Category: assignments

Final Project

I’ll be keeping track of the production of each project using this spreadsheet and adding milestones on this page so save them on your bookmarks.

1. Proposal – Monday November 2nd

Submit a proposal including:

Title or Working Title

Description one paragraph elevator pitch, the description you’d put on a distribution channel, something that characterizes it as unique.

Art/Research statement what are you trying to do with this project? What are the experimental elements? What’s the emotional response you are trying to solicit? What are you own parameters for success?

Mock Screenshot an image representing the style and the mood you are trying to achieve.
Here are some exploratory concepts for an upcoming game. This is how the game is looking now

3 Game references that are direct inspirations or have something in particular to teach you

3 Non-Game References that are direct inspirations or have something in particular to teach you

2. Prototype – Wednesday November 11th

A playable proof of concept. If 3D, use placeholder assets and primitives.
A prototype is meant to explore the basic gameplay, test the possibilities of the concept, its potentials and possible pitfalls. Typically it’s something you throw away when you start developing the actual game (in our case it probably won’t).

If your game is text/language heavy or has branching choices prototype it in Twine or on paper first.
If your game relies on environmental storytelling make a top down “level” design on paper first.
If your game involves puzzles describe them on paper first (illustrations, list of tasks, flowchart etc).

Check Journey’s prototypes here

How to Prototype a Game in Under 7 Days
How to Game Jam
The Door Problem (how game design works in a big company)

3. Mood board / Audio and Visual Style guides – Monday November 16th

A mood board is a collection of images from any media (not only videogames!) that together create an overall idea of the art direction for the project.
Similarly, the audio mood board collects music and samples from any type of source (not only videogames!).
Gradually the mood board should become a style guide which defines the visual language of the game and sets guidelines for consistency: color palette, view, interface design.


A fully developed character guide

4. Production document – Monday November 16th

Prepare a simple spreadsheet showing what you are planning to implement week by week from now to December 11. Your project will be evaluated according to these these agreed goals.
Make it on Gdocs and share it with me (paolo.pedercini at- gmail).

5. Alpha – Monday November 23th

The Alpha is a version of the game that contains 100% of the basic features, the game interaction and logic. It typically doesn’t have polished graphics and sounds nor all the “levels” but it should be possible to play it and have a clear sense of the final game experience.

6. Beta – Wednesday December 9th

The Beta version of a game is basically the finished game, except for visual and audio fixes and polishing, tuning, and technical debugging. The following week before the presentation (release) should be devoted to playtesting.

7. Gold / exhibition – December 15th (probably)

Assignment: Walking Simulator


The Urban dictionary definition for walking simulator:

A walking simulator is a type of video game which lacks many of the traditional aspects of a game (such as a goal, win/loss conditions, any kind of game system to interact with) despite taking the form of a video game. The phrase implies that there is basically nothing to do in the game other than walking around.

A: I sent you a new game on Steam, check it out.
B: Gone Home? That’s not even a game, it’s a walking simulator.

Originally a derogatory term, it has been reclaimed by critics and authors to describe a genre emerged after the success of titles like Dear Esther, Gone Home and the Stanley Parable, facilitated by the existence of powerful and accessible games engines like Unity and by the revival of VR technologies.

Walking simulators often employ environmental storytelling: the game environment, its ecology and its objects are the main a narrative devices, as opposed to traditional exposition.

This is how this assignment is structured:

1. Homeplay – by Wednesday 14th:
Play these influential walking simulators

2. Readings – by Wednesday 14th:
Read the following texts and post a page-long response in the blog/student area, either expanding on the readings or applying these insights to a game you know.

Walking simulators (Notgames) as reappropriation of game technologies and refusal of simplistic objective oriented tasks (2010) – also see: notgame manifesto

Walking simulators as works concerned with world building

Walking simulator as secret box puzzles

What happened here? Talk on Environmental storytelling

4. Homeplay II – by Wednesday 21th:
Play a smaller free (or pay what you want) exploration game of your choice among these:

5. Tech test – by Wednesday 21th:
Starting from the example presented in class, create one explorable room/environment employing some minimal environmental storytelling and a Unity “trick” we didn’t cover in class. You’ll be presenting the environment and the “trick” you used in class.

The goals are to familiarize with the pipeline and figure out the amount of narrative vs visual polish, abstraction vs realism, you are more comfortable with.

