Design Document: Play With Fire

For today's exclusive Gamasutra feature, International Hobo's Chris Bateman provides a rare public look at an in-depth commercial PlayStation 2 game design document with Fireball, eventually released on PC as Play With Fire by Manifesto Games.

[In the spirit of community, and for the sake of education, International Hobo's Chris Bateman has provided a rare public look at an in-depth commercial game design document. The game, here tentatively titled Fireball and targeted for the PlayStation 2, was released for the PC by Manifesto Games with the new title of Play With Fire.

A second document was also provided, the Fireball Field Design Guide, which can be downloaded in *.doc format here.]


1. Burn It Down

Example level from Play With Fire

1.1. Overview

Fireball is a budget game for PS2. The player controls a ball of fire, and traverses a landscape made of blocks of different materials. As the player sets fire to these blocks, they grow hotter, and can set fire to more and more different types of blocks. The fireball the player controls can also rise up in height and the hotter the player gets, the higher they can jump in this fashion.

On each field (level) the player has an ultimate goal of igniting the torch (brazier) and thus clearing the field – but the torch is generally positioned at a high point and out of reach. The player must use a combination of platform skills and dynamic environmental features (for instance, by burning the supports under the torch down to the ground) in order to clear the field.

Simple, clean cut graphics and controls combine to give an easy to learn but engaging play experience.

1.2. Vision Statement

The player should be delivered the following experiences:

  • Effortless play originating from a simple control scheme.
  • Unique experience – the only game to be based around setting fires.

  • Varied solutions to the mini-puzzles as the player works out the best places to start fires.
  • Exploration of small environments.

1.3. Branding Choices

There are two options for the brand image for the game, and which is used depends entirely upon the needs of the choice of the publishing partners:

· Fireball Brand: this approach targets impulse purchasers and is suitable for where the primary sales channels for the game are in mass market catchment areas e.g. supermarkets. In this case, the game packaging should draw attention to the fact that it is Easy to Play, in order to appeal to the Casual audience, who typically finds most games are too hard to control.

· Hidama Brand: the Hidama (Japanese for ‘fireball’ or ‘falling star’) approach is targeting the Hardcore gaming community’s desire for new and innovative product. A Japanese sub-title for the game serves to intrigue, and suggest that this may be an interesting and hitherto overlooked title (such as Katamari Damacy). The game packaging should draw attention to the games Unique Gameplay. This approach is best suited if the publisher is expecting to sel the game primarily through specialist game shops or online.

A hybrid approach may also be undertaken.

2. Core Gameplay

2.1. Game Subsystems

All the play in Fireball originates from three simple to implement core subsystems:

  • Avatar concerns the player’s ability to negotiate the landscape.
  • Temperature concerns the ignition of blocks in the playing field, and how fire spreads between blocks.
  • Gravity concerns the collapse of objects and blocks in the playing field as a result of fires.

We will discuss each in turn.

2.2. Avatar

2.2.1 Overview

The player’s Avatar is a glowing ball of fire, considered to be 1 unit in diameter. The player’s abilities are as follows:

  • Move around the environment. The player turns left and right, and pushes forward to move (relative controls).

  • Jump up to a (relative) height determined by the heat of the ball. The characteristics of this jump are that the player rises rapidly up to their maximum (relative) height, and then slowly descend.
  • Burning blocks is achieved simply by pushing into them. If the player is just hot enough to ignite a block, they will need to push into the block for a short while to start a fire – but if they are considerably hotter, fires will start just by them passing by.
  • Slamming can be done after the player has jumped – it causes the fireball to come crashing down to the first surface beneath them, igniting fires quickly in a wide area of impact where they come down. These fires are slightly hotter than the player’s default temperature.

These are all the player’s abilities.

2.2.2 Avatar Temperature

The basis of fire starting rests in a simple system of temperature based upon colours. The avatar increases in heat permanently when it touches a burning block that is hotter than the avatar’s current temperature.


Jump Height


1: Yellow

+2 units

Yellow flames; bunsen burner style

2: Orange

+4 units

Bright orange flames.

3: Red

+8 units

Glowing red with heat haze.

4: Blue

+12 units

Blue-white flame, like a blowtorch.

5: White

+16 units

Bright white glow – very bright.

2.3. Controls

Basic Controls


The fireball jumps up to its maximum height, then begins to drift slowly down towards the ground.



Crash down to ground rapidly and then explode, igniting nearby blocks. If already on the ground, just explodes.

Jump and Top Down View

The fireball jumps, but the camera view tilts to give a top down view. Press again to cancel top down view. (Toggles top down view).


Reset Field

Hold for 0.5 seconds to begin the current field again

Advanced Controls

Roll Left

Move Sideways to Left i.e. strafe left

Roll Right

Move Sideways to Right i.e. strafe right

Turn Left

Turn 90 degrees left

Turn Right

Turn 90 degrees right

2.3.1 Jump Profile

The following is a description of the jump profile for the fireball:

· Start at any given height. This may be the ground (0 height) or on a platform (>0 height).

· Press Jump to begin the jump. In less than a second, the fireball goes up in the air by +x units, where x is determined by the current temperature.
If the player initiates jump with Triangle, they also get a top down view, so they can judge their landing place.

· Drifting begins immediately. The player descends at the rate of about 1 unit per second.
At any point, the player can use Triangle to toggle between a top down view and a regular view.


Latest Jobs

Sucker Punch Productions

Bellevue, Washington
Combat Designer

Xbox Graphics

Redmond, Washington
Senior Software Engineer: GPU Compilers

Insomniac Games

Burbank, California
Systems Designer

Deep Silver Volition

Champaign, Illinois
Senior Environment Artist
More Jobs   


Register for a
Subscribe to
Follow us

Game Developer Account

Game Developer Newsletter


Register for a

Game Developer Account

Gain full access to resources (events, white paper, webinars, reports, etc)
Single sign-on to all Informa products

Subscribe to

Game Developer Newsletter

Get daily Game Developer top stories every morning straight into your inbox

Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more