Mission: Design an Arcade Game

My first semester at UAT, I took a class entitled “The Evolution of Electronic Games,” which was essentially a history class on video games. While most of the classwork involved reading and quizzes to test our knowledge of the text book, we did have one project which caught my interest. The assignment was to design an arcade game that would be probable during the Golden Age of Arcades. Below is my concept, along with some art of what the game may have looked like.


This was really the first game that I actually wrote any kind of valid documentation for, so that was interesting for me. The original template the professor provided was a lot shorter than my finished product, as I did a lot of research on how game docs were written to make a clearer description of what I wanted for the game. I had a lot of fun writing up this concept because, well, I’m an arcade junkie; I can’t get enough of those old school games. I found myself researching the hardware for arcades of the time, and although the designs of arcades then were typically extremely simple, I wanted to make things a bit more complicated, while still keeping that “old school” feel.
Overall, I feel that this concept was a success. I accomplished the goal I set out to, and managed to make the design my own. I really loved this idea, and I may revisit it when I learn Adobe Flash in the future.


High Concept

Players will control a flying robot inside a computer mainframe. The ultimate goal is to destroy the central processing unit (CPU). Players must make their way to the CPU through obstacles and enemies, and also are equipped with an arsenal of weapons to shoot away their opponents.



Error_ will be an action platformer, with both horizontal- and vertical-scrolling capabilities.

Hardware Specifications

Display: 8-bit, raster, 256×232 resolution

CPU & Memory:  60.00Hz, 50Mb memory

Controls: trackball and three buttons, one for jumping (hold to fly), one for shooting, and one for alternating between weapons.

Sound:  1 channel



In order to achieve victory, players must surpass all the enemies and obstacles within each level  and destroy the CPU.  To progress through the levels, players must fly from platform to platform. There are five levels, each with eight sections. The level and section players are on is displayed in the top-left corner.  Each level represents an individual computer mainframe, with its own CPU, so there is a total of five CPUs the player must destroy. As the player progresses through the levels, the security, or difficulty, of those levels will increase.


The robot’s health bar is represented by the battery on the bottom-left corner of the screen. If the battery energy is depleted completely, it’s game over for the player.  While there are no extra lives, players can acquire health, or battery, upgrades. These are located throughout the levels, with two in each level.


Players use the trackball to control the robot. Using only the trackball, the robot can move forward and backwards, horizontally. However, the robot also has a flying ability. By holding down the “jump” button, the robot will fly into the air, with the trackball controlling the direction. Releasing the “jump” button will allow the robot to fall, giving players the option to fly either up or down, while still being able to move side-to-side.


The robot is equipped with a sort of laser-beam, which can shoot different ammo, depending on what the player has selected. To attack, players simply press the “attack” button, which fires a single shot.

Weapons Arsenal

As players progress through the game, they will acquire new weapons, or rather ammo. To switch between the different ammo, players must press the “alternating” button. There is one upgrade per level, except for the first level, as follows:

Level 1 Basic Laser Shot

(Starting Ammo)

Level 2 Triple Laser Shot
Level 3 Virus Shot
Level 4 Heat-Seeking Missiles
Level 5 Long-Range Laser Beam


While the main goal of the game is to destroy all the CPUs, players can compete with each other by attempting achieve the highest score. Points are awarded for destroying enemies, collecting the health upgrades, defeating bosses, and clearing levels.


There are two types of enemies in Error_. The first are the pixel-shooters. These enemies don’t deal much damage unless they continually attack. They have the ability to shoot pixels at the player from either long- or short-range.  The second type are the anti-virus, and there are two versions of the anti-virus, which look slightly different. The first of these is dark blue, and it can either attack the robot in close-range, or can teleport you to another screen. The second of these is red, and fires laser shots which can void your virus shots. Their shots are more powerful than the pixel-shooters.


There are numerous obstacles throughout the game, and they become more frequent as the levels progress. There are two types of obstacles: immovable and destroyable. Examples of immovable obstacles would be barriers, such as photos, files, and browsers, and firewalls. At the beginning of each level, there is a firewall, which players must find a way around. The firewall actually blocks the direct path to the CPU, so players are essentially taking the long way around. Examples of destroyable objects would be fans and hardware, such as floppy drives (but not floppies) and power supplies.


There is one boss per level, and it always appears at the end of the level. The bosses are also robots, like you, but they are determined to stop you no matter what. The boss for level one is fairly easy for players to defeat, whereas the boss for level three is an equal match, and the level five boss is quite a challenge. The bosses can also fly around, as well as shoot their own laser shots at you. The key to defeating them is to avoid their shots, and get as many of yours in as possible. Their shots are more powerful and thus take more health than regular enemies, which means it takes less for them to destroy the player.


Error_ does support multiplayer, but only co-operative multiplayer, as non-co-operative would be far too time consuming. In multiplayer, two players will work together to achieve the highest score. One player cannot progress to the next screen without the other one to avoid losing players.

Design Goals

Aesthetically, the game will feature bright colors to capture the player’s attention. The goal of this game is to draw in people with its unique gameplay functions and simple yet intriguing story. Error_ is meant to entertain more than all else.


Target Audience

The target audience would mostly be young males, who might also be playing games like Assault, Bomberman, or I-Robot. However, hopefully the aesthetic appeal I’m going for with the game will draw in a much wider crowd.


There aren’t really many games like Error_ during the Golden Age of Arcade Games, but I think the main competition would definitely be Mario Bros. and other platformers. Mario Bros. has a broader appeal than Error_ would, but Error_ might attract a more technical gamer versus the casual gamer. However, this lack of broad appeal might very well be the biggest challenge for the game.

Unique Selling Proposition

This game is unique in that it has both horizontal- and vertical-scrolling functions, which allow players further level accessibility. Also, unlike the traditional idea of saving something, players are out to destroy and cause mayhem, not in the real world, but inside the computer world.

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