Scoring - Theory and Practice

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So I've been thinking a bit about the scoring in a game. A Wikipedia article about Game scoring describes it actually very well.

Does my game need scoring?

Scoring is basically a motivation for the players to, for example

a) simply win a game

b) raise his/her self-esteem, being better than other players

c) raise his/her interest in playing the game

d) come up with a strategy on how to maximize his result with the least possible effort

If there were no scoring, what would be the motivation for a player to continue the game?

What kind of scores exist?

Depending on what type of game one is playing, there are a variety of scoring possibilities:

- collect score points by killing monsters, collecting objects

- collect bonus points for an additional life, health, bonus multipliers or new weapons

- collect experience points to achieve certain ranks

- collect time-adding points for time-critical game levels

- collect money points to be able to buy stuff in the game

How can the score points be decreased?


- collision with an object may reduce health or life points

- negative bonus if a level has not been achieved in a certain time frame

- reduction in rank if you lose a level or have a heavy usage of friendly-fire behavior

- time score reduces every x seconds

- money points diminish when you buy something or get robbed in a game

So any action (or inactivity) done by the player can be rewarded or punished.

The idea behind reward and punishment is to keep your player motivated. So at the beginning, the player will start with easy levels, which get harder, the higher the level. Another possible idea would be to ease things for the player at higher levels according to his experience or rank level, or when getting a new weapon. For example, with a normal gun a monster gets killed with 5 bullets. In a later stage after earning enough points, you get a more powerful weapon, monsters can get killed with 3 bullets only (but the clever game programmer will raise the rate of monster appearance or introduce stronger monsters).

In some cases like in adventure games, there is no need for scoring. The achievement of solving a level is the reward for the player.

Examples of scoring in games


- collects points by eating all the power cells

- bonus points if Pacman can eat a ghost after eating a power cell

- bonus points if Pacman achieves to eat a fruit which appears for a short time

- has three lives and can be killed by the ghosts

Space Invaders

- gets points by killing the invaders and the saucer

- player has three lives and is killed when invader bullet hits him

Sudoku or puzzle games

- time factor; the faster you solve the game, the better you are against other players

- life is not a critical factor, but the game can end if the player takes too long to solve the game


- achieves bonus points when eating the fruits and at the same time grows in length

- gets killed by bouncing against a wall or biting itself

- one life only


- points are given when a full row has been achieved

- ends when objects reach the top of the screen

- higher levels mean faster falling objects

Car races, such as Trackmania Nations

- time-factor is the main achievement of points

- points are given at the end of the race, when comparing the placement of all players

- in some games crashes are possible, tires need to be changed, tank to be filled up, etc..

Simple simulation games like Moon lander or Oxyd

- optimize hand/eye coordination

- more lives possible


- the less attempts you need to find two equal cards, the better you are

- the higher the level, the larger amount of cards

Angry Birds

- killing the piggies will give you points

- you get additional points if less birds are required to kill the piggies, i.e. remaining birds give you higher bonus points

High scores

This is what every player wants to achieve - the highest score, the highest rank, achieving to be a famous celebrity player!

High score tables is where the players find themselves ranked according to their scoring achievements. In the Maslow's hierarchy of needs the player has reached the esteem hierarchy. The desire to be accepted and valued by others.

By the way, writing a tutorial is similar; we tutorial authors want to be accepted as good tutors and be highly valued ;-)

Take a look at the tutorial on Arcade-style high score using Webstorage to locally store high scores.


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  • Very nice tutorial , I appreciate you posting this and taking time to help out others who don't know much about scoring. Thanks!