6. Project pitch – by Monday 26th
Bring 2 ideas in class for a walking simulator scoped to be implemented in 2 weeks.
Some issues to consider:

Desert world trope: autonomous agents, NPCs, AIs, and dynamic environments are just too hard to implement. Figure out a narrative “excuse” for an environment without other humans and consider turning it into the main plot/mystery device.
E.g.: it’s a dream, rapture happened, parents are on vacation, desert island, only person in a space station, everybody died, metaphysical space, you are lost, etc.

Indirect storytelling: how can you tell a story (presumably the story of the people who aren’t there because they are too hard to implement) without linear exposition?
E.g.: objects, recorded sound bits, written notes, interior monologues, object-related flashbacks, etc.

Invisible Walls: you won’t have the time to create huge environments. Consider a world that is inherently self contained, whose boundaries are narratively reasonable.
E.g.: island, ship, moon base, prison, a camp in Antartica, metaphysical/surreal, house in the woods during a storm.

Style: how can you make something beautiful and unique without the budget, time, and experience of a game company? How can you make your style work with your game narrative/world?
e.g.: low-poly, 2.5D, voxels, no textures, minimalist environments, etc.

Assignment: Virtual Character

Assignment: Use a “visual novel” editor to create a multiple choice dialogue with a virtual character.

Try to stick to one or very few characters (max 3)

Use variables to track the knowledge or internal state of the character, not only static branching

You can make it goal-oriented (persuade the character) but avoid “dating sims” tropes

Don’t assume the subject of the conversation is the NPC or the player (first date scenario). The player is playing a role too and her/his character may be already familiar with the npc.

What’s the type of conversation: Interview? Date? Interrogation? Fight? ect.
What’s the power relationship between the two character?
What’s the initial predisposition of the player and NPC? Friendly? Bored? Aggressive?
What are the characters’ desires and motivations? How can you create meaningful conflict?

Even if the device a conversation, the social context can be the real subject of the game. Where are these characters? Which positions they occupy in society?

If you have trouble creating a character from scratch, take inspiration from an existing one belonging to a fictional universe you know intimately and change her context. How would Han Solo behave in a Silicon Valley startup? What happens if you transfer Spock in a Western scenario?

Stock characters can be good raw material to tweak and subvert.

Part I (Wednesday 30)

Design two characters and propose two conversation’s scenario (description of the situation and possible outcomes).

Part II (TBD)

Delivery and critique. Post a screenshot on the blog, a one-liner description and a link to the game.

Assignment: Flick Game

Play all the flick games here

Then make your own. FlickGame
Make a little storyboard and a simple character study first.
No written dialogs.
No stick men.
Use a tablet. Go to the lab or check one out from the cluster.
Original characters.
Don’t include me in the game.

Pick a conflict from


I killed an old man in This War of Mine

I had killed thousands of lives in virtual world. I killed them using cold weapons in Mount & Blade. I gave them head shots in Call of Duty. I teared them into pieces by my magics in World of Warcraft. I killed them so I won and got promotions, rewards, and more power. I got everything in these worlds by killing. So in these world we are killing for fun. The mechanics and systems behind these games are designed to encourage killing in certain areas and circumstances. So in these kind of games, I don’t remember how many lives taken away by me because I kill everyday and the lives are actually similar to my character.

Then I met sandbox games. In Skyrim, Fallout New Vegas and Watch Dog, mechanics and systems provide more variations on solving a problem. You can choose to kill since that is the most traditional way. But you have other options, such as bribe and persuasion. Compared to the games mentioned in the last paragraph, these games are less violent and more optional. Still, I don’t remember how many lives I killed too because killing is just one way to solve a problem (mostly a task) in the worlds. I am care about finishing a task instead of my way to finish it.

