COMP23: GAME DESIGN

"The worst thing a kid can say about homework is that it is too hard. The worst thing a kid can say about a game is it's too easy." -- Henry Jenkins

"Usually, the best ideas come from having to fix a really hard problem."
--Jesse Schell

"The great challenge for us today... is to integrate games more closely into our everyday lives, and to embrace them as a platform for collaborating on our most important [personal and] planetary efforts."
--Jane McGonigal

"What part of my game is fun? Why? What would make it more fun?"
--Jesse Schell

Final Project Game Trailer Sample from Fall 2017 Class:

See past games by Tufts student teams

Download Syllabus
Submit all assignments digitally on our PIAZZA FORUM (Email teacher for invite)

Instructor: Jason Wiser    
TAs: Emmeline Meyers and Finn Tekverk
Please email us with questions
as soon as they arise!

Spring 2022, Jan 25 - May 10
Tuesdays, 6pm-9pm

DESCRIPTION: This course covers a software development cycle through game design, prototyping, production, and marketing. There is one main Final Project: A completed digital game created in Unity3D. Content related to the theme of Games For Change is encouraged. The game can utilize 2D or 3D art production and interface production pipelines.

NOTE #1: The most critical skill for product design is listening: to your colleague, testers, and your intuition.

NOTE #2: Email the teacher and TAs quickly and often, so we can help you find resources for solutions!

NOTE #3: Every software production team needs to regularly assess what features are critical and what can be cut to meet production deadlines. Always work on the highest priority items and bravely cut features.
  WEEKLY BREAKDOWN:
TABLETOP GAMES:  01   |   02  |   03   |   04   |   05   |   06
FINAL:  07   |   08   |   09   |   10   |   11   |   12   |   13   |   14   |   Final

Require Materials/ Docs   |   Projects Breakdown   | Online ClassPast Projects
INTRO TO THE UNITY GAME ENGINE:
See this Unity Learning page for resources in 3D and 2D Game Dev, helpful Modules, Coding and Game Art notes. Also note this page on GitHub.
Weekly Materials appear below. Press the header to expand:
LECTURE: Introduction to course and project expectations. Discussions: What is a game? How do we approach design?
Unity #1:
Introduction to the Interface, creating a script, console, GameObjects and Components
Design Method 1:
Designing Playful Experiences within constraints.
EXERCISE: Small teams: design card / board game interactions inspired by provided mechanics.


DESIGN NOTES:
When designing the homework games, consider ways to enhance player choice and opportunities to feel progress with each move.
Avoid mechanics with turn loss.
Don't allow dice to run the game.
If players can get cards or tokens let them choose how and when to use them (by having multiple at a time, and multiple uses).
If players move pieces across a board consider ways to make every move feel productive (flow) and awesome (fiero): big moves and action choices!

How do we help a game take just 10-15 minutes? Make players more powerful! Try cutting in half the cost to act and doubling the result.


Some Custom Board Options:
     
Import process for PlayingCards.io



MEET A DESIGNER:
Brenda Romero (Wizadry 8, Train): Game to Understand

WEEK 1 MATERIALS:
PowerPoint #1

Please try to follow this
Team Communication Checklist

"TABLETOP" GAME MECHANICS
Explore this 1 page list of Game Mechanics
Review this enormous list on BGG (or 1-doc version).
Consider these improv games played over a call

PLAYINGCARDS.IO

Getting Started with PlayingCards.io to make an original "tabletop" game: cards, tokens, spinner, custom boards

HOMEWORK #1:
TEAM 1a: As a team, design a 2-5 player game intended to be played in PlayingCards.io. Play it yourself multiple times and revise rules for more "Flow" and "Fiero," and to be sure it can be played in 10-15 minutes. Type up the rules (be concise) and include photos of Set-Up and Gameplay. Post doc and .PCIO file to the forum hw1 at least 24 hours before class.

Individually:
a) Reading #1: Jesse Schell's Art of Game Design, chapter on mechanics (any edition. In 2nd, this is ch 12).

b) Get Unity, 3Button-Mouse, and Texts:

Unity Hub and Game Engine (2021.1.10).
Be sure to login and test!

Scripting IDE of choice. See options here.
Adobe Photoshop (discounted license for Tufts students, or free 1 week #2 trial, or PhotoPea.com)
Get a 3-BUTTON MOUSE.
BOOK 1: Jesse Schell's "Art of Game Design"
Book 2: Dr Jane McGonnigal's "Reality is Broken"

c) Tutorial #1: Complete this short intro to coding in Unity by week #2, and post a final screenshot of the working Tree Game to the course forum under "Tutorials":
LECTURE:
Consider Player Needs: Mastery, Autonomy, Community, Sensation
  • Design Method 2: Testing Methods: Focus Testing for player observation and non-interference. Class playtesting practice. Evaluating and incorporating user testing.
  • Design Method 3: Radical Revision.
    EXERCISE: Teams play each other’s games, fill-out testing docs, meet to plan revision.

    NOTE: To set your own scripting tool for Unity: open Unity and go to Edit > Preferences > External Tools, hit Browse, find your scripting tool under Programs and select the EXE / application.


    2D IMAGES FOR PHOTOSHOP:
    Dull Photo
    Flesh parts



    MEET A DESIGNER:
    Radical revision as "Follow the Fun"
    Greg Costikyan: Uncertainty in Games
    "Extra Credits": Fail Faster
  • WEEK 2 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #2
    Focus Testing

    PLAYINGCARDS.IO
  • Customizing PlayingCards.io to make a revised game.
  • Sample cards: back | front1 | front2 | front3 | front4
  • Learn the basics of Photoshop for 2D art assets (40 minute video tutorial).

    HOMEWORK #2: TEAM 1b: Create a game that radically revises your first game design based on class feedback. Attempt “Radical Revision” to redesign around what players most enjoyed. Playtest multiple times to revise for more "Flow" and "Fiero." Type up the new rules, including new photos and a paragraph explaining your radical revision.
    Post to Piazza hw2, at least 24 hours before class.

