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

Assignments may change, with notice, to better accommodate the class dynamic.

Unless otherwise noted all assignments are due before class on day they are due.

1) Form Teams - Due 9/7 (by end of day)

You will form into a team of 3-5 students. Your team will last the entire quarter. You have a choice as to how you will form your teams. You can either:

  1. Form the team group yourself (I still have to sign off and approve of your team).
  2. Ask me put you into balanced team groups. Ask me the first day of class.

Once formed your team cannot, under any circumstances, be changed after they're formed. You must work through any problems together as a team. If a teammate drops off the face of the earth you'll have to manage without them.

2) Individual Brainstorms / Pitch them to Team - Due 9/12

EACH STUDENT BRAINSTORMS 50 GAME IDEAS

Every student must brainstorm at least 50 game ideas by themselves. When brainstorming by yourselves keep in mind that the final game will have to deliver ONE MINUTE of awesome gameplay. ONE MINUTE of incredible gameplay is superior to several minutes of good or average gameplay. Review the lecture from the first day of class if you need help or inspiration brainstorming ideas.

EACH STUDENT RATES EACH OF THEIR 50 IDEAS USING THIS METRIC

After each student brainstorms 50 ideas they must rate each idea in terms of how easy it is to make in terms of art, code, and audio (1 hardest - 5 easiest) as well as how innovative and appealing it is (1 least innovative - 5 most innovative). Game ideas that score 9-10 are great because they are easy to develop as well as innovative. Using this scoring process each student selects the top 2-3 ideas and pitches them to her or his team.

EACH STUDENT PRIVATE PITCHES 2-3 IDEAS TO THEIR TEAMS

In these pitches you present to your team outside of class include:

  1. Game Titles - offer at least 3 different titles for your game idea
  2. Game Goal - is the game is supposed to 1) win game festivals, 2) become a successful commercial indie title, 3) or get it onto art galleries
  3. Easy to make - explain why is your idea 1) easy to prototype, 2) easy to art, 3) and easy to finish with a ton of polish in a quarter
  4. Innovative and Appealing - explain why is your game innovative and appealing

Each student must post all of their brainstorm and pitch materials to their team's blog. Even if your idea isn't picked by your team, you'd be surprised how often some detail will provide a cool answer to some design problem that arises later in the development process.

3) Build Your Team's Game Studio - Due 9/14

CREATE A SLACK GROUP:

Go to https://slack.com/ to create a group for your team. Create channels for art, design, audio, and programming, as well as any other channels you wish. Use Slack to communicate quickly and easily with your team.

CREATE A BLOG:

Chose one person to go to Blogger.com and create a team blog. After the blog is created go to Settings > Permissions and add all your teammates as authors.

Please use your full name. Or, if you want more privacy use first name + last name initial (e.g. "Jane S.") for all author names so it's easy to tell who's posting what.

If you need help here's a detailed walkthrough on creating team blogs.

CHOOSE YOUR TEAM'S PRODUCER:

The producer is not the leader or director of the project. They can't unilaterally make decisions for the team. They have no more authority than anyone else on the team to tell others what to do.

What the producer does do, however, is pay special attention to things that effect the entire group. They accomplish this by performing three additional tasks:

1) Regularly update the team's schedule. The plan to complete the game will need to be periodically adjusted to address emerging issues and opportunities.

2) Lead through example. For example, if a teammate lacks confidence or is doing poorly for whatever reason, the producer should privately lend an ear to the student and offer encouragement or advice if necessary.

3) Think about and foster a positive team dynamic. For example, brainstorms are much more successful if food and drinks are incorporated (sugary snacks and caffeine are helpful!). The producer doesn't necessarily have to bring refreshments, just make sure that it is brought by somebody.

The producer role is adopted in schools that have very high placement rates in the game industry, such as Carnegie Mellon University. Saying you were a producer on a project that was successful (i.e. the game is well-crafted and innovative) gives you a critical edge on your job competition.

4) As a Team, Pitch Your Game to the Class - Due 9/14

As a team, come up with a game idea that you'll develop over the course of the quarter. The games must be easy to develop in terms of art and gameplay, innovative in their gameplay, and use 1 or 2 buttons as their input to limit scope and maximize polish. The goal of your game is to win independent game festivals like IndieCade etc.

The idea you pitch can be from your individual brainstorms or some new idea that you all come up with together. The purpose of the pitch is to establish a clear understanding of the kind of game your team wishes to make. Internally, this helps everyone on your team get on the same page. Externally, it helps us understand exactly what you're hoping to do and provide informed feedback. Any team that pitches a game that seems too complicated or not innovative will be rejected and you will have to present a new game idea next week. If you pitch twice you can still get an A if the second pitch is great.

