OCD And Game Design

Blocks slightly out of order

I just finished reading a great opinion piece by Holly Green about gaming with OCD. Her thoughts really hit home and rekindled bad memories – along with thoughts about designing games with OCD players in mind. Some of what I’m about to say might not make sense without first reading Green’s piece (Link Here)

A Little About My Background

OCD has always been a part of my life. I can remember my 3 year old self trying to step on the “right” floor tiles in our kitchen. It wasn’t a game for me, I felt like something would be wrong if I didn’t get the pattern just right. As I grew the compulsions became more complex and varied. I counted, I straightened, I worried. I washed my hands until they cracked and bled. The motivation for this behavior is really hard to describe to someone without OCD. It was just safer, better if I did things “right”. If I broke routine it would haunt me until I went back and corrected the error. The rules were all self-imposed, but it didn’t feel that way.

The Good Part

I was raised in a religious family, but in my family religion wasn’t used as an excuse for abusive control. In-fact, as the disorder drove me to adhere to my unwritten rules about prayer, my parents saw the unhealthy behavior for what it was. I was taught that the cycle of fear and shame was not what God wanted for me. My dad caught on early that something was wrong and started trying to help. This was the mid 80’s and it wasn’t like he could google “treatments for OCD”, so he just tried his best. He would patiently watch me wash my hands and tell me when I should stop. He taught me to recognize the compulsions for what they were and to resist them. Eventually I found that I could take control of my disorder and fight back. My dad has a high-school education and no training in psychology, but somehow he found the perfect mix of care and exposure therapy. By the time video games became part of my life I was in a healthier place. The temptation to “get every coin” was still there – but it wasn’t overwhelming. I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself free of OCD. The compulsions are still waiting just below the surface, but I know that they will never win. The disorder doesn’t control my life or my gaming experience.

Thoughts For Game Designers

From my experience OCD feeds off of thought patterns that are necessary for life. The desire for order, cleanliness and completion are healthy and encourage us to live well. OCD is like these motivations kicked into hyperdrive. For a healthy person, tasks like collecting things in a game may be totally enjoyable. It’s the OCD mind that makes it a compulsive and painful thing. It doesn’t seem right to remove wholesome and enjoyable mechanics only because they have the potential to become unhealthy for a minority players – especially when real-life things like washing hands and climbing stairs can just as easily get distorted by the mind with OCD. To be clear, I’m not advocating that designers stop considering the effects of their games on people with OCD or any other disorder. I am saying that some disorders can turn good things bad.

For me, the key design ethic is to avoid abusing a player’s (any player’s) desire for completion and order. Collecting, completing and arranging mechanics can really work for some games and designers shouldn’t shy away from them. Things get bad when they become an unreachable carrot-on-a-stick driving players to spend money, watch ads or waste ridiculous amounts of time. The lines can be blurry when designing a game from scratch. Figuring out where your game stands can be tricky. Getting clarity may involve asking ourself questions like “Why do I want the player to do this?” and “Would I have fun doing this myself?”. Don’t be afraid to buck the trends. Just because a game like yours “usually” has some kind of collection system does’t mean you need to add one. If you want the player (every player) to have fun, make that the focus of every single thing in your game.

Race The Sun 1.44 Is Out!

We really love it when developers keep updating and improving the games we play. As developers ourselves, we really want to do this for our games. The hard reality is that continually improving a game after it’s initial release can be costly and incredibly time-consuming. If the game doesn’t continue to make money after launch, working on an update can be hard to justify. In light of those difficulties, we are very grateful that Race the Sun has been reasonably successful after launch. The income has allowed us to bring the game to new platforms (Playstation 3, 4 and Vita) and has funded continued development of the game itself.

