How to Make a Hidden Object Game
By William Gridley
Updated September 28, 2017
Items you will need
A well-equipped Mac or Windows personal computer
Game-building or programming software
A computer hidden object game is a digital version of the find-a-picture games found in children's magazines. You search a large image for several smaller items, such as a baseball or an umbrella, hidden somewhere on the page. Using custom artwork and one of several software packages, you can create your own hidden object games for selling or sharing online and also select a platform for distributing it.
Develop a theme for your hidden object game. This helps brand your game, potentially increasing recognition. Popular themes include murder mysteries, Gothic horror, Victorian and film noir.
Construct a narrative or story line for your game. For example, each screen may represent a scene in a treasure hunt across time or one leg in a race around the world. This narrative keeps the player interested in completing the game by slowly advancing the story with each completed puzzle.
Create your own object or find a contract artist to complete the artwork for you. In addition to several background images, you will need dozens of objects to hide in your different scenes.
Purchase and install a game-building or programming software package. Popular platforms include Adobe Director, Adobe Flash, BlitzMax, Game Maker and Multimedia Fusion.
Each software package has different instructions and steps for developing the actual hidden object game. Some, such as Adobe Director, are intended for experienced programmers while others, such as Game Maker, are better suited to novice designers.
For the less experienced programmer, software such as Multimedia Fusion offers a simpler option. In these packages, create a game screen by importing one of your larger pictures as a background image.
Add the individual elements to be hidden in the picture as separate objects. For each item, you will assign characteristics based on the software that identify it as a hidden object. You can also add special characteristics, such as bonus points for difficult-to-find objects.
When the individual scenes are complete, the software will walk you through sequencing your scenes in the correct order and adding between-scene images or text (called "cut scenes") to help advance the narrative.
Finish the game by adding an introduction and instructions to the beginning and a closing scene. The introduction should begin the story and explain the purpose of the game. The closing should offer the player a satisfying conclusion and, perhaps, a segue into a sequel game.
The software package will help you compile the game into a Web-ready format, such as a Flash file. This is your game file for distributing to friends or websites.
Test your finished game with several friends to ensure clarity of directions and ease of use. What may make sense to you may not be so clear to a first-time player.
Distribute your game online through your own website or through review or game-submission sites such as Jay Is Games (Jayisgames.com) or Big Fish Games (Bigfishgames.com). These sites will either review your game and help drive traffic to your own hosted site or host it for you with other similar games, letting visitors vote and review your game for other players.
A good theme makes your game memorable and can help increase downloads or sales.
Consider turning the different scenes into puzzles, such as hidden objects that provide clues to a riddle that must be answered before moving to the next level.
Most of the software packages detailed above let you create a demo copy of your finished game featuring just the first two or three levels. Many designers give away this demo version, hoping players will be hooked and will pay for the full version, allowing them to complete the story.
Located in Central Florida, Bill Gridley provides outstanding writing and editing for companies and not-for-profits, as well as publications such as Relay Magazine, the Orlando Business Journal and OArts!. A graphic arts, conservation and green trends specialist, he is also an experienced graphic designer and advertising professional.