Pitch Format:

Include all 6 of these in your Power Point presentation:

  1. Game Titles - offer at least 3 different titles for your game idea
  2. Easy to make - explain why your idea is 1) easy to prototype, 2) easy to art, 3) and easy to finish with a ton of polish in a quarter
  3. Innovative and Appealing - explain why is your game innovative and appealing
  4. Mechanic - loose sketches clearly illustrating your core mechanic in the game context
  5. Precendents Overview - list the most similar games to yours in terms of gameplay
  6. Approximate Screenshot - loosely sketch what the player will see on screen. How big and where in relation to each other are things onscreen?
  7. Art Style - loose sketches showing art style

The entire pitch should be around three minutes long. Everyone on the team must speak and present at some point during the pitch. Chose someone from the team to take notes during feedback. Each team will receive several minutes of feedback from the class.

How to Pitch Effectively:

Thoroughly practice the pitch with your team outside of class before you present it in class.

Your pitch should be lively throughout. Make your presentation image-heavy rather than text-heavy. Speak over a series of images rather than read screen after screen of bullet points.

5) Write a Weekly Blog Post Each Thursday: 9/14-11/16

Each student must write a weekly post that covers:

  • What you've done in the past week on your game? What obstacles did you overcome?
  • What you'll do for the next week? What challenges do you currently face?

This should take you all of 2 minutes each week. It doesn't need to be a lengthy post, a couple sentences will suffice. The purpose is to help you stay connected with your team and for everyone to stay on the same page. It also helps teams keep track of each other and me can keep track of your individual and team efforts.

Post images or video captures of anything new and cool you've just completed. Whether it's a new design doc, animation loop, or clever enemy movement algorithm, video evidence of your work energizes your team and gets other people (including myself) excited to play the next iteration of your game. Once in a while I'll spam the class with really cool things that you do.

6) Simple Fun Prototype: 9/19

Teams revise ideas based on feedback and work on prototyping their core ideas as quickly as possible. ASK FOR HELP AND ADVICE FROM THE TUTORING LAB, CLASSMATES, UNITY FORUMS, ANYWHERE YOU CAN.

If you cannot prototype the core gameplay in a week, or if you do prototype it but it is not fun (but frustrating, boring, confusing, etc.) you will have to revise your game idea and repitch.

The goal in this prototype is to show that the core mechanic is fun and the game is within scope for this class. Program everything using throwaway code. Whatever you do DO NOT program systems, just handcraft everything and do it quick. The goal with this assignment is to get your game working at its most basic level and see if it is fun and within scope for the class.

Artists should rapidly produce sketchy, rough art that approximates the look and feel of what you're going for. If the sky in your final game will be purple then make your sky purple. If enemeies are going to be 2x the size of the player then make them approximately that size.

Decide what the 2-3 most important sounds are for the prototpe, for example maybe it's "player tapping punch" and "enemy getting punched". Find sound placeholders online, for example here is a woosh sound for "player tapping punch" and here is "enemy getting punched" at www.sounddogs.com and put them in the prototype.

7) Establish and Maintain a Schedule - Due 9/28 (with regular updates)

Establish a production schedule for the quarter. Each item and task should have a begin and end date as well as who is responsible for it. Here is an example production schedule.

Break each list item into its component steps. For example a 3D character would need 1) concept art; 2) 3D model; 3) UV; 4) texture; 5) rig; 6) walk animation; 7) run; 8) attack; 9) getting hurt; 10) dying, etc. If you have a score at the top of the screen that has to be arted as well. Be sure to include EVERTHING the game will need.

Post the schedule to your team's blog.

As your schedule changes in the future you need to post the revised schedule to your blog.

8) Conduct Tissue Playtests and Write a Report - Due 10/10

Find 5 people in your target demographic who are NOT IN THE CLASS and who are unfamiliar with your game idea.

Print out these questions to help guide you (PDF from Fullerton's Game Design Workshop)

For a much better but more elaborate guide Print these out (From Salen, Fullerton, Schell)

Test your latest working prototypes(s) with each of them. Coach them as little as possible to get honest feedback. It will be painful for you to shut up and watch them play if they are struggling, but it will be extremely insightful. Consult the lecture and the two readings on playtesting to not squander this opportunity to improve your game.

Your game might still be in pieces, which is fine. For example, you might have several working prototypes of different sections of the game that will later be stitched together into a single level. Every play tester should play all of your latest protoypes.

Write a one page report (150-200 words) describing what you learned and what you will change in the game. List at least 10 changes you will make to your game based on the playtests. I'm not grading this for eloquence but SPELL CHECK and use proper grammar.

Each team should post the report to their blog.