This War of Mine
This War of Mine

However, I killed an old man in This War of Mine. I killed him in a game one month ago but I still remember all the details of my behaviors and my mental process. And I still feel guilty. I Let me tell you that. My character was a cooker at that night, one of my companions was in charge of night watching at home and the other one was badly sicked in bed. I was going outside to scan for resources. I need food for my group and I need medicine to save my companion. Hospital was taken up by a group of soldiers so I had to test my lucks on an shabby building. It was said that there are foods and medicines but dangers as well so I took my pistol. Entering the building is pretty simple because it is a big building and few people lived here. I tried to be polite at beginning avoid entering the room which is taken up by others. I scanned for hours but failed to find anything useful. Even my character were murmuring that he is hungry.  So I decided to take a risk. I entered a kitchen which is obviously belong to someone else. Then I got some food successfully and no one spotted me. Since I had stolen something, then I think I should steal more since there was already a penalty for stealing. So I walked around and entered a bedroom. All I spotted was the clear icon floating on the bed which showed that there was items inside. So I clicked that and my character found medicines! Oh, I can save my companions life! I took them. Suddenly, a dialogue popped out, “Don’t take the medicine. I need them”. Then I found that there is an old man lying on the bed. Obviously, he was ill. Actually, in the game, I always try to help others. I traded my medicine to one of the son whose father is ill to save his life. I went outside to help my neighbors. But now I was taking other’s medicines, I was taking his life supplements away. Without any hesitation, I pulled out my gun and shot at his three times before he died. I run away and back to home. Finally, my companion still died in sickness because it was too severe and I was killed when suffering a robbery later.

Why I kill that old man? I keep thinking about it. Rationally, killing a non-enemy using bullets is a waste of bullets and they are precious in the game. The instant thought is that I took his medicine so he would die. I was just try to make it easier. It was nice to him. But now I can admit that I killed him because I felt guilty to steal his medicine and his existence was evidence of my guilty. So I killed him for my own relief.

Emotional Behaviors
Emotional Behaviors

Emotions in game are precious and important. So one interesting question is why I feel guilty to that exact old man instead of the former bodies on my game experience path. I consider the followings might be part of the reasons.

First, in This War of Mine, there is no exact goal for players. Players struggle with survival everyday, but the game never says that is your goal. Without a goal, players cannot blame killing to game. They have to take their own responsibility for their own behaviors.

Second, when a character kill someone his mood and his companions’ and his moods will be low for several days. Exposed to others makes players more affected by social opinions.

Third, NPCs are responsive to the world. If the old man was just lying down or kept saying before I took medicine. I won’t feel he reacted to my behavior. Then I do not care about him any more.

Fourth, I died from robbery from someone else. I feel the hopelessness when suffering it.

In sum, This War of Mine provides a successful example of how to create a realistic and impressive world by an innovative way, evoking emotions.

Limbo Reflection

A while ago I played Limbo on my iPhone. I played it with a friend over the course of several weeks. The most thought provoking part for me was the elongated death scenes. I was often so eager to move on after a failure (and there were many failures) that I got impatient with the animation. Every time I died, I had to watch my character be impaled, or sink, or drown… The animations were intricate and individualized and beautiful. Clearly a lot of attention was paid to the death scenes and they were important (in a morbid way). After a few occurrences my own irritation became obvious to me and the lightness with which we take death and failure in video games. With a single minded commitment to completing the puzzle, and given the opportunity to immediately restart and often not deal with the consequences of failure… games that force the viewer to experience death in a slow and (slightly inconvenient way) really interrupt the gameplay and for me make me think of the incongruousness in experiencing failure in games.

Receiver – Zen and Immersive Difficulty


For over a month during high school, I played a game called Receiver for at least an hour every day. Initially this was because I was hell-bent on beating it, but as I tried to finish this short little game over and over it became an abnegative, almost meditative experience. Receiver is a first-person shooter made by Wolfire Games, originally developed as part of the 7 Day FPS Challenge. At its core, it’s a game where the player moves through a semi-randomly generated world, fighting robots and collecting a set of 11 tapes. This concept is expanded into a game which, for the right player, uses its mechanical difficulty to highlight its themes and create extremely engaging gameplay.

Receiver’s main claim to fame is its gun mechanics, which are some of the closest to operating an actual gun you can find in video games: every action you can perform with a handgun has a key bound to that action in-game. For example, if you’re using the basic handgun and want to reload, you have to remove the clip from the handgun, put the gun in its holster, insert bullets one by one into the clip, pull your gun back out of its holster, put the clip back into the gun, and cock said gun. The closest thing you get to a tutorial is being able to open a list of all the key commands for your gun, and the devs decided to give you a convenient ‘drop whatever you’re holding’ button that has no purpose in-game beyond letting the player accidentally drop their gun while attempting to use it.

The player looks into a room while pulling back his gun's slide. They have about 2.5 seconds to either hide or eliminate the turret before it kills them.
The player looks into a room while pulling back his gun’s slide. They have about 2.5 seconds to either hide or eliminate the turret before it kills them.