This week are releasing a significant update that includes:

  • Labyrintha mode: A new (not endless!) mode for players who complete level 25.
  • Improved controller support: XBox360 and PS3/PS4 controllers will now be automatically detected, and show custom icons in the UI
  • Added AlienFX support for Alienware PCs
  • Restored the “woosh” sound when passing buildings, as well as the ship engine sounds.
  • Many misc bug fixes

Thanks to everyone who has played, reviewed, rated and spread the word about Race the Sun! You’ve really made this possible. The updated game is available now through our awesome retail partners.

Steam Powered Logo     gog-logo-dark     humble-store-logo

A quick Race The Sun/Flippfly update

Wow, has it been almost 3 months since our last blog update? It has!

We wanted to give our fans and followers a quick update to let you all know what’s up.

PC Update
We’ve been working hard on a PC version update, for Steam, GoG, and Humble builds.
It’s mostly a bug-fixing update, but we’ve also got a flashy new UI, with better controller support, and that better showcases the user-created content the game has to offer. By the way, you have seen the Workshop entries for the game, right?

The new update will also fix a lot of issues related to network connectivity/leaderboard submission, and will generally be a much more solid experience.

We hope to put a beta build up on Steam within the next few days, and a full public Steam/DRM Fre release within the next week or two.

Playstation Update
We’re making great progress on the Playstation version! Vita performance was a big task, but we’re getting pretty close to where we want it to be now.
Right now, David Laskey is helping us implement leaderboards, cross-platform cloud saves, trophies and more. And Forest is working on a new game mode, which you’ll be able to see soon.
We’ll be submitting the game to Sony certification soon, and once we’re further along in that process, we’ll announce a solid release date.

What’s Next?
As you may have heard, we announced Hexarden this spring. We haven’t had a lot of time to work on it since the announcement, but it’ll be high on our todo list once we get the Playstation version of Race The Sun out.

Additionally – we’re thinking about how to give our minds a bit of a creative workout – we’ve been working on Race The Sun for about two years now!
So we’re thinking about doing some form of extended Flippfly game-jamming later this summer. More details soon.

Lastly – we’re not done working on Race The Sun! We’ve still got Oculus Rift support in the pipeline, and we’re discussing ideas for how to keep the game interesting beyond level 25. We can’t wait to share more!

Race The Sun Workshop Contest Winners!


Alright everyone, the moment you’ve been waiting for!

First, we’d like to say: this was an extremely close race. There were several levels that were in a virtual dead heat for the grand prize, and we really had to dig in and play them repeatedly.
The other thing that made this tough is that, given the randomized nature of the game, it was often hard to compare our experiences with each other, and day-to-day.

Here is a Workshop Collection for your convenience, containing all of the finalists – hit the “subscribe all” button and check them out!

We hope that everyone had a great time, regardless of placement in the contest. We certainly appreciate your contribution to our community, and hope you’ll keep making levels!
Additionally – we want to hear from you on how to improve the tools. We were super impressed with the creative and unexpected ways everyone used the world creator, and we want to enable even more crazy stuff! We’ve started a thread here to get the conversation going – please join in!

Without further delay – here are the winners!
(Note: Some spoilers below!)

Continue reading…

Race The Sun Workshop Contest – Finalists!

Hey everyone – very sorry for the delay in announcing these finalists – Steam was having some technical issues that prevented us from playing all of them after the submission date!

In total there were about 56 entries – which is great! We hope to do more of these community events in the future.
We played every single one of them, considered the community’s ratings, and have come up with a list of 20 finalists!

Here are the finalists, in alphabetical order:

bloody hell v.2
the city
dlv sky machine
galactic space battle
guitar hero v 4
gizeh 0.1
Kings Way v2
the last sunset
meteor shower v1.5 beta
Space Adventure
speed woods
world of cards

To subscribe to these worlds, see the RtS workshop here:

Among these, a few very special ones stand out. We’re going to take tomorrow and play these in more detail, to make sure that we’re not missing anything!

If you entered the contest and would like some specific feedback on an item – feel free to reach out to us and we’d love to give you some thoughts!