    Individually:
    a) Reading #2: Schell Chapter on Game Balance
    (any edition. In 2nd, this is ch 13, 35pp)

    b) Tutorial #2: Create custom card art for PlayingCards.io. No quality expectation: just show the pipeline from Photoshop to the game. Upload both the card PNG and a ascreenshot in game.
  • LECTURE: Working with Unity 3D
    Design Method 4: How do we design games which are new but recognizable? Designing for Disruption.
    Design Method 5: How to design a game inspired by the routines of a workplace? Designing from established systems.
    TUTORIAL: Intro to Unity3D. Students follow this tutorial sequence
    EXERCISE 1: Disruption: Design at least one significant mechanic change on a board, card, or dice game to create a new game (with a new story / theme). Consider radical changes:
    PAST STUDENT PROJECT #3 SAMPLES:
    (All concepts are property of the creators)
    Spring 2018: Sand Wizard of Catan

    Spring 2015: [Campaign Trail | B[Ticket to Westeros]   [Treason]  [Fickle Checkers] [Last Airbender 3000]   [Royal Runaway]

    FUN: McSweeny story on fixing Candyland
    EXERCISE 2: Team 2b (in class): Teams meet to discuss Workplace games.

    Samples of past student Workplace-inspired tabletop games



    MEET A DESIGNER: Matt Leacock (Pandemic, Forbidden Island) and Rob Daviau (Legacy): The Making of Pandemic Legacy
    "Extra Credits": Playing Games as a Designer Part 1 and Part 2

    Designing Game Rules: 6 tips and GeekNights, Pax South 2016
    WEEK 3 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #3

    Unity: Intro to 3D
    Unity Package: First Person Controller
    Three MP3 Sound FX
    See these notes on Unity Coding Practices
    (towards bottom of this page)

    HOMEWORK #3:
    TEAM 2a: Research, discuss, and design a “Workplace” Game. Playtest and revise multiple times for more "Flow" and "Fiero." Type the rules (be concise), include photos of Set-Up and gameplay. Build in PlayingCards.io, playtest, revise, and be ready to play in class!
    Post doc and .PCIO file to Piazza hw3, at least 24 hours before class.

    Individually:
    a) Get Blender and GitHub Desktop App, and please bring a 3-button mouse to class!

    b) Tutorial #3: Unity 3D Sequence Choice:
    Choice 1:
    Complete the tutorials in this Intro to 3D Unity Game, and post screenshots to Piazza hw3.
          OR:
    Choice 2: Roll-A-Ball! Follow this short, two hour tutorial sequence to learn the basics of Unity for 3D games, and post a screenshot of your finished work to Piazza hw3.
          OR:
    Choice 3: Follow a tutorial of similar length that you find online to create Unity functionality, and post both screenshot and URL to Piazza hw3.
    LECTURE: Designing for Players: Affordances, Signifiers, Feedback.
    Starting a team Unity project: GitHub and choosing mechanics for a digital game.
    TUTORIAL: Creating 3D, textured, game-ready assets in Blender.
    TUTORIAL: Making Prefabs for team work.

    DESIGNING FOR PLAYERS (Audience):
          Sample 1: GoW Lancer and breakdown
          Extra Credits: How Design Teaches Us Without Words
          Razbuten: How are games for those who doesn't play games
    Signifiers:
    What shapes, textures, and sounds do we see that imply the history of a thing or place, and what we can expect to find there?
    Affordances: What do we (the player) think we are supposed to DO based on the design of the thing or space?
    Feedback: How does the game uphold or contradict our expectations?
    Prioritize: Organizing your backlog and production schedule around "User Stories"


    USING GITHUB
    Please read these notes on Using Github Desktop Effectively.
    A Git Repository for Unity needs a GitIgnore script at top, to make sure Git does not deal with extra Unity files. Use this Unity GitIgnore.
    Please avoid Revert or Undo. Speak to the teacher if you are concerned about a GitHub conflict.

    Want to learn more 3D tools?:
    Intro 3D Modeling in Maya (30 minute on mesh modeling)
    Character Development:

      Rough forms, Adding Details, and Hair etc
      Unwrapping and Texturing
      Joint Rigging and Skinning for Animation
    UNITY vs 3D UNITS: Unity and Blender both use meters (Characters = 2-meters tall). Maya uses centimeters by default (can change to meters in Maya General Settings, or scale in Unity).


    MEET A DESIGNER:
    Bio of Lucas Pope, creator of Paper's Please
    John Romero (Doom): The Early Days of id Software
    (NOTE: I disagree with some principle here, such as skipping prototyping)
    "Extra Credits": Affordances Part 1 and Part 2

    WEEK 4 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #4

    Blender for 3D: Basic Navigation and Game Assets
    Intro 3D-Unity
    Key 3D tools

    Intro Blender
    (60 min)



    HOMEWORK #4:
    TEAM 2b: Design a digital game inspired by your Workplace game, emphasis on movement. Implement as much of the game in Unity as you can this week!:
    Please use GitHub for collaboration.
    Make sure all of your team has Unity 2021.1.10
    Decide if your project will be 3D or 2D based on which is a better fit for your mechanics.
    Decide if the digital version of your game will be multi-player or single.
    Be sure to communicate about scene ownership.
    Use prefabs to share work tasks!
    Attend labs for help, research using online tutorials, like this basic Unity Drag and Drop script.
    Your priorities this week are to set up the project with GitHub, type a Backlog (prioritized to-do list) of features you want to include, communicate daily with your team about progress, and attempt to get as much of that list in the game as you can, prioritizing "User Stories" (user-facing functionality, not under-the-hood operation).


    Post to Piazza hw4, at least 24 hours before class. Be ready to play in class!

    Individually:
    a) Reading #3: Dr Jane McGonigal's "Reality is Broken" Part 2: Reinventing Reality (pp119-215)

    b) Tutorial #4: Create a 3D model: Either an object tower or a textured tree. No quality expectation: just show the pipeline from Blender into Unity. Upload both a screenshot of the object in Blender and in Unity.

