GAM 392: Game Modification Workshop
Intro Resources Schedule Assignments Readings Teams

Professor: Brian Schrank (call me Brian) www.BrianSchrank.com
Contact: bschrank [at] gmail.com

School of Design
College of Computing and Digital Media
DePaul University

Description
Students in this course will develop skills in game design and production by building a game mod in small teams. Topics include: the game development process (brainstorming, prototyping, testing, iterating, polishing, and presenting/marketing); how to thrive as a team; how to manage your projects; and how to remix existing content and code in a way that enhances your game. A tricky but vital skill taught throughout the course is how to strike and maintain a balance between an impressive, BIG vision and a realistic, SMALL scope to ensure you've successfully created a stunning little piece of entertainment by quarter's end. Class time will consist of lectures, workshops, workdays, playtests and critiques, student presentations, and class discussions.

At the start of the quarter, students will form into multidisciplinary teams of 3-5 (that ideally include at least one artist, one programmer, and one designer). Each team will build a mod using the Unity game engine. Mods will consist of new code and assets created by students as well as code and assets found online. Students will need to coordinate with their teams to meet and work on their projects outside of class.

To perform adequately in this course, students should already possess moderate experience in one of the three core career tracks: art, design, or programming.

ARTISTS should already be skilled in (or eager and ready to learn):

  • conceiving of the core look and vision for a game.
  • working within realistic technical constraints (e.g. poly count limits).
  • communicating your vision verbally and visually by creating evocative concept art.
  • modeling, rigging, texturing, and lighting in Max or Maya.

DESIGNERS should already be skilled (or eager and ready to learn):

  • designers should spend at least 80% of their time WORKING IN ENGINE either programming, iterating on parameter settings, blocking layouts, etc.
  • coming up with novel game mechanics and appealing gameplay scenarios.
  • working within realistic technical constraints (you're probably not going to make Portal).
  • clearly communicating your vision in design docs, Slack comments, etc.

PROGRAMMERS should already be skilled in (or eager and ready to learn):

  • writing reliable code in C#, JavaScript, or Boo.
  • interpreting design-speak into code that captures the spirit of the design.
  • rapidly iterating on code to adjust the FEEL and LOOK of the mod (such as camera control, enemy movement, object behavior, state changes, and so on.).
  • leaning on your team's designer(s) to write code or modify your code to improve the gameplay experience.

PRODUCERS:

Each team will either designate a person to serve as their Producer or the professor may appoint the producer himself. The producer must have a dual-role designation and be “designer and producer” or “artist and producer,” etc. In addition to their other responsibilities, the producer will be responsible for project scheduling, organizing meetings, and always ensuring that the big picture of the project is always being served.

A Strong Work Ethic is vital for success in this course.

Put in 20-30 hours of work a week in this course to be successful.

An Iterative Work Style is vital for success in this course.

Seek and use DAILY feedback on your work. Get it from me, classmates on Slack, playtesters, roommates, anyone who’ll be honest and critical.

A Robust Team Dynamic is vital for success in this course.

Never wait to be told what to do, ask what is needed and be super proactive. Be a leader. Constantly think about what YOU could do to improve the game and then run it by your team before you do it.

Check in with team at least 2x a day on Slack. Post something you made / changed in game (screenshots / builds are good) or comment on a teammate’s post.

Your team must meet or work together at least twice a week outside of class. Meeting in physical proximity together regularly outside of class is important because it:

  • strengthens social bonds and nurtures your shared vision for your game.
  • allows each of you to casually show what you've done in the past week and get feedback.
  • helps you collectively solve challenges that are technical, artistic, or conceptual.

Attendance is required
You are expected to attend all classes and participate in class activities as scheduled. If you miss a class for any reason, you are expected to follow up with the instructor and your team, and find out what was missed and make up any work. A note from a doctor or nurse will be required for an absence to be excused. The third unexcused absence, and each subsequent absence, will result in an automatic final grade deduction of one letter grade. Being late to class counts as 1/3 of an absence. More than 4 absences will result in automatic failure of the course.

Cell Phones and Mobile Devices should not be audible (including audible vibration) during class. Any student who answers a cell phone during instruction or student presentations will be excused for the day.

Lab
This classroom and other game classrooms (CDM634, CDM707, CDM725, CDM920, Daley212, Daley503, and Daley505) all have the software you need already installed. It's available for use anytime except when the university is officially closed or another class is using it. The building and the lab may be closed during official holidays.

Grades
Criteria % of Grade Due

Working well with others

20 daily (including in class)

Blog Activity (including posting your schedule)

10 weekly

Game Pitch

10 see schedule

Playtests and Reports

20 (10 x 2) see schedule

Alpha Demo and Presentation

15 see schedule

Beta Demo and Presentation (Final Exam)

25 see schedule

Extra Credit* - Helping Others

10 anytime
*Extra Credit
The student who you help must notify me by email regarding the duration and nature of the assistance. Roughly 1 hour of help will count as 1% point of extra credit (with a total possible of 10% over the course of the quarter). I reserve the right as to what counts as Extra Credit. It will be allocated and awarded at the end of the quarter.
Letter Grade to Point System Conversion Table:
A+ >= 100
A >= 92
A- >= 90
B+ >= 88
B >= 82
B- >= 80
C+ >= 78
C >= 72
C- >= 70
D+ >= 68
D >= 62
D- >= 60
F+ >= 58
F < 58
Disabilities
A student can request accommodations to academic courses either by contacting me directly and/or by contacting the Productive Learning Strategies (PLuS) Program. For simple requests, like changing seat assignments because of eyesight or hearing limitations, just ask me directly and I'll reserve a seat up front.

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