On top of that, Reciever’s world operates on a relatively simple, but extremely harsh, ruleset. taking a single bullet kills you. Getting hit by one of the small flying, electrified drones kills you, falling off of the endless skyscraper you’re exploring kills you. Falling relatively short distances kills you: Indeed attempting to travel down a flight of steps at a full sprint is liable to kill you.

The interesting thing about having a game that’s so difficult to actually operate is that is requires an extremely high level of focus for the player to learn and play the game. By necessity it requires extremely deep immersion. The kind of immersion that, once you get good at playing, has you trying to dodge a slew of bullets by near-leaping sideways out of your chair when you mess up.

However, it is not the game’s mechanical difficulty alone that makes it special. It is that fact that it’s difficulty is almost exclusively mechanical difficulty. If it were simpler to play, you would likely see every environment that it has to offer in under an hour, and anyone remotely versed in FPS and stealth gameplay would see nothing new. To put it simply the game is highly repetitive.

The world is composed of about 10 different areas permutated into an endless skyscraper.
The world is composed of about 10 different areas permutated into an endless skyscraper.

This combination of challenge is, for a normal gaming audience, terrible. But Receiver isn’t so much a game as it is a sort of skill. This is why I am willing to call the game meditative. Zen buddhism explores the concept of unconscious mastery of a skill as a form of meditation: That being able to do something extremely complex tasks without thinking allows the actor to enter a special mental space. The historical example for this idea is archery, but the exact same idea of unconscious mastery through repetition is ever-present in, and fundamental to, Receiver.

I never actually beat Receiver, and I have only found one documented case of it being beaten . This game, that I devoted days to can be beaten in 25 minutes. Frankly, I would have been unsurprised to learn that it was in fact unbeatable. The game’s story is based on the concept that you are trapped in some form of lower reality, and collecting the tapes (messages from higher beings) will somehow set you free. A simple enough narrative that has a strong links with both buddhist philosophy and the game’s mechanics. Receiver is very cyclical. the second you fail you start anew, with a similar but different map, possibly a different gun, but the same goal and exact same behaviours. And it is because so little changes when you play it that this Zen state is explorable in Receiver.

Homeplay: Gone Home and game criticism

gone-home1) Play Gone Home

2) Then read these short review/essays about it:
Not gonna happen
Gone home and mansion genre
Perpetual Adolescence
The First Cabinet in Gone Home: A Close Reading

3) Write a short piece of criticism (not a review) about one aspect or detail of a game you played (not Gone Home) that struck you or made you think.
It can be from a narrative, artistic, philosophical, or design perspective depending on your background or interests.

Play 4 more twine games by your classmates

Incorporate some of the feedback in your twine game, especially if it’s a small detail or if many people agree.

If you are using a default sugarcane style please change it, at least a little bit.
Google sugarcane+twine+css for more info


Treely Gifted

Screen Shot 2015-09-16 at 1.46.55 PM



Updated code for theme:


Original skin:

How to publish assignments

For critique purposes we are publishing all the assignments in the student area.
Title: Title of the project
– 1 image, either screenshot or “cover image”
– short description + instructions if needed
– link to online project or downloadable files

Using the andrew space

All CMU students have a personal web space at:
(obviously insert your andrew id)

We are going to use this space to publish the assignments.
In order to do from a computer in the lab you simply have to copy all of your files in the directory www of your “home”

Screen Shot 2015-09-02 at 8.48.57 PM

And go to the andrew publish page here

Type your id in the field and hit “publish”. Now your files are on the internet for the world to see at the corresponding address:

Please create a folder for each assignment or it will get very messy in there!

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Assignment: Branching Story

Write a branching story with one or more of the following features:

Non-human (or better, non-animal) main character
Events out of chronological order
Multiple characters

Possibly avoid: dialog-centric stories (it’s the next assignment), life choices, choose your own adventure tropes (moving, fighting, dying etc.).

Part I
Bring a work in progress that gives an idea of the project, its style, theme and the overall structure. If you are using images or sounds, bring some of them too. If you are unsure you can also deliver two works in progress to be discussed.
Due Wednesday September 9th

Part II
Complete the project and publish it.
Due Monday September 14th

Some tips:

Try to limit each block of text to one or two paragraphs

Don’t provide many choices, provide interesting choices

Don’t just think about the content, think about how it could be narrated:
self-aware / self referential?
fist, second, third person?
multiple endings?
multiple beginnings?
Do you control an avatar?
Does it have graphics? What’s the relation between graphics and text?

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