    LECTURE: Playtesting Unity games, and feedback.
    Design Method 7: How can games improve our world? Alternative Reality Games (ARGs) and designing to solve human suffering.
    EXERCISE 1: Using the Unity Canvas for HUD / Feedback
    EXERCISE 2:
    Team 2b (in class): identify suffering, design a ruleset for an ARG.

    Process for making an ARG:
    1. Identify a source of misery.
    2. List the misery's mechanics.
    3. List real-world solutions for the misery-- behaviors people might do if they were not too busy, distracted, or embarrassed.
    4. Focus on one tangible behavioral solution at a time, and consider game mechanics that could encourage that behavior. Iterate: What can make those mechanics more meaningful, and more specific to the behavioral solution desired?
    PAST STUDENT ARG SAMPLES:
    (All concepts property of creators)
    [Dining Discomfort] [Shovel Wars] [Crunch Time] [Ready Set Cook] [End of the Line] [Procrastination] [Dog Walk Bingo] [Exercise Demons] [Water Buffalo]


    MEET A DESIGNER: Robin Hunicke (Journey, Boom Blox, Luna): We Care a Lot - Making Games with Value
    Robin Hunicke and Keita Takahashi: Introducing Wattam
    Keita Takahashi: Introducing Katamari Damacy

    WEEK 5 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #5



    PROJECT TOOLS IN UNITY:
    Unity HUD: Canvas Tools and Scripting
    Unity Tilemapping for paintable 2D backgrounds
    Destructible / Paintable Tilmaps: Open [2f]
    Unity Controller Inputs and Building an Executable

    Unity notes on Physics and Canvas


    HOMEWORK #5:
    TEAM 2c:
    Progress your Workplace game prototype in Unity: how far can you get in functionality by next week?
    Focus on user functionality and get as far as you can as a team. All teammates make prefabs except for the scene-holder. Please include a GameHandler prefab with an ESC-quit option and Export a WebGL build and upload to itch.io. Post the URL and a screenshot to Piazza before class. Please make a lot of mistakes in Unity, and contact us for help!

    Individually:
    PPR #1: Type up your FIRST Personal Progress Report (PPR): what you took on, what you completed, who helped you, who you helped, URLs for any tutorials.
    LECTURE: AR and VR pipelines and projects using the Unity.
    Notes on Physics in Unity.
    Discussion of "Service Niche" Games: consider digital game concepts for specific populations, disabilities, child developmental stages, literacy, immigration, targeted health or educational needs (Design Method 6). Also, consider mechanics derived from "real-world" sports and hobbies!

    AUGMENTED REALITY
    AR in Unity using Vuforia

    VR VIVE RESOURCES:
  • Sample 3D Room Files: Maya, FBXs, PNGs.
  • Class Tutorial on the Unity-Vive Pipeline: Getting Started, Using the Interaction System, Pick-Up-and-Throw, Teleportation, Target Practice, Door Hinge.
  • Target Practice Ding Audio and Script.

    More VIVE LEARNING: Intro VIVE and Advanced VIVE

    MORE AR/VR WITH UNITY
    (Platform specific: download SDKs, sometimes Java)
  • VR: Facebook's OCCULUS RIFT: GearVR Tutorial
  • AR, old: Qualcomm Vuforia (current gen)
  • AR, new: Google ARcode (S8+) and Apple ARkit (iPhone 8+)


    MEET A DESIGNER: Kim Swift: Our Journey From Narbacular Drop To Portal
  • WEEK 6 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #6


    HOMEWORK #6:
    TEAM 2d:
    "Complete" your Workplace game prototype in Unity: Get as far as you can as a team. All teammates make prefabs except for the scene-holder. Please include a GameHandler prefab with an ESC-quit option and Export a WebGL build and upload to itch.io. Post the URL and a screenshot to Piazza before class. Please make a lot of mistakes in Unity, and contact us for help!

    Individually
    a) PPR #2:
    Type up your SECOND Personal Progress Report (PPR): What you took on, what you completed, who helped you, who you helped, URLs for any tutorials.

    b) Post a brief description of a final project digital game concept. Include a title, genre, and what is unique or interesting to you about this idea.

    For example: "'Red or Blue' is a 2D platformer where the player is a bullied teenager with the power to switch the lighting red or blue, making escape platforms appear of the opposite color." (from Fall 2017 class)

    c) Reading #4: Schell Prototyping chapter (pages 75-95, on "Iteration").
    LECTURE: Inspiration Sources: Disrupting Movement, Wild Visuals,
    Dynamic Team Creation workshop based on roles & brainstormed design!
    EXERCISE: Students brainstorm designs based on theme, present concepts, and choose projects and teams.


    Game Development Roles
    What does a Producer do?

    PRODUCTION POV:
    Good Game Producer
    Valve Handbook
    Game Art Bible Guidelines






    MEET A DESIGNER: Warren Specter (Deus Ex, Epic Mickey, System Shock) and Doug Church: Practical Game Design
    Warren Specter Deus Ex Postmortem and Dream Projects
    "Extra Credits": Making Your First Game: Minimum Viable Product
    WEEK 7 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #7
    Including notes on Paper Prototyping and Design Documents.

    HOMEWORK #7: TEAM 3 (Final!): Meet outside of class at least twice to:
  • Brainstorm user functionality and create Playable Paper Prototypes in Tabletop Simulator or PlayingCards.io to playtest and revise your core game mechanics. Consider player User Stories to decide core functionality! Draft your initial Design Document (include a few URLs with tutorials on implementing features specific to your game).
  • Set up free online team resources:
        A Google Doc for your Designs, Backlog, Ref-links.
        A Discord channel for team communication.
        A Trello account for task-tracking.
        Your GitHub Unity project, 2D / 3D, with a GitIgnore.

