. Where there is a story of its own for the items, the famous plasmids, and the genetic tonics. As the plot revolves around genetics they marry perfectly with our narrative. In addition, by having pause zones, we can find items to obtain secondary information.

Replayable thanks to the items

Our goal is for the player to spend more time playing on our map, or to play it again when the game is over. That’s why we need bonus items that can unlock extras or achievements. This greatly affects the design of levels, because we need to place them in such a way that the player does not find them by accident or during the obvious route of the mission, such as a secret room, corridors that open after solving a puzzle, etc. If they are not difficult to achieve, they do not pose a challenge and the player will not give them importance.

At the end of each level or even the game, we should ‘sting’ the player by telling him all the items he has not found and what he can achieve if he achieves them.

As you can see, the designer’s job is to apply common sense. If the player is getting items naturally and is well embedded in the story, your gaming experience will improve dramatically.


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