Tentative Course Schedule
Introductions and course overview.
Be sure to take some time to get to know your students. Ask them what types of games they like to play. Get an idea also which platforms for playing games they are familiar with. Do they like PC games, or console? Have any played handheld/mobile games, and if so, which ones do they enjoy and why?
In addition, you will want to ask them if they have a specific interest in a career path in games. Are some more interested in designing graphics, or creating animation and so on. Many in such a preliminary course as the one you are teaching will not be sure yet, so explaining to them that they will get a glimpse of the majority of jobs associated with creating games which will help them understand better what career opportunities are associated with this industry.
Chapter 1: Getting Started
- Exploring the historical roots of games
- Understanding their impact on modern game production and design
This session introduces the student to the history of games, defining what a game is, how some of the early principles of game design can be found in modern games and the transition to digital formats.
Chapter 2: Game Play Styles
- What defines a gameplay style
- Casual, Core and Hardcore games
This session defines what the most common gameplay styles are and provides examples of games exhibiting these different styles. Students are encouraged, in groups, to play different styles, particularly ones they may have little experience with. In addition, this unit looks at how games can be categorized by the playing habits of gamers who prefer casual, core or hardcore games. Again, examples of games that fit this method of cataloguing them are provided, and students are encouraged to play them and form opinions about what kind of the games they are based on what they have learned about gameplay styles and purpose.
Chapter 2: Educational Games and the ESRB
- Serious games, and other educational games
- Entertainment Software Rating Board
In this session students will look at some broader purposes for game design and creation for games created for educational purposes. In addition, they will come to understand how the rating system for games works. Students will be encouraged to, based on the games they studied or played in Session 3, how they might rate a game based on the parameters of the ESRB.
Chapter 3: Core Design Concepts
- Writing for games
In this session, now that students have a clearer understanding of gameplay styles, the role of the writer, and how writing for games is approached using not only scripts but visual flowcharts will be explored.
Creating lore can be an important aspect of game design, and the origins and implementation of lore with regard to game making will be studied. Along with its creation, understanding how fans use lore to play better, and create their own websites expanding on existing lore will be looked at.
Students will be able to understand more clearly how writers can be involved in the creation of storyboards for games.
Chapter 3: Designing Characters and Props
Students will study how characters and props are designed for games based on the gameplay style, the abilities of the platform and how immersive the game needs to be.
Chapter 3: Animation for Games
- Introduction to the Game Design Document
- Loglines and the game synopsis
Animation for games involves, not only animating characters or play pieces for a game, but also how the interfaces are animated. The important use of storyboards will be presented and how they can be created as an initial plotting for animation. In addition, creating gesture drawings and how they aid the animator with polishing skills for developing performance animation will be reviewed.
Students will also be introduced to the Game Design Document (GDD), the single most important, written document related to any game production. Some of the rudimentary information usually found in GDDs like intended audience, gameplay style and the importance of loglines and the initial synopsis is presented.
For those students who have their own ideas for games, this is an ideal unit to get them started on plotting out how their game could be made. If you choose to have students pursue creating their own game idea, either individually or in groups, then start them on creating a logline and synopsis (overview) with the intent of developing a GDD as they work through the rest of the book.
Chapter 3: Environments
- Creating maps
- 2D versus 3D
- Physics of the world
Students will be introduced to initial map development for games and how they are used to help with level design-plotting out locations and events for a game.
Understanding the differences between designing environments for 2D versus 3D game worlds will also be explored, as will, the physics of the worlds. In other words, will the characters need to move through water, outerspace-any location where the environment can affect gameplay and character movement needs to be determined and planned for.
Chapter 4: Visual Design
- Concept art
- In depth look at development
- Oh WOW! rooms
Students will be encouraged during this unit to study not only what other artists have created for character, prop, interface and environment art, but also start coming up with their own designs.
The emphasis in this session will be on guiding students past the derivative approach to concept work (copying basically what they have seen and liked in other games, comics or animation) and develop skills for coming up with more original work.
Will Luton, creative director for Mobile Pie in England, walks through the steps his company accomplishes from initial idea to finished work on developing an original game for a mobile application.
Artist Franklin Sterling III, creator of the animated short and game project Out There discusses how he comes up with designs for characters and environments.
Artist and instructor Nick Kozis offers ideas on how to break past creating derivative work and come up with new ideas for character design.
Students will be introduced to what an Oh WOW! room is all about.
Chapter 4: Previsualization
- Concept design
- How previs helps determine who does what
- Different types of previs
Concept work is used to launch the previsualization process, where initial ideas for art, animation, and gameplay start to come together. The student will come to understand the increased importance of previs, especially since, there are so many more jobs associated with game production now than even 5-10 years ago.