    NOTE: Do not worry about populating a Production Schedule/Backlog this week (Prioritized List of User Story functionality and when you hope to have them done, based on course schedule).
    Focus on design: what do you want your player/s to be able to DO in your game? What will be innovative in the mechanics?
  • LECTURE:
    "Paper Protoypes" playtesting!
    Team Communication and Production planning.
    Intro to Maya for Game Assets: Modeling, Texturing, Rigging, Animation, and exporting to Unity3D. Real-time asset Polycount and texture constraints.
    EXERCISE: Teams playtest Paper Prototypes, meet to plan production. Follow 3D "Tree" (modeling) and "Duck" (animation) tutorials.

    KEY EXPECTATIONS FOR TEAMWORK:
    To be good teammates, you are expected to:
  • Check all agreed communication channels daily.
  • Respond to all contact asap, at least within a day, and be patient listening and explaining what you mean to each other.
  • Set meeting times/places by end of class, and make every effort to be timely for every meeting. Communicate time conflicts as early as possible.
  • Use professional language: do not use any language that is demeaning or hateful towards any group, including in regards to gender, race, ethnicity, sexuality, religion, ability, or nation of origin.
  • Meet Deadlines: submit work every week at the agreed time to the agreed place, and communicate production problems as early in the week as they occur, so that these problems can be solved BEFORE the materials are due. Always ask us for help as soon as possible!
  • Practice good transactional communication: When sending files, explain what you are sending. When receiving files, check them and confirm you got them and they are what you expected.
  • Work with your team to solve problems: divide work evenly, communicate issues, help each other, and don't try to take on everything.

    Work with a Composer:
    Next meeting we will learn more about Game Audio!
    All audio in your game
    must be created by your team or a friend.
    If asking a friend to make the audio, give them guidance:
    1-3 sentence about the game: What does trhe player do? How is the game supposed to feel?
    What instruments have you imagined? Is your game story or aesthetic rooted in a place or time that could influence instrument choice?
    What pacing?: Slow and exploring? Quick and intense?
    If possible, include URLs to songs / compositions that are in the direction you are seeking.


    MEET A DESIGNER:
    Will Wright (Sims, Spore): Lessons in Game Design
  • WEEK 8 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #8


    UNITY ANIMATION TUTORIALS:

    3D Animation Tutorial
    2D Animation Tutorial
    Intro to 2D and 3D Art Pipeline notes
    Click to view tree, duck, dino PNGs:
    Sample Duck FBX



    HOMEWORK #8:
    Teams: DISCUSS your paper prototypes and Revise Design Documents for more meaningful player choice.
    SET-UP Github repository. Decide naming system and document Backlog, tech issues, and Asset Pipeline.
    DECIDE what core features of your game you will attempt to get working in Unity this week. Discuss and divide Unity production work evenly.
    PLAN AUDIO: Want a composer to work with you? Answer the "Work with a composer" list, email teacher.
    WORK IN UNITY this week to pull together an initial DIGITAL PROTOTYPE of basic interactions and core game features! Use only simple placeholder art. Submit webGL Builds (posted to itch.io, link in Piazza).

    Individually:
    PROGRESS REPORT #3: Submit typed page to Piazza: What you agreed to produce, what you accomplished. Who helped you and who you helped. List of research links read/watched. Include related screenshots. See these PPR Instructions. NOTE: Not quite finishing all you agreed to do will NOT affect your grade; I am looking to see you contribute significantly to production each week, to communicate frequently with your teammates, and for you to document what went well for you and what issues you encountered.


    Please always bring a 3-button mouse to class!
    [Spring Break March 19-27]
    LECTURE: Team exercises: Character Health and ARG2
    Software Development Cycle and GitHub. Game Audio Considerations.
    EXERCISE: Follow 2D and 3D art tutorials.
    AFTER CLASS 3D LECTURE: Animation and Unity: Mecanim.
    EXERCISE: Teams share prototypes and meet to plan production.



    Game Testing
    Color Scripts
    Intro to 2D and 3D Art Pipeline notes
    Making Pixel Art and Animation
        (RightClick to download)

    MUSIC CREATION APPS
    Petaporon multi-instrument piano sequencer
    Basic Piano app to record ambient notes




    MEET A DESIGNER: Eric Lang (Blood Rage, Duelyst): Designer vs Designer Panel and CMON Interview
    WEEK 9 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #9

    AUDIO DESIGN CONSIDERATIONS:
  • Ambient Sounds & Triggered Sound Effects (SFX)
  • Random Audio Clips
  • Footsteps: raw, trimmed, individual
  • Record Foley work to lay tracks in Audacity
  • Getting Creative with Foley Sounds
  • Unity trick to vary repeating sounds (footsteps).
  • Music Composition: 1   |   2   |   Piano
  • Dynamic Audio: Try Wwise, FMOD, Elias (get) / Fabric (get) for music / SFX (1 | 2 | 3).

    INSPIRATION:
  • Marty O'Donnell: Music Composition for Halo / Bungie

    HOMEWORK #9: Teams: Revise your team Prototype to add more of your intended "Verbs" (user functionality) and Feedback (ways the game can respond to player actions and indicate progress). Test clarity withat least 2 new players (observe and revise). Submit Mac/PC Builds (or post webGL to itch.io).

    Individually: PERSONAL REPORT #4 (Piazza hw9): What you agreed to produce this week and what you completed. Who helped you and who you helped. List of research links read/watched. Related screenshots.
  • Macro and Micro level design.
    Animation in Unity: Mecanim State Machines. Unity Particles.
    LECTURE: Exporting Animation to Unity: Animation Controller, Mecanim, Unity State Machines, and scripting for animated character moves.
    EXERCISE: Teams meet, discuss/plan project revisions. Unity Mecanim Tutorial.

