I am making a breakout-clone, I not want only want it to feel "arcade" for home users, but it will have a arcade version (although probably noone will buy, and I will only use the machine to amuse other people...), this make scoring, and high-scores a important part of it, it has no multiplayer, with the community existing around how to score higher and higher scores.

Being a breakout game, if the score is just linear, everyone that "finish" the game, will attain the same maximum score... Obviously this is undesirable, specially because the game DOES have a end, you cannot play it forever until you lose...

So, how to design some decent score system? Currently I added a multiplier, and it increases when you kill several blocks fast, but this has the unintended side effect of creating absurdly high scores near the end of the game when you are highly powerful (yes, my game is not only about batting the ball :P) and can clear a whole bunch of blocks at once...

To make it more clear, you have 5 frames to kill another block and increase the multiplier, on the start of the game, only batting the ball, this only happen when you manage to get the ball stuck behind the wall (something that is desirable to reward... several players plainly have a CRAVING to attempt that), and if you are a MASTER breakout player, you can score on the first five levels something like 100k points... Yet, on one of the late levels, if you use in a mediocre way (not even good way) the powers, you can easily rack-up 2 million points in a single level (and no, my game does not have points padded with 0! Some stuff DO reward you with 1 point, or 10... It is just the multiplier increase of 5 frame kill that skyrocket...)

I want to add more mechanics, fix this one, and make lots of stuff rewardable, stuff that make the screen shine, blink, show pretty stuff and make the player go "WOW, DID YOU SEE THAT?" and tap his friend in the shoulder, and then when he make it on purpose he screams: "HAHAAAA, I AM AWESOME AND YOU SUCK!!! DO IT TOO!! I DARE YOU!!!"

Note: Although the theme here is breakout, no problem in crossing genres, shmups are particularly good in this area, Radiant Silvergun for example was plainly great... But of course, it need to still be applicable on a breakout :)

Meta question: How I create tags? If I really can't, can a moderator put some decent tags for me? Like scoring, or chain-system, or stuff like that? Otherwise we will end with thousands of stuff with the same tags: design, writing and C++... or generic stuff like that.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Re: tags, read the FAQ. At a certain rep level (right now it's 150) you can create tags. \$\endgroup\$ – Tetrad Jul 21 '10 at 23:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ oh, thanks, :) You created the ones I wanted for me! \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Jul 21 '10 at 23:07
  • \$\begingroup\$ Whoa, this question got awarded a badge :) Alright, here is a link of the arcade machine =D abril.com.br/blog/campus-party/2011/01/19/… \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Feb 19 '13 at 14:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @speeder This link is broken :-( \$\endgroup\$ – user22759 Oct 23 '15 at 10:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Domsou updated link then... web.archive.org/web/20110204195646/http://www.abril.com.br/blog/… Sad that they deleted their article about my thing \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Oct 24 '15 at 16:59

One thing you can do is scale the multiplier non-linearly, according to a logarithmic scale of some sort. Let's see every block you kill within a certain time limit raises the multiplayer by one. That leads to the escalation problem you are talking about if you allow it to go too high, and if you put an absolute cap it sets a theoretical skill cap.

Instead you can set it so raising it to x2 takes one block, raising it from x2 to x3 takes TWO blocks, and raising it from x3 to x4 takes THREE blocks. Or you can modify the equation whenever you want. The basic idea is that the higher your multiplier, the harder it is to raise it. This has the practical effect of capping out a score multiplier without necessarily putting a hard cap.

You also want to have various likely events that will drop a multiplier. For instance in many vertical shooters using a Bomb will reset or lower your current multiplier, as would dying. Also if you go long enough between bounces it could start to fall. This allows a high score to be two factors: rather they do enough good events to raise the combo, and rather they can keep it going by not failing at various bad events.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Currently the multiplier constantly decreases, to make it look cool, but seemly this only confuse players :/ The only ones that actually understood the multiplier number is the ones that saw it on Kenta Cho games (that also has the habit of putting constantly changing multipliers) \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Jul 22 '10 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ Constantly decreasing can feel a bit mean to a player. It might be better to slow down the rate of increase AND the rate of decrease so players can relax slightly. \$\endgroup\$ – Ben Zeigler Jul 22 '10 at 0:46

I've always rather liked bowling's score system. With bowling, if you get a spare, you get the full ten points for that frame, plus the number of pins you knock down on your next ball. If you get a strike, you get the full ten points, plus the number of pins you knock down on your next two balls. While a full bowling set is 100 pins, the ultimate top score ends up being 300. Despite that, the score going from zero to 300 is surprisingly flat - a novice can reach 100 without too much practice, a skilled player can reach 200, and even the best experts have trouble hitting 300 consistently.

I don't know what the "frame" equivalent would be with your game, but the basic idea of using additive bonuses rather than multiplicative bonuses might be the right way to go.

(Apologies for anyone horrified by my bowling terminology, I don't know the game particularly well.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ I sorta understood... Maybe.... :P \$\endgroup\$ – speeder Jul 21 '10 at 23:39

If by 5 frames you actually mean 5 render/logic frames , I'd be inclined to say that's way too fast for a human player to understand. My first reflex would be to slow down the rate at which the multiplier increases.

If you want people to try to exploit your scoring bonus mechanic, you first need to make sure the player will understand perfectly how it works. You also need to show the player what's happening: display somewhere the current multiplier and possibly his state (increased, cooling down, lost).

To add more mechanics, I believe you first need to be sure the core multiplier mechanic is understood by most. Playtest your game and ask questions like "Can you explain to me how the score for one killed block is calculated?" Then if the multiplier is mentioned, you can follow up with "How do you think this multiplier behaves?". If you don't get the answer you expected to the first question, your mechanic isn't properly explained and needs more sign/feedback work to be clear. Iterate this playtest scheme if possible.

Once you get 80% of respondents to give you an good depiction of your system, you can go on developing additional mechanics to give depth to the scoring system. A very good reference on this is Peggle. Their scoring system is quite complex but easy to grasp. Give that game a look for concrete pointers.

Hope it helps!


Simply limit the multiplier to a max of 5x or 10x. If that strikes you as inelegant, you can do something like:

  • Hit 1 block for 2x multiplier
  • Hit 2 more blocks for 3x multiplier
  • Hit 3 more blocks for 4x multiplier

And so on.


I designed a Columns variant for the Atari 2600 called Strat-O-Gems; the player drops groups of three gems in such fashion as to cause chains of three or more gems vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. This will award a score value which depends upon the number of gems destroyed, multiplied by the level (max 15). When those gems disappear, other gems will fall into the void; if that creates more chains of three or more gems, those will score based upon the number of gems destroyed there, multiplied by twice the level. If that triggers more chains, those will be scored at 3x the level, etc. up to a maximum of 99x (which I've never come close to hitting except when I hard-coded the pattern of gems on the board to test it). As the chains are produced, the screen shows the value of the current chain as (base X multiplier) as well as the total value of all chains triggered by the last triplet that was dropped. Thus, a player can have some understanding of where his score is actually coming from.

Additionally, if an AtariVox or MemCard is plugged into the second joystick port, the game can reward really impressive combos by showing an instant replay (a function I've sometimes wished for--but seldom seen--on other games of the genre such as Chuzzle); it can also store the three best combos of all time and show them during attract mode. Such features could add considerable enjoyment by letting the player know what he did to suddenly net a huge number of points. If I was able to implement such a feature on a system with a whopping 128 bytes of RAM and 256 bytes of EEPROM, it should be possible to implement such features on newer systems as well.


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