As students develop GDDs for their own game projects, they will need to start making decisions regarding which person or department specific parts of their project need to be assigned to. The previs process is where those first decisions are made.
There are at least 5 different types of previs regularly used in the industry from pitching ideas to how to handle refinements in the post production process. Students will have the opportunity to gain a greater understanding of this somewhat elusive concept regarding previsualization and how it relates to all phases of game design and production.
Animatics are used more and more in the games industry to help plan out involved gameplay, cinematics and cutscenes. Their relation to previsualization will be examined.
Chapter 5: Detailed Development of Visuals
- Focusing on the demographic
While going through the sessions related to chapter 3, students were introduced to some of the initial steps for designing visuals for a game. This session will delve deeper into more detailed steps involved in creating characters, props, interfaces and environments as they pertain to the demographic.
You are encouraged to have students play a variety of games (links are provided in the book) for different demographics and then report on where the similarities and differences in the design present themselves. After gaining a clearer understanding of the importance of the demographic with relation to game design, encourage your students to write more information in their GDD regarding the demographic for the game they are creating.
Chapter 5: The camera
- Camera Angles
Games are designed from either a first person or third person point of view. The pros and cons for either approach are reviewed including how camera placement is determined. Students should consider for their own GDD not only what POV they wish to implement in their game, but also, how the camera will be used.
Chapter 5: Faux 3D Backgrounds
- What is faux 3D and why was it developed
This exploration will also cover 3D models and how they are designed for games, based on the gameplay style, the abilities of the engine and the delivery system.
Chapter 5: Making models
- 3D models
- Software packages
- Toon shading
This exploration will cover 3D models and how they are designed for games, based on the gameplay style, the abilities of the engine and the delivery system. Students will also be introduced to how models are created from polygons, and then how the mesh is covered with texture/paint and then lit to match the look and feel of the game.
A variety of software packages will be introduced to the students with an in-depth description of their pros and cons with relation to game design.
In addition, students will understand how 2D work can be generated from 3D models through the use of toon shading.
Chapter 5: More Information about Animation
- Character animation
- Animation for interactive and non-interactive elements
- Asset lists
This section deals primarily with the different types of cycles animators need to develop such as the idle, running, fighting, dying and so on.
The use of animation for clickable items on menus and interfaces will be discussed, along with a brief introduction regarding the design of interfaces. Interfaces will be discussed in greater depth in Chapter 6, however, this first session introduces them to some of the rudimentary functions of an interface.
Students are instructed regarding what an asset list is with relation to animation, and encouraged to begin creating their own lists for their GDD, especially for variations and to explain why they might need those.
Chapter 6: Navigation
- How to guide the player
- Most common languages
Information about the basics for guiding players through the game are introduced. These simple concepts will be the foundation for understanding how, in session 17, interfaces are designed and created based on gameplay style, the demographic and playback system.
In addition, information is provided about the most common languages used when adding VO's or written text in a game.
Chapter 6: Interface Design
- Launch Icons
- Spatial Relationships
The unique aspect of launch icons are reviewed along with basic information regarding their size and software packages available to make them, which includes, Windows 7. Students are encouraged to come up with an icon design, one that will work at a very tiny size which is common for most playback systems, and will also showcase some of the branding they are coming up with for any art they have been creating for their GDD.
GUIs and HUDs are discussed, with several examples provided. Again, encourage students to play many different kinds of games to experience for themselves how well the interfaces work, the level of intuition that comes into play when figuring out how to use them and how the design matches the look and feel of the game.
Students should be encouraged to create a Main Menu or toolbar to include with the GDD project.
More technical information is provided regarding spatial relationships through diegetic, non-diegetic, meta and spatial elements. Students should be thinking about this point which type of interface might work best with their project and include those ideas in their GDD.
Chapter 6: Testing
Students will come to understand the difference between quantitative and qualitative testing and the importance of beginning testing as soon as any playable pieces of the game are ready.
It would be good for students to consider writing up a few questions to include with their GDD that could be used to gather testing feedback for the game they are designing.
Chapter 7: Levels
- Creating annotative styles and objects
- Creating layouts
- There are two distinct spaces in which you can create drawings: model space and paper space. Typically, 2D drawings and 3D models are created in model space. Layouts in paper space bring together annotations and drawings to be ultimately plotted on paper or published electronically. In this session you will create annotative objects that always appear in the proper scale, and set up layouts that represent physical sheets of paper.
