Mudcraft explored how to design a real-time strategy (RTS) game for a casual game playing audience. This was a unique and ambitious goal because it attempted to (1) modify the RTS genre to be appealing to casual game players and (2) expose and attract casual gamers to this new genre of games.  To achieve this goal the design team employed an iterative design process that combined upfront secondary research, creative design and development, rapid prototyping, and formal and informal playtesting.

The resulting game differs from traditional real-time strategy games in the following ways:

  1. The game’s theme focuses primarily on the exploration and trading aspects of RTS games, rather than conquest and violent combat.
  2. To appeal to a broad audience of players, the aesthetics are lighthearted and humorous rather than rugged and abrasive as found in most RTS games.
  3. The interface and game mechanics are simple and easy to learn rather than complex and difficult to learn without in-depth tutorials, manuals, and previous play experience, as are most RTS games.
  4. The duration of play (per level) is greatly reduced from that of common commercial RTS games to match that of most casual games.
  5. The game is built on technology for and within technical constraints conducive to web delivery, as is most casual game titles. The game itself is web-based or downloadable versus the traditional CD or DVD-based RTS game.
  6. Unlike most RTS games that are purely entertainment in nature, Mudcraft employs a subtle pro-social message about conservation, the use of renewable resources, and our relationship with Mother Nature.

After the successful development and testing of Mudcraft we have shown that it is entirely possible to create a real-time strategy game for the casual audience. Furthermore, by taking into consideration the disposition of the audience and looking at the design of popular casual games, as well as the compelling features of current RTS games, it is possible to design a casual RTS game that is appealing to a wider audience than the current, male-dominated audience of RTS games. The project also illustrates that the Internet is a viable delivery medium for robust, independent games that explore new aspects of current game genres. This opens the door not only for more web-based real-time strategy games, but games from other genres that are also underrepresented on the Internet.

Game Development Team:

Brian Winn

Pattie Banyas

Jason Tye

Release Date: Spring 2005

Creative Merit:

Peer Reviewed Awards:

  • 2005 FuturePlay Future Game Talent award for Mudcraft (first place)
  • 2005 Indiana University IDEAs Festival Best Game Award for Mudcraft (honorable mention)

Peer Reviewed Exhibitions:

  • Winn, B., Tye, J., Banyas, P., et. al. Mudcraft. Exhibited at FuturePlay 2005 International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology in East Lansing, MI, October 14, 2005. (Won first place in best future game talent award.)
  • Winn, B., Banyas, P., Tye, J. Mudcraft. Exhibited at 2005 Indiana University IDEAs Festival, Bloomington, IN. April 23, 2004. (Won honorable mention in best game award.)

Audience Reach:

  • Published by Moondance Games and distributed by Navarre Corporation as part of the Fall 2005 “IG: Independent Games” and Fall 2006 “IG: Independent Games V 2.0″ CD-ROM compilation.
  • Published by Manifesto Games as a “launch title” for their new independent games distribution site at
  • Mudcraft is available on the CD that accompanies the November 2006 edition of MacAddict Magazine.

Other Visibility:

  • Web:
    • October, 2006 MSU web site (Mudcraft featured in “A leader in serious games” featured article)
    • August 25, 2006, “Manifesto Successfully Manifests Itself”, Mudcraft mentioned in GameSetWatch article about the launch of Manifesto Games.
    • August 3, 2006 ran a story on Mudcraft.
    • Listed on numerous online game sites and blog posts.
  • Newspaper:
    • “MIND GAMES: MSU lab developing new ways to learn.” Lansing State Journal. Sept. 26, 2006. (Picked up by the Associated Press and carried in newspapers around the country.) Sidebar includes details on Mudcraft.
  • Magazine:
    • “Setting the Pace in a High Speed World.” Mention of Mudcraft game. College of Communication Arts & Sciences Alumni News Publication. Spring 2006.
    • “Computer Science Specialization That’s All Fun & Games”. Interview and mention of Mudcraft. MSU College of Engineering Currents Magazine. Summer/Fall 2005.

Scholarly Contributions:

Peer Reviewed Publication in Conference Proceedings

  • Winn, B., Tye, J. Crafting a Web-based, Non-Violent, Real-Time Strategy Game. Proceedings of the FuturePlay International Academic Conference on the Future of Game Design and Technology, East Lansing, MI, October, 2005.

Invited Presentations:

  • Winn, B. Methods & Considerations in Designing a Web-based Real-Time Strategy GameInternational Game Developers Association Southern Michigan Chapter Meeting, East Lansing, MI. September 11, 2004.