VA 306 – Intro to Game Design (Spring 2012)

Class is over! (Hooray!) Good luck, and have a great summer!
May 9, 2012, 7:06 pm
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Thanks to everyone for providing such a great class this semester!

I hope you will continue to look to games for inspiration and as an element of design.

There was some really excellent work produced, and I hope you have now learned a newfound respect for game design and for the potentials for games. Remember that while games are fun, they are also a medium of expression and so should be respected as such.

If you want to continue working with board games, check out the Board Game Designers Forum. They have game design challenges and can also help you share your projects.

Game on!


Finals Week Update
May 2, 2012, 7:47 pm
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It was pointed out today that there is actually a major error in the syllabus schedule, mainly we do not meet next Monday. Finals are:

Wednesday, May 9, 1:40-4:10 PM

Sorry for any confusion this may have caused.


List of all graded materials for Spring 2012
May 2, 2012, 7:11 pm
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Below is a list of all the materials you will be graded on. The percentage each of these is worth is listed below. The pop quiz and responses are all included as part of the blog design notes grade.

  • Game Design Blog                                   Mandatory
  • Game Designs (7 + 6 revisions)             50%
  • Game Design Portfolio                             10%
  • Blog Design Notes                                   20% (15% for 3000-level)
  • Player Feedback                                     10%
  • Postmortems and Presentations            10% (15% for 3000-level)

The final day to have your blogs updated is Wednesday, May 9 before class. No work submitted past this date will be graded.

  • Games: 7, plus 2 major revisions.
  • Game design blogs (13). Includes one for each game (7) and each minor and major revision (6). Blogs include game rules, explanation of the design process, and playtest observations.
  • Responses on other student blogs (13 for 2000-level; 26 for 3000-level).
  • Game Design Lessons: 15
  • Postmortems and Postmortem presentations (2)
  • Presentation (3000-level only)
  • Pac-Man Post-Mortem response
  • Art Game Response
  • Pop Quiz 1

Grading scale is based on the following scale:

  • 95-100 – A
  • 90-94 – A-
  • 86-89 – B+
  • 83-85 – B
  • 80-82 – B-
  • 76-79 – C+
  • etc.

Postmortems and Presentations for Wednesday, May 9
May 2, 2012, 6:59 pm
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Your postmortems are due on Wednesday, May 9. We will not be meeting any more after May 9, so you will not show up during finals week. The postmortem instructions are basically identical to the previous postmortems, with one addition: a list of your and brief description of your three best games. The postmortem includes both a writeup of your postmortem for your blog and a presentation of that postmortem. You will use the blog as part of your presentation.

Postmortems overview the things that went right and went wrong with a game’s development cycle. For the postmortems we’ll be doing, you will need the following:

  1. Give a short postmortem presentation (15-20 minutes) in class next Wednesday (May 9).
  2. Your postmortem is on the game you have been polishing the past two weeks.
  3. Your postmortem begins with a brief description of your three best games in your portfolio and how they work.
  4. Describe your reasons behind choosing the game you decided to polish.
  5. Write three things that went right with the design process and a detailed explanation of each.
  6. Write three things that went wrong with the design process and a detailed explanation of each.
  7. Conclude with your thoughts on the entire design process and the big lesson you learned.
  8. Put your postmortem on your blog no later than Wednesday, May 9 before class. Use this as part of your presentation.
  9. Late material will not be accepted.

Portfolio Details
May 2, 2012, 6:49 pm
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Your portfolios are due on the final day of class, Wednesday, May 9. Your portfolio is worth 10% of your grade. The portfolio consists of:

  1. A post on your blog linking to your three best games.
  2. One of these three games should be very polished and will be judged on the soundness of the rules, playability, and visual presentation. You will bring this polished game into class on Wednesday.
  3. A postmortem of this game on your blog before class on Wednesday.
  4. A printed copy of the rules or e-mail me a copy of the game if it is digital.
  5. A link to your Scratch page on the sidebar of your blog (can be added under your Dashboard under Links).

Be sure to have all of this done before class on Wednesday. No late materials accepted.

Reading Assignment for Wednesday, May 2 – Game Design Portfolio
April 30, 2012, 6:58 pm
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For Wednesday, make sure you read Brenda Brathwaite’s “The Game Design Portfolio: Is there such a thing?” as we will be talking about what exactly you need in your portfolios.

This article is also available on Brenda’s blog (which is a nice website, actually), although it doesn’t have such a nice muted text background and pictures as the Game Career Guide version.

Brenda also has a TED Talk, Gaming for understanding, that was just released. It is just under 10 minutes.



Final Challenge: Revise and Polish a Game
April 25, 2012, 7:28 pm
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Your final challenge is to take one of your games – say, the one you feel most strongly about – and revise and polish it for the rest of the semester.

  • First make sure the mechanics of the game are 100% sound and as balanced as possible.
  • Then work on the visual appearance of the piece. Make it look as slick and polished as possible.
  • The polishing process also includes cleaning up your rule set.
  • Finally, consider other elements for your project, such as the game box: how will you present your game to your audience?

The last day for working on and playtesting assignments will be May 7, but you are welcome to continue revising past the class.

On the final day of class (Wednesday, May 9), you will present your work to the rest of the class.

Readings for Wednesday, April 25
April 23, 2012, 7:13 pm
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The last game in the art games series you should look at is But That Was Yesterday by Michael Molinari (two of his other games are available on his website). Note if you have a machine that’s about 7 years old, you probably won’t be able to play it at full speed (it runs fine on a dual-core machine and above, but is unplayable on machines with single core processors).

We will also have a presentation on Brian Moriarty’s famous GDC presentation, “The Secret of Psalm 46”.

Readings for Monday, April 23
April 18, 2012, 7:27 pm
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For next Monday, continue to revise your art games.

Think closely about what your purpose behind the game is and what symbolisms you are using through mechanics and imagery. Work on polishing those connections as well as solving any problems with your game’s mechanics.

Also, take a look at Knytt Stories. Note this game is for Windows only.


Wednesday, April 18
April 16, 2012, 4:52 pm
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For Wednesday, play Jason Rohrer’s game Gravitation and read his artist’s statement for more ideas.

Here’s a couple guidelines to keep in mind as well when revising your games.

When creating a game with the focus on gameplay:

  • Mechanics first.
  • Revise and polish.
  • Concept last.

When using mechanics for the game’s message:

  • Concept first.
  • Mechanics second.
  • Revise and polish.

The difference between these two methods is the difference between Mario 64 and Gravitation. That’s pretty much the difference between these two design styles in a nut shell.