Chapter 7: Spatial Design
- Adding depth and dimension to the worlds
- Array method
Students will come to understand how, when designing levels for a game, how much space is visible or traversable by the player needs to be taken into consideration. Examples of games that utilize space extremely well are cited in the chapter and students are encouraged to play them, or view video clips, that show how much space the designers have built into the worlds.
The array method, a way of designing navigation through worlds that show space is discussed and students should begin considering which types of navigation should be considered for their GDD project.
Chapter 7: Hub-and-spoke Design
- What is the hub
- What are the spokes
- The hub-and-spoke design is one of the most common used in level design. Students are encouraged to play games that utilize this design and understand how many games that involve RPG or action-adventure gameplay styles utilize this approach.
Chapter 7: Game Design Document (GDD)
- Review of the GDD
- Reference to Appendix C, the Red Harvest GDD excerpt
Students, throughout the course, will have been working individually or in teams on an original GDD. During this session, it would be a great time to review all of the pieces the students have included in their GDD to date, and determine what might need more work.
Showing students examples of existing GDDs at this point would be ideal, in that, all of the information won't overwhelm them since they have been introduced to all of it bit by bit throughout the course.
There are many examples of GDDs that can be found online, especially through www.gamasutra.com. There is also a GDD excerpt from Bedlam games for Red Harvest, and students are encouraged to review this important document along with the comments made in chapter 7 by their creative director, Zandro Chan.
Chapter 8: Music
- Asset lists
- Music for large versus small games
As with the animation study, students will be shown a chart on how to label and categorize sounds, whether they are music, an effect, dialogue or ambient sounds. Students should provide an asset list for their GDD where they anticipate the kinds of sounds, and or music, needed for their project.
Garry Schyman, noted composer for games, talks about how stems are created and the basic approach for bringing a 3rd party composer onboard a project. Links have been provided in the book to Schyman's work, and students are encouraged to listen to these, along with other music for games, to get a sense of style that this signature sound imparts to the game.
Students will also be encouraged to locate examples of how signature sounds for games are used in marketing.
Chapter 8: Ambient Sounds and Speech
- Original sounds
- Editing software and file formats
Brad Beaumont, audio designer with Soundelux DMG in Hollywood, California, reviews how sampling works. He also discusses the pros and cons of using foley and how to create original sounds.
Students will also be introduced to some of the more popular software packages for editing sound and the most common file formats used in industry.
Chapter 8: Sound Effects
- Creating original effects
- Utilizing library sounds
Students will come to understand the pros and cons of using library sounds, and situations when spending the money on creating original sounds should be considered.
As they continue to develop their asset list for audio, have them consider sounds for everything in the game where audio should be considered like speech, interfaces noises and in-game sound.
Chapter 9: Job Descriptions and Game Tracking
- Career paths
- The pipeline
- How to track games
At this point, students should give their GDD a short rest, and focus on the types of careers that the games industry provides. Some of the major job descriptions are provided and then tied in with how pipelines are created for games-in other words-based on the job descriptions provided, how and where do those people fit into the production pipeline.
After reviewing career ideas, refer the students back to their GDD and, after showing how game tracking can be handled with some of the software packages like a Gantt chart, Google Docs or Microsoft Project can be used, have them begin to plot out some of the major milestones for their projects.
Chapter 9: Legal Issues
This section is designed to provide an overview of some of the legal aspects to making games. Students will be introduced to who requires standards and why along with when and where licenses come into the production.
Students are encouraged to visit the website for the copyright bureau and counseled as to when and where consulting an attorney might need to be considered along with how a game can be copyrighted and what the limitations of that protection can be.
Chapter 10: Distribution
The distribution of a game is tied to the platform it is designed for. Students will receive an overview of what the major platforms are, and what some of the trends are in the industry.
Methods for making money through micro-transactions is reviewed in light of its popularity among independent game designers, and how successful it has been for the Farmville franchise. Students are encouraged to play Farmville along with other social games cited in the test and see how much advertising is used along with micro-transactions.
Chapter 10: Marketing
- Product placement
- In-game ads
- Other marketing avenues
Students will be shown examples of different types of marketing including how games themselves can be venues for advertising as with product placement, in-game ads and advergames.
Other avenues for marking games will also be introduced to the student including viral marketing, using the web and methods for marketing to specific demographics. Students are encouraged to come up with examples of different marketing approaches by having them play games online through the different portals cited in the text and searching YouTube videos for examples of advertising created for games.
Course review; may include question-and-answer session, review of Assessment Test questions, or other review practices. Students will complete work on their GDD prior to submitting that for final review.