    MICRO LEVEL DESIGN:
  • Base Speed: How far we can jump, if holding down the right-arrow key (in BLB, this is 9 spaces).
  • Rhythms: alternating challenges (jump over ground hole, wall, stairs, through holes in walls, off leap-of-faith jumps, etc, all in "Base Speed"= 9spaces per platform/challenge).
  • Melodies: ABABC where the rhythm is interrupted by a new challenge (hole, wall, hole, wall, hole, stairs)
  • Harmonies: Combine a series of the same basic Melody 3 times in a row, with the challenges appearing to get progressively more difficult (wider holes and smaller platforms) while maintaining "Base Speed" (still 9 spaces per platform/challenge).
    For example: in the first "Melody" the jump-holes can be 2-wide with platforms 7-wide, and in the second Melody the holes can be to 4-wide with platforms at 5, and in the final Melody in the set the holes can be 6 and platforms only 3. This results in a huge change in APPARENT difficulty, with no change in actual jumps (since it is all based on a 9-space jump in BLB).

    TIMING NOTE: A full "Harmony" (3 Melodies) takes about 5 seconds to traverse at Base Speed (continuous run-jump)

    MACRO LEVEL DESIGN

    Build multiple Harmonies into a longer experience (1-3 minutes) with gradually increasing difficulty:
    1. Intro: No death, just get accustomed to running and jumping
    2. Hook: No death, but introduce us to the key mechanic of this level
    3. Rising Action: The player learns to use the mechnic in increasingly difficult (and possibly deadly) encounters and challenges
    4. Climax ("the Turn"): The most challenging and deadly encounter!
    5. Denoument: A short distance of simple running and jumping, perhaps more rewards, leading to the end of the level (flag, door, etc). No death; a chance to reflect on the awesomeness just experienced.


    MEET A DESIGNER: Richard Bartle: Player Type Theory: Uses and Abuses
    "Extra Credits" take: Bartles' Taxonomy and MMO Balancing
  • WEEK 10 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #10


    2D Level Design: 
    Let's explore designing for Rhythm and Harmony:
    Download DigiPen's Basic Level Builder
    PC version or Mac version
    Instructions: Saving, Sharing, and Opening BLB levels.

    Please also check out:  Ken Bowen Sidescroller Notes 
    Unity Animation Mecanim Pipeline | .DOC
    Get Meeple FBX and Knight or Zombie texture
    Meeple Maya work and Template


    CLARITY AND FEEDBACK:
    Consider ways to give the player feedback on their actions with GameFeel: color changes, particles, squash/stretch, recoil, screenshake, sounds, etc
    How will your game communicate player state like health, collected items, map progress, current tool, speed? UI HUD elements, or a Diagetic (immersive) solution?
    Unity Particles: Use Particle emitters to create effects like energy, weather, water, or impacts

    Unity Shader Graphs: Unity has a helpful, node-based toolset for creating surface VFX on objects, characters, and environments.



    HOMEWORK #10: Teams: Revise Prototype. Test clarity: at least 2 new players.

    Individually: Typed PERSONAL REPORT #5 (Piazza): what you took on, what you completed. Who helped you and who you helped. List of research links read/watched. Related screenshots.
    LECTURE: Lighting topics, Level Design Talk 1: Rational Game Design
    EXERCISE: Teams meet to discuss and plan project revisions.

    Rational Game Design Notes
    Rational Game Design Article

    Please Read these excellent Level Design articles:
    "Where the Rubber hits the Road" by Jay Wilbur
    "No More Wrong Turns" by Martin Nerurkar


    MEET A DESIGNER: Ken Levine (Bioshock): Narrative Legos and Career Interview 2017
    Peter Molyneux (Fable, Black and White) The Rebirth Of Design
    WEEK 11 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #11: Rational Game Design
    RGD Failure Case: Avatar Dog Sequence

    HOMEWORK #11: Teams: Revise digital prototype and start planning your game tutorial: introduce key player abilities in a series of progressively more challenging levels/experiences. Test game clarity with at least two new players.
    Individually: MID-PROJECT PEER EVALUATIONS
    (Give each teammate a unique integer for points. Save as a .DOC or .TXT, rename with your name and game name, and Email directly to teacher AND TAs by next week):
    3 members
    4 members
    5 members
    6 members
    LECTURE:
    Level Design #3: Encounter Design and Multiple Player Personas.
    In-Class Assessment of Functional Pitch Prototypes! Is the game fun? Is it a gloriously catastrophic failure? What radical steps need to be taken to have a fun game by the end of the semester? User Interface Design considerations.
    EXERCISE: Game testing, then meet as teams to plan next stages of production.

    What do your players want? Design for your target audience.
    This short video of an SNL skit exemplifies designer/player intention conflict.

    And these articles on Lighting Design and Implementation:
    "Functional Lighting"
    "Level Design Lighting Theory"
    "Lighting in Unity3D"

    MEET A DESIGNER: Jonathan Blow:Prototyping for Indies and How To Design Deep Games (Braid, The Witness) IGN Game Changer interview
    WEEK 12 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #12: Lighting and Encounter Building
    Design for Player Improvisation




    HOMEWORK #12: Teams: Revise Game based on testing assessment. Add more art and audio. Submit revised game.

    Individually: Typed PERSONAL REPORT #6 (Piazza): What you took on, what you completed. Who helped you and who you helped. List of research links read/watched. Related screenshots.
    LECTURE:
    1. Adding Better Feedback: Game Feel techniques and brainstorming
    2. Designing UI / UX elements
    3. Marketing #1: How to identify press, contests, conferences and other entities for targeted marketing plan.
    Types of marketing materials and expected elements of each: website, gameplay trailer, press release narrative and icon.
    Factoring audience into the design of marketing materials. How can the intended user of the website influence the design and presentation? Managing a Conference table to support press and customer experience. The all-important follow-up.
    4. Team-Peer Playtesting Sessions


    Student Sample 1:
    Red vs Blue
    website and game trailer:



    Student Sample 2:
    Midnight Cleaning Company
    website and game trailer





    MEET A DESIGNER: Sid Meier and Bruce Shelley: Classic Game Postmortem: Sid Meier's Civilization. IGN Game Changer interview

