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

Fall 2011
T/TH 11:50-1:20
CDM 00634 Loop Campus

Professor: Brian Schrank
bschrank [at]
Office Hours: T/TH 1:30 - 2:30 (if I'm not in the 634 lab I'll be in my office in 515)

DePaul University
College of Computing and Digital Media

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):

  • coming up with interesting game mechanics and appealing gameplay scenarios.
  • working within realistic technical constraints (you're probably not going to make Portal).
  • communicating your vision by writing clear design docs.
  • doing some programming (Unity makes this easy, so don't worry).

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

  • writing reliable code in C#, JavaScript, or Boo.
  • interpreting squishy design-speak into actual 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 tweak code to improve the gameplay experience.

There will likely be a shortage of artists in this class. If you don't have the benefit of a dedicated artist on your team, you will have to figure out how to make an impressive mod without them. In that case, you must either find the perfect content online (which is unlikely), or come up with a game world comprised of primitive objects (e.g. cubes), or procedurally generated content, minimal or constrained content (e.g. a black and white game), and so on. Opportunity hides in hardship, turn your constraint into a unique positive.

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

You should work continuously throughout the quarter. Start working early and keep it up.

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

Each of you should be an integral member of your team. You should feel that you can rely on your teammates to help you, and in turn, you should be available and openly offer help if any of your teammates seems to need it or requests help.

Your team must meet at least once a week outside of class. Meeting twice a week is much better if you can pull it off, but it isn't required. Meeting in physical proximity together regularly outside of class is important because it:

  • strengthens social bonds and nurtures your shared vision for your game mod.
  • 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
A record of attendance and tardiness is used in determining your final grade. You are allowed 3 absences before your grade is affected. Tardiness counts as 1/3 of an absence. Each absence beyond the 3rd lowers your grade 1/2 a letter (5 points). 6 absences guarantees a failing grade for the course. It’s up to you to notify me in case of illness or emergency, in which case the absence will be excused. However, the notification must occur before or shortly after an absence or it will not be excused. If you miss class, you are responsible for catching up on missed material by referring to the class website and asking a classmate.

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

Room CDM 634 is your lab for this class and it has all the software you need already installed on all the machines. 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.

Criteria % of Grade Due

Working and Playing Well with Others

20 Daily (including in class)

Blog Activity (including posting your schedule)

10 Weekly

First Mod Pitch

10 9/15

Playtests and Reports

20 (10 x 2) 10/16, 11/10

Alpha Mod Demo and Presentation

15 10/18

Beta Mod Demo and Presentation

25 11/22

Extra Credit* - Helping Others

10 Anytime until 11/15
*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 >= 95
A- >= 92
B+ >= 88
B >= 85
B- >= 82
C+ >= 78
C >= 75
C- >= 72
D+ >= 68
D >= 65
D- >= 62
F+ >= 58
F >= 55

Final grades are calculated: A (90-100), B (80-89.9), C (70-79.9), D (60-69.9), F (below 60).

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.
Meeting with Students
My office hours are on Tuesday and Thursday from 1:30 - 2:30. If I'm not in the 634 lab, I'll be in my office in 515. Always feel free to drop by to casually chat or seriously discuss anything you would like.

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