Game Design Pillars

Totem opens a world of new possibilities for game developers to strengthen the bonds between players and games by creating the next evolution of in-game asset ownership. Totem Assets are not confined to their games of origin. Instead, we allow players to take their virtual assets with them and play across an ever-growing number of game experiences.

As humans, we are psychologically inclined to possess items. Ownership is tied to our need for efficiency in controlling our environment, our self-identity, and our desire to belong.

True ownership of game assets is a natural next step into a new age of art and entertainment. We provide game developers with the tools they need to do so and encourage them to design their games around the following game design pillars: Mechanics, Meta, Cosmetics, Easter Eggs.

Each of those, when tied to a shared asset’s properties, can further enhance the player’s sense of efficiency, self-identity, and belonging:


Every asset created within the Totem ecosystem is completely unique. It has a set of random properties that can be used to alter some game mechanics and systems. Ideally, these will give the players new ways to play based on their owned assets. Every asset’s properties are completely game-dependent. Here are some examples:

  • A sword that provides you with a special combat move based on its blade type.
  • An avatar whose high charisma makes him a smooth talker.
  • A car with unique stats for steering, acceleration, and traction.
  • A gun with multiple barrels that shoots multiple projectiles at once.

We encourage using properties that are already used by other games in order to maintain cohesion, but you can always invent new ways of using asset properties, and maybe others will follow!


Cosmetic changes are encouraged to any and every asset introduced to the game. These create immediate player connection and engagement as well as enforce the idea of a shared universe. Knowing that my beloved red-eyed character with pink skin and dragon tattoo will show up in the next game is a good reason for me to keep playing. The more you enrich the aesthetic experience based on players' owned assets, the more they will be able to identify with themselves within the context of your game.


Meta elements are related to mechanics, but instead of focusing on the moment-to-moment action and verbs, they introduce different game settings, like game modes, unique levels, and challenges. These can be used in conjunction with the gameplay elements, as a way to balance the game, or as a way to reward players for spending their money. Here are some examples:

  • You buy a mount, but instead of immediately owning it, you have to go through a taming session. The better the mount, the harder it is to tame.
  • You buy an avatar, but instead of immediately having them join your party, a dungeon appears where you have to go and save them.
  • A frozen maze level that can only be accessed by owning an item with the "ice" property.

Easter Eggs

You can introduce unique scenarios that don’t necessarily affect gameplay but enforce the idea of a shared universe and remind the player of the existence of other games. These rare, fun bits have huge virality potential when done well. For example, having a character comment on your looks or possessions can create an emotional reaction from the player, and if they find it cool they may tell other people about it! Easter Eggs are amazing ways to show players that you see and acknowledge them.

How do I choose?

The more asset properties are involved in the different game elements, the stronger the sense of ownership the player will potentially have. Cosmetics, Easter Eggs, and Meta manipulations are always viable, but gameplay elements may sometimes not be easily implemented via asset properties. Mixing up genres or subtly introducing mechanics from one genre in another may help with that.

At the end of the day, it really depends on your game and vision. Start small, select one or two filters that are relevant to your game, and implement a small mechanical element or cosmetic property. Later you can start implementing more complex representations and even delve into the legacy system, which allows items to have a memory of what happened to them.

Totem Game Development Network 2022