    WEEK 13 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #13

    Adding Game Feel:
  • Unity Tools like Screen shake, color change, etc
  • A tour of common Game Feel Techniques.
  • Mark Brown's intro video on Game Feel
  • Juice it or Lose it (Breakout Game Feel demo)
  • Game feel case study/interview: Celeste
  • Make better buttons (1 min)
  • Game Feel by Steve Swink (text, Ch 1)

    Game User Interface Design:
  • Intro to Game UI
  • Intro to Game User Experience (UX)
  • Games That Can be Understood at a Glance
        by Zach Gage: article and video
  • List of Best Practices
  • Use cases: Good and Bad Game UI
  • Design process, including influences

    Adding Marketing:

    Marketing Color Choices
    Marketing Color Theory
    Press Releases:
  • Industry example and review: Dejobaan Games
  • Sample student project: Cat-astrophe

    HOMEWORK #13:

    Teams: Revise game for more levels, with attention to difficulty curve anbd tutorializing. Add more art, audio, and levels. Prepare 1st draft marketing materials: Gameplay Trailer, Game Icon, Wix/Weebly Website design showing trailer, team, and game, narrative press-release.

    Individually:
    Typed PERSONAL REPORT #7 (Piazza): What you took on, what you completed. Who helped you and who you helped. Linsk you used. Related screenshots.

    Typed PLAYTEST REPORT #1 (Piazza, same post):
    Please observe a new player trying your game for the first time, and report on what you learned!
  • LECTURE: Playtesting Sessions and Development Time, Marketing #2 and Materials Feedback.

    LIST OF FINAL DELIVERABLES:
    YOUR TEAM GAME!
    Playable on at least two machines (on one for VR games). Please include:
  • Title Logo at start
  • End Screens (win/lose/etc)
  • Legible interface, with support graphics (framed in rectangles, with a buffer to the screen-sides)
  • Art and Audio populated
  • Bugs fixed to the best of your ability (through much playtesting).
  • A pause menu in every scene to control audio volume and quit.

    OTHER DOCS:
  • Final Peer/Self/Course Eval (please fill out completely)
  • Event write-up.

  • MARKETTING MATERIALS:
    Website with:
  • Game Logo
  • Gameplay Trailer
  • Game Screenshots
  • Team Pics/Bios
  • Press Release
  • Download Links

    PRESENTATIONS:
    1 minute per person:
  • What you created on the project
  • What you learned
  • What you enjoyed working with this team

    Also, printed game instructions for your table.

  • REMEMBER: If you make downloadable builds instead of a webBuild, the Mac one will be a single .APP file, but the PC build generates a Data folder, an EXE, and a .DLL all of which needs to be put into a folder that is then .ZIP-ed and posted to the team website.

    MEET A DESIGNER: Chris Crawford (founder of Game Developer's Conference): 1992 Dragon Speech and 1989 Whip Speech

    Mark Brown/Game Maker's Toolkit: How to Pace a Game Trailer
    WEEK 14 MATERIALS:
    PowerPoint #14


    TRAILER EXAMPLES:
    Past Student projects:
  • Beetle Royale (spring 2020)

    Industry Cinematic Trailers:
  • (Adventure) World of Warcraft Shadowlands
  • Team Fortress 2: Expiration Date
  • Star wars Knights of the Old Republic
  • (Horror) Dead Island Announcement
  • (Horror) Metro, Last Light Mobius Trailer

    HOMEWORK #14: Teams: Submit Final Prototypes: Populate final levels/polish final assets. For non-VR games, show on at least 2-4 computers, and provide concise, play instructions (printed, pictures optional).
    Revise marketing materials: Website with Game Logo, Gameplay Trailer, Screenshots of key moments, Press-release, Team Bios/Pic, download links for PC and Mac.

    Individually: Typed PPR #6 (Piazza): completed tasks with appropriate screenshots. Prepare your 1-minute presentation: Your role on the game, what you enjoyed working with this team, and what you learned.

    ALSO: Fill out forms for FINAL PEER EVALUATION, including Self, TAs, and Course notes. Give each teammate a unique integer for points. Save as a .DOC or .TXT, rename with your name and game name. Email to teacher and TAs in reply to Eval email on final class day:
    3-Members, 4-Members, 5-Members, 6-Members
  • Time to celebrate your creations!

    5:30pm - 9pm
    5pm-5:30pm: Download Games and Start Playing
    5:30pm-7pm: Playtesting!
    7pm-8:45pm: Team Presentations!
    8:45pm-9pm: Final Farewell!

    Want to take your passion for games further? Learn more here!



    You are encouraged to meet once with your team after the final presentations to make any final revisions and fixes before your game is added to the course archive!
    Schedule subject to change per class needs. Please coordinate with teammates
    AND instructor if you will be absent to confirm assignments.


     
      REQUIRED TEXTS:
    The Art of Game Design:
    A Book of Lenses

    by Jesse Schell

    (1st reading assigned week #1)

    OTHER SUGGESTED READING:
    A Game Design Vocabulary by Anna Anthropy and Naomi Clark

    Reality is Broken
    by Jane McGonigal

    (Reading assigned week #2)

    Game Feel by Steve Swink

    COURSE SOFTWARE/HARDWARE:
    Download and install:
    (1) Game Engine: Unity (2021.1.10):
    Download Unity Hub and our Engine version from the archive. Run the program, create a free account.
    Also get a free scripting IDE of choice. The teacher likes Note++ (PC) or Atom (Mac). Or VS can download with Unity.
    (Needed week 1)

    (2) 2D Software: Adobe Photoshop: textures, background art, tilesets and sprites. Monthly subscription of just PS is $10/month. Or, get a free 7-day trial
    (Needed week 3)

    (3) 3D Software: Blender.
    Open source, forever free.
    (needed week 5)

    (4) Collaboration: GitHub Desktop App: Each team should use GitHub to collaborate on their Unity game. This app allows for easy file management.
    (Needed week 5)

    (5) Tabletop: PlayingCards.io: We will use this excellent, free tool to collaborate and playtest your tabletop games online!


