Experimental Game Studio is an intensive gamemaking class focused on fast prototyping and creative risk-taking. The course is divided in two parts: in the first half of the semester students will be asked to create a game prototype every two weeks starting from an open-ended prompt. This part builds upon the established practices of Game Jams and serial experimentation in independent game development.
In the second half, the most promising prototype will be iterated, playtested, and polished into a complete project. This part can also be used to complete a project started in a different class or context. Students will work in teams of two-three.
This is an advanced class: familiarity with programming and game creation tools is strictly required.
Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
Term: Spring 2022
Course number: 60418
Classroom: CFA 303
Days / time: 07:00PM – 09:50PM Monday + Wednesday
Professor: Paolo Pedercini – paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
Office: School of art 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment
Upon completion of the course you will be able to:
> Scope a project according to limited time and resources
> Work collaboratively across different aspects of game production
> Identify promising concepts and accept failures or dead ends
> Add at least one piece to your creative portfolio
> Contextualize your work within contemporary cultural practices
> Develop your personal style and artistic identity
The first part of the semester will involve 4 fast prototyping assignments, one each two weeks, starting from a theme. The themes will be revealed as we go. Each unit will roughly follow this structure:
Critique of previous assignment
Lecture, theme announcement, group announcement
Structured brainstorming, each unit we will try a different idea generation exercise.
Planning time, the goal is to produce a proof of concept, a look and feel, and a production schedule for the following week.
3rd + 4th sessions:
In class work time.
Profs joins each team for 1 hour.
Qualitative feedback during in-class critiques is the most important form of evaluation, but we live in a quantified society so grades need to happen.
You will be evaluated differently in the two part of the class.
Fast prototyping phase
A – The prototype has all the core functionalities, an aesthetic direction, and attempts to do something innovative
B – The prototype has all the core functionalities, and an aesthetic direction
C – The prototype doesn’t have all the core functionalities, and/or an aesthetic direction. It is not possible to evaluate its potential.
D – no delivery
F – no show
Final project phase
A. Outstanding concept and implementation. It looks and feels like a complete project, not an assignment or prototype.
B. The project is original and complete, all the core components are functional, but it feel unpolished and not ready to “ship”.
C. The game is incomplete and/or the idea is derivative.
D. The game doesn’t work, it has major bugs or is incomplete to a point that is impossible to get a clear idea of the user experience.
E. The student failed to deliver the assignment.
Making (and teaching) games is hard because there different dimension of success and failure.
Ideally your game:
Works as artwork – does something innovative, it’s in dialogue with contemporary artmaking, it tackles complex issues.
Works as experience – the player understands what to do, it’s aesthetically polished, it’s well presented and enticing, the difficulty level and learning curve are adequate for the intended audience.
Works as game – the gameplay is not broken, there are no dominant strategies, the gameplay succeeds in its own terms (a roguelike is replayable, an exploration game makes you want to explore, a match 3 game is addictive).
Works as software – it runs, the features are complete, it doesn’t crash, there are no bugs.
Final grade composition
60% Prototypes – 15% each
30% Final project
10% Class Participation
-A laptop. You don’t need a powerful gaming computer but consider we won’t be working in a computer lab.
-The charger is not optional.
-A 3 button mouse. You can’t work in 3D without it.
Software: all the programs used in this class are free or provided by the school. You may have to purchase some individual licenses and subscriptions to certain games or plugins depending on your project. The overall expenses should not exceed $100.
I’ll ask you to read and sign a little contract. We will discuss it and amend it on the first day of class.
My well being come first, if I am sick I should stay at home. I will inform the professor of my absences via email.
I am responsible to catch up with the class, and to look into the material that I have missed.
I expect most of the class material to be on this website, and understand that many class activities can’t be experienced asynchronously or online.
I am aware that repeated absences may trigger additional scrutiny from the school administration.
I will engage actively in discussions and critiques.
I expect the professor to adopt a variety of critique formats to account for different personality types.
* Net addiction
I value face-to-face interaction, so I commit to not use phones and computers during lectures, critiques, and discussions, ie. any time somebody is speaking to the class.
* Computer habits
I understand that using my personal laptop will require more responsibilities on my side:
-I will disable all push notifications from social media unrelated to class
-I will reboot my system before class and close all the applications
-I will bring and use a mouse when it’s required
-I will bring and use my charger all the time
-I will make sure I have enough room in my hard drive
-I will make sure I have all the required applications installed
-If unable to meet these basic requirement I will use the lab computers
I will use the class Discord to keep up with asynchronous communications, announcements, and questions that could be of general interest.
To keep a proper record, I will use the CMU email for personal communication with the professor.
I will negotiate late assignment submissions with the professor at least 24 hours before the deadline. I understand it will have to be justified and will not be automatically granted.
I will be present and participate to critiques even if I don’t have my work.
I will be in class before the official beginning of the session.
I understand that late arrivals may affect my grade: arriving over 10 minutes late more than 3 times = 10% grade reduction.
I am entitled to a one-to-one meeting with the professor for feedback and general check-in every semester.
*Plagiarism and “collaborations”
I acknowledge that the concept of plagiarism is somewhat elusive in digital media as we working with open source tools and libraries, remixing and building upon the work of a multitude of people.
However I will not outsource the class work to other people nor plagiarize assignments and exercises from my classmates.
These statement apply to both student and instructors:
We will speak from our own experiences (make ‘I’ statements).
We will respect differences; we’re all privileged in some ways.
We agree to critique ideas, not people.
We will not assume the identity of others, nor ask individuals to speak for their perceived social group.
We will hold this as a brave space, where we take risks, be vulnerable and hold each accountable with love and respect.
We agree to have only ‘one mic’: we will listen respectfully without interrupting.
We agree to practice active listening: when someone is speaking, we will listen without also thinking about how we are going to respond/rebut.
We may share what we learn but will keep others’ stories and personal experiences in confidence.
We will ‘move up, move up’: those who tend to speak a lot will ‘move up’ their listening; those who tend
to hold back and listen will ‘move up’ their speaking.
It is my intent that students from all diverse backgrounds and perspectives be well served by this course, and that the diversity that students bring to this class be viewed as a resource, strength and benefit. It is my intent to present activities that accommodate and value a diversity of gender, sexuality, disability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, and culture.
I will gladly honor your request to address you by your preferred name and gender pronoun. I commit to make individual arrangements to address disabilities or religious needs (e.g. religious events in conflict with class meetings). Please advise me of these preferences and needs early in the semester so that I may make appropriate changes to my plans and records.
Debate and free exchange of ideas is encouraged but I will not tolerate harassment, i.e. a pattern of behavior directed against a particular individual with the intent of humiliating or intimidating.
Being in an art school, you should expect to be exposed to content that challenges your moral, ethical, and aesthetic values. In case of extremely graphic content I will warn the class in advance, but if you have a history of PTSD please let me know privately if there are types of content that are known to act as trauma triggers for you.
Collaborative work and projects also fulfilling other classes’ requirements are encouraged as long as it makes sense, and the other professors agree.
Official university language: Take care of yourself. Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.
All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.
If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at http://www.cmu.edu/counseling/. Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.