9) Alpha Milestone, Video, and Presentation - Due 10/19

ALPHA BUILDS:

Each team's alpha build should be festival-worthy at this point and be feel very polished. Show off your skills and potential in terms of art, gameplay, and audio. Focus on 30 seconds of fun gameplay that deliver upon these criteria:

  1. Core gameplay loop. Make sure that average players in your target demographic can
  2. immediately begin playing without much explanation or setup. Make sure they can discern what is happening in the game easily, plan their actions, perform their actions, and once performed determine if their actions had the player's intended effect or not. The goal is to design a game that is easy to learn (they know what to do) but hard to master (they keep trying to get better at doing it). A way to measure if you have a well-designed gameplay loop is if players want to keep replaying your short games until they can perform well.
  3. Clarity. For each frame of the gameplay the player should know exactly what state the game is in, and what state each element is in (e.g. is enemy X attacking or dodging).
  4. Agency and intuitive controls. The player should always know what to do and potential actions they can take.
  5. Precision. Match up the visual and animated elements with coded events or hitboxes. Hitboxes are often not perfectly aligned with graphical representations. Look at every single pixel and take the time to tweak things until they are perfectly aligned.
  6. Reactivity. Make everything move/happen exactly when they should move/happen and not a frame late. For example, remove the few milliseconds of silence at the beginning of sound effects or any latency between pressing jump and the avatar actually launching up.
  7. Positive and negative feedback. The player should know every frame if their input was successful or a failure. Don't make them think. Make good events punchy, positive and easy to hear and read. Similarly make bad events punchy, negative and easy to hear and read.

VIDEO:

Each team's Alpha presentation will begin with a one minute video of actual screen-captured footage of gameplay. The purpose of this video is to provide a sense of progress on what you've concretely accomplished so far. This footage can be edited in any way you like. You're trying to sell the game to your audience, so edit out the confusing and boring bits.

Upload the video to YouTube or Vimeo and post the link (or embed the video) on your team's blog.

Do not add music or any audio over the top of the imagery that is not coming from the game itself (i.e. don't add cool sounds/music if it's not in the game).

Add whatever descriptive text you like over the footage or add text spliced between shots if that will help explain what we're seeing. This convention is commonly used in game trailers, for example. You shouldn't speak over the video, let it speak for itself.

PRESENTATION:

Following the one minute video, your team will briefly present a progress report for a minutes on your game. You do not need slides or anything. Do not prepare any.Don't discuss anything you've cut from the game, nobody cares. Describe where you are and what you will accomplish for the Beta Milestone in several weeks.

Each team will receive several minutes of feedback from the class.

Chose someone from the team to take notes during feedback.

10) Conduct Final Playtests and Write Report - Due 11/9

Find 5 people in your target demographic who are not in the class who are unfamiliar with your game plan and idea.

Print out these questions to help guide you (PDF from Fullerton's Game Design Workshop)

For a much better but more elaborate guide Print these out (From Salen, Fullerton, Schell)

Test your latest working builds(s) with each of them. Coach them as little as possible to get honest feedback. Consult the reading on playtesting to not squander this opportunity to make your improve game.

Your game might still be in pieces, which is fine. For example, you might have several working builds of pieces of the game that will later be stitched together into a single game level. Have each play tester play each part of your game.

Write a one page report (150-200 words) describing what you learned and what you will change in the game.

Each team must post the report to their team blog.

11) Beta Milestone, Video, Presentation - November 21

DEMO:

Upload your team's final games in an archive to the web. Post the download link on your team's blog.

Each STUDENT must write a blog post listing what they contributed to the game.

Each TEAM must write a blog post listing what they DID NOT make but downloaded and USED in their game.

VIDEO:

Each team's Beta presentation will begin with a one minute video of actual screen-captured footage of gameplay. The purpose of this video is to provide a sense of what your team has finally accomplished. This footage can be edited in any way you like. You're trying to sell the game to your audience, so edit out the confusing and boring bits.

Upload the video to YouTube or Vimeo and post the link (or embed the video) on your team's blog.

Do not add music or any audio over the top of the imagery that is not coming from the game itself (i.e. don't add cool sounds/music if it's not in the game).

Add whatever descriptive text you like over the footage or add text spliced between shots if that will help explain what we're seeing. This convention is commonly used in game trailers, for example. You shouldn't speak over the video, let it speak for itself.

PRESENTATION:

Following the one minute video, your team will present for three minutes on your final game. This presentation can either be a:

  • POSTMORTEM in which you describe what you learned in the process of making your game.
  • SALES PITCH in which you don't talk about mistakes or what you've cut, but instead you present the game in the best light possible in hopes to get people to like and play it.

It should be super obvious whether you are doing a postmortem or a sales pitch. Just do one or the other, don't try to do both.

Each person on the team must speak at some point in the presentation.

Each team will receive several minutes of feedback from the class.

12) Complete Peer Reviews of Your Teammates - Due TBA

Rate how the folks on your team were to work with.

 

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