    IMPORTANT: Please bring a 3-BUTTON MOUSE to all classes!
    (Needed week 1)



    OPTIONAL ART TOOLS:

    a) Digital drawing tablets/pens are available in Halligan for takeout, or get your own Wacom Intuos tablet (basic model $70).

    b) Pyxel Edit: For 2D Sprite Animation, consider learning this elegant tileset tool ($9 one-time purchase). See these notes by Ralfi Salhoun.


    Want to learn AUTODESK MAYA instead of BLENDER?:
    Autodesk Maya Is the most commonly used 3D art/animation software. It is free for one year with student .EDU email and proof of enrollment. Works on both Mac and PC. Register and stay logged in the open Autodesk site for the download AND installation process. Intro 3D Modeling (30 minute on mesh modeling)
    CHARACTER MODELING: Amelia Erhart:
        Rough Forms (35 minutes)
        Body/Head Details (45 minutes)
        Hair/Accessories (40 minutes)
        Unwrapping/Texturing (60 minutes)
    CHARACTER RIGGING:
        Basic: Joints   Advanced: IK/Controls | Feet/Hands | Face/Eyes | Constraints

      REQUIRED DOCUMENTS:

    DESIGN DOCUMENTS:
    Weeks 1-7: Instructions

     
    PERSONAL REPORTS:
    Weeks 8-14: PPR Instructions
    PPR Template

    PLAYTEST REPORT:
    Week 13: Observe at least one new player trying your game. Consider revisions for clarity and to encourage desired behavior.
    Instructions   |   example questions

     
    OPTIONAL NETWORKING EVENTS:
    Attend at least 1 event online this term
    to learn about the game industry.
    Submit a Write-up


    TABLETOP GAMES:
    Keep your design docs concise: One page of text! See this example by N. Greenberg:



    Class Photo & Poster
    from the first class, 2015
    (19 of the 30 students):

     

    MORE GAME DESIGN LEARNING RESOURCES AND MEDIA:
    Tufts Game Design Club
    MORE SUGGESTED READINGS:
    Game Design Narrative Architecture by Henry Jenkins
    Digital Games History by J. Kirriemuir
    Why We Play Games by N. Lazzaro
    Level-Design.org: Articles

    Gamasutra read game dev articles by Game Industry Pros!

    GDC Vault: Watch free video talks by industry professionals from past Game Developer Conferences.

    Indie Developer Survival Skills
    GDC talk by Jake Birkett


    Learn about modern card games and board games through entertaining playtest videos
    featuring Hollywood celeb geeks.

    Design Theory and Reviews
    in fast-paced videos

    Celebrations of developers and Gaming culture:

    Ian Schreiber "Why You Hate Your Design Work
    And What You Can Do About It)
    "
    "Indie Game the Movie"
    Trailer   |   Film ($6)
    Podcast on Games Culture: Robert Ashley's
    A Life Well Wasted
    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7
    Discussions on the dark side of "Gamer" culture:
    "This is Phil Fish" a video essay by Innuendo Studios Feminist Frequency Tropes vs Women by Anita Sarkeesian
    GamerGate Analysis:
    Essays by Innuendo Studios:
    1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6
    GamerGate in 2016-2017:
    Samantha Bee
     
    GAME STORYTELLING:
    If you want to explore branching narrative in its purest form, take a look at Interactive Fiction:
    Read Lost Pig
    Learn about IF on Zarf's Page
    3 Articles: Explainer | Choice of Games | Branching Narrative
    Finally, try TWINE: Learn and Create!
    Rise of the Videogame Zinesters by Anna Anthropy

     
    Projects
    There are three smaller paper game projects and a final digital game prototype.
    For each smaller game you will form a new team for two weeks.
    "Mechanics-Based Game" Team A, due week 2
    "Radical Revision" Team A, due week 3
    "Workplace Games," Tabletop Team B, due week 4
    "Workplace Games," Unity Team B, due weeks 5-7

    Final Project: Digital Game Prototype
    For the final project you will work with the same final team for two months, starting week 7. Together you will design and create a prototype of a digital game using the Unity game engine (Note: all listed dates subject to change).
    Design and Preproduction due weeks 8-9
    Initial Prototype Production due weeks 10-12
    Revised Prototype
    and Initial Marketing Materials
    due weeks 13-14
    Final Prototype Project
    and Marketing Materials
    due Final Meeting

    SIX TUTORIALS:
    There are six required tutorials to support your tech learnign in this course. Fopr exach, please submit screenshots showing completeion, all in a single Classwork thread on the course forum.
    Intro Unity 2D / C# due week 2
    Photoshop "Card" due week 3
    Intro Unity 3D due week 4
    Blender Tree due week 5
    Audio SFX Clip due week 9
    BLB Level due week 11

    DOCUMENT SUBMISSION
    Please post all digital assignments using the course PIAZZA SITE forum (starting week #2, email the teacher for an invite). This includes Tutorials, Game files, Design Documents, Personal Project Reports, Industry Event Write-up, and any other assignment EXCEPT for Peer Evaluations (which will be emailed to the teacher and TAs).

    Critiques
    This course includes in-class and emailed feedback. In-class feedback is on playable prototypes after in-class playtesting. Emailed feedback will occur after more in-depth playtesting outside of class.

    Most projects will be evaluated for the following:
    • CLARITY: Are the instructions, mechanics, and visuals concise and easy to understand? In the digital games, are player abilities and goals progresively on-ramped?
    • INNOVATION: What new/ exciting/ challenging gameplay mechanics are included to stimulate interest?
    • IMMERSION: Is the story compelling (setting, action framing, art, and music)?
    • FLOW: Does the player feel constantly productive, able to act and have those actions matter every turn? (Sense of agency, able to advance their agenda). In the final game, we are also looking for a reasionable difficulty curve to support medium-skilled players.
    • FIERO: Multiple big victory moments for players? (sense of achievement, especially against the odds)
    Please Note: this scale is to evaluate the strength of the games, but your grade for each project is as much for your collaboration with each other and experimentation and risk-taking in your design and development as its success as a game.

