Patrick Curry’s Thoughts on Game Design

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February 19th, 2006

Game Idea #8: Work of Art

This idea seems so obvious… But I haven’t heard of anything like it yet, so here goes…

High Concept:

Work of Art is the game of fine art. You play as an up and coming artist, trying to break it big into the art world. The problem is you’re dirt poor, have no studio, no money for supplies, and are just down on your luck in general. But you do have an art teacher that believes in you… and sometimes that’s all you need.


Nintendo DS

Why it needs to be made:

There are two big reasons why Work of Art needs to be made. The first is that while PictoChat is cute, it’s just a toy, not a game. The second is that I think you can teach complicated concepts via games, so long as it’s presented under the right amount of fun.


Work of Art is an “artist RPG.” It’s a role-playing game in that you play as a single character, customize her appearance, build up her skills and abilities, explore a world, meet other characters, and take on “quests” from these other characters. The catch is that these quests don’t have anything to do with slaying dragons, these quests are actually commissions like “paint me something with complimentary colors”, “paint me something with good pattern”, or “paint me something that looks like the Mona Lisa.”

Instead of fighting to build up your skills, you’re off creating these “paintings.” I really love the idea of painting on the DS with its touch screen and stylus. The game would begin by teaching you the basics, as a kind of virtual tracing book / coloring book. Each commission you take on would require you to learn something new, like the difference between warm colors and cool colors, and then use that knowledge in your next painting.

Your paintings would be algorithmically judged by your teacher, and then later on in the game by your “clients.” After completing each painting you can unlock new art supplies, like different types of brushes, paints, charcoals, pastels, canvases, and so on. And in-between creating these painting for the in-game characters, you can create your own art to show your friends, either by handing them your DS, or via an online gallery.

Why it will be fun:

Work of Art is a truly creative game. There would be minor exploration and “puzzle” solving, but the core gameplay mechanic is the act of creating. And while lots of games have building cities or bases in them, very few games have this level of raw creation as their core mechanic. Creation is terribly rewarding, and I know that one of the main reasons I create games is that I enjoy doing it, but I also enjoy stepping back and saying “yeah, I made that.”

Work of Art would have to be at least a little on rails, as not everyone is going to pick up the DS and be the next Michelangelo. But that’s where the challenge in design would be – the initial tracing/coloring gameplay would have to be fun, but so would the “free-play” where you can just play as a painter.

Final thoughts:

The idea for a painting game was one of the first things I thought of when I heard that the DS had a touch-screen and stylus. But it wasn’t until recently that I thought that you could really make it a game, and put it in the familiar structure of an RPG. I know I would buy this game in a heartbeat.

Many thanks to Drew for both giving the idea the sniff-test, and for hosting me in Pittsburgh. I had a blast!

6 Responses to “Game Idea #8: Work of Art”

  1. Mason Dixon commented:
    posted February 19th, 2006 at 11:10 am

    This is a great game idea. I love to create too.

    The “customize her appearance” possiblities are endless and exciting. As an artist your image can be very important, and things such as mohawks, ripped jeans, english smoking jackets, bling, trench coat and boots, and many more can all be important parts of an artists appearence. Perhaps the artists chosen persona and fashion effects the kind of patrons they attract.

    The more I think about the game, I wonder what the RPG aspects of it amount to. Gallery shows? Choosing which commission to accept?

  2. Nabil commented:
    posted February 19th, 2006 at 11:20 am

    I liked this so much I told my (art school attending) girlfriend the idea. Her response? “Wow, I’d totally buy that.”

  3. Patrick Moran commented:
    posted February 20th, 2006 at 4:23 pm

    Best idea so far! I really love the idea of procedurally judging the player’s works of art.

  4. Patrick commented:
    posted February 26th, 2006 at 12:10 pm

    I’m glad y’all like Work of Art as much as I do. But it did make posting this week’s idea a little intimidating.

  5. Scott Anderson commented:
    posted March 27th, 2006 at 2:46 pm

    Jonathan Blow (creator of Braid) has a prototype of a similar game on his site ( It’s interesting, although it doesn’t quite work. You might want to check it out.

  6. ben moy commented:
    posted June 20th, 2006 at 7:37 am

    With Nintendo in mind, this also has amazing Wii potential. Basically blow up the small drawing/detail motions of the DS to realistic painting techniques (angle changes of the brush, pressure, etc) that could be used on the TV as a tapestry. I’m not familiar with the calibration processes of the Wii, but the potential should be there to transform nearly any surface into your canvas, preferably something with visual feedback from the system (rear projection, plasma..). The Wii/TV would become like a Intuos LCD pad of canvas size. With all the possibilities of the net embracing next gen and potential collaboration with Wii engineers, imaging drawing your own GUI/dashboard, sending them to friends…hey, is Nintendo already making this?

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