    All games before week 7 are simply pass-fail; Make the game (as fun as you can) with all of your team's participation and you get full credit.

    TEAMWORK
    All students are expected to enter into teamwork in good faith, with every intention of the following:
        Communicate with teammates daily
        Attend all classes
        Attend at least 1 out-of-class team meeting a week
        Submit significant progress to the team project every week
    The Peer Evaluations help to support this expectation.
    Please listen to each other, be kind, and communicate problems to the teacher for help.

    Grading
    30% - Class Participation (attendance, in-class work, and professional manner. Participation in at least 3 labs and attendance at one or more Games Industry event).
    30% - Weekly Homeworks (team and individual submissions. PPRs, Tutorials. You are expected to contribute production assets to your team games EVERY week).
    20% - Peer Evaluations (weeks 12 and at Final Presentations).
    20% - Final Game Presentations (A final Unity Game Prototype and related marketing materials at end of term are required to complete the course).

     
    ONLINE COMMUNICATION POLICY

    ONLINE CLASS LINK
    As nedded, a Zoom link will be emailed to all students enrolled in the course. We will use this same link for meetings with the teacher.
    Please Note:
  • Please only join this link during the time of your class, or a pre-arranged meeting.
  • Zoom will record classes automatically, as soon as the first person enters the meeting. The teacher can make these available as needed.
  • Please join on time at start of class and type a greeting on Chat when class begins. Chat is recorded and is used to record attendance.

    Classes on Zoom will consist of small group discussions, full class discussions, some lecture, and design exercises.
    There will be one break each class.
    When not on break, you are asked to be at a laptop, desktop, phone, or tablet with your cameras on, if at all possible.
    Please allow your focus to be on the class in progress by closing email, social media, entertainment, or other classes.

    Of course, there can be good reasons not to be on camera. If this is the case for you, you don’t need to say anything at the time, and teacher will not call you out about it. It’s fine for this to happen occasionally. In those cases, have a self-photo (or drawing) for your icon in Zoom.

    VIRTUAL BACKGROUNDS: Using a virtual background is fine. I recommend the Studio Ghibli collection
    Subtly animated backgrounds are fine as well. Please avoid dramatically animated backgrounds that could be a distraction.
    Naturally, please choose visuals appropriate to a professional artistic setting (this may seem obvious to many of you, but I have had some unfortunate surprises show up).

    Please be on mute when you are not speaking, so background noises do not disrupt the audio.
    Unmute (press spacebar) to speak. Relevant questions, statements, links, etc. can also be typed in the chat.
    Please contribute to the class discussions in a professional manner. Please frame feedback positively and constructively, be mindful to not insult others, and do your best to avoid exclusionary language.
  •  
    FINAL PROJECTS FROM PAST SEMESTERS OF TUFTS GAME DESIGN:



    SPRING 2022

    Your games
    will go here!
    FALL 2021
    SPRING 2021

    FALL 2020

    SPRING 2020

    FALL 2019

    SPRING 2019
    FALL 2018

    SPRING 2018

    FALL 2017

    FALL 2016

    SPRING 2015

     
    TAKE YOUR GAMES FURTHER AFTER THE COURSE IS DONE!
    Learn about Game Industry job opportunties: GrackleHQ.com
    Some of the projects created in this course each term could be continued and shown to the public at festivals.

    Showing your game at a festival can be a rewarding experience! Learning to speak about your creation with others can be enormously valuable, and watching strangers enjoy your creation is very exciting.

    Not every project should be continued, and your teachers are ultimately not the ones to decide this for you. If you are passionate about your project, you should consider continuing it.

    That said, if your teachers find the gamplay and immersive design particularly unique and compelling, we hope you will consider taking it further!

    How to submit to contests, festivals, and publishers!
    Most require a pitch video that succinctly and appealingly communicates the key mechanics and story premise of your game
  • A comprehensive doc about showing your game at Festivals, Expos, and Conventions by Ian Schreiber
  • More notes on how to pitch your game
  • More notes on making a great Pitch Video

    TABLETOP GAMES:
    Register with Board Game Geek, and search the forums for festivals and contests like GenCon (Indiana), PAX UNplugged (Philadelphia), and Spiel Essen (Germany).
    Board Game Geek's Big List of Tabletop Conferences.

    When your game has been thoroughly tested, consider submitting it to publishers (pitch, sell sheet, rulebook, prototype).
    See advice from Cardboard Edison, the BGDF, and these Facebook forums 1 | 2 | 3.
  • FESTIVALS AROUND BOSTON:
    MassDigi: (submit Jan/Feb, pitch Digital Games contest early March, winners get summer dev support). Also, internships.
    Boston Festival of Indie Games: ("BFIG" apply March/April, event in Sept). Apply to Tabletop or Digital!
    Connecticut Festival of Indie Games: (CT FIG) Apply to Tabletop or Digital!
    Penny Arcade Expo East
    ("PAX East", Spring. Submit to Showcase. Tickets sell out quickly in November, but are always available mornings in front of the conference from those who over-purchased).

    Consider applying to Indie Megabooth for more affordable tables and supportive community at larger conferences.

    FESTIVALS OUTSIDE OF BOSTON:
    SAAM ARCADE: Gaming competition through the Smithsonian.
    SXSW Gaming Festival: Gaming expo in a popular arts fest.
    Independent Game Festival: (IGF, apply in Fall for big indie games contest, announced at Game Developers Conference in SF in March).
    Games for Change: Serious games conference-- educational games and games for societal impact.
    IndieCade: Celebrates independent games from around the globe, October in LA.

    There are so many festivals and contests for indie games, and many new ones are created each year; look for events that are good fits for YOUR game!


    Last modified January 2022

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