Syllabus

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 week 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 individually or in teams of two.
This is an advanced class: familiarity with programming and game creation tools is strictly required.

Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
Term:
Spring 2019
Course number: 60418
Classroom: CFA 303
Days / time: 09:00AM – 11:50AM + 01:30PM – 04:20PM Friday
Professor: Paolo Pedercini – paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
Office: School of art 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment

LEARNING OBJECTIVES

Upon completion of the course you will be able to:

> Scope a project according to limited time and resources

> Work independently across all aspects of game production

> Identify promising concepts and accept failures and 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

REQUIRED MATERIAL

Laptop: this class doesn’t take place in a computer lab and may involve the use of plugins or software that is not available on campus. A laptop is not 100% mandatory but it’s strongly recommended, bring it to class if you have one.

UNITS

The first part of the semester will involve 6 fast prototyping assignments, one per week, starting from a theme. A new theme will be revealed at each session.
Each unit will roughly follow this structure:

Morning session:
1hr critique of previous assignment
1hr lecture, theme announcement, group announcement
1hr technical tutorial

Afternoon session:
1hr Structured brainstorming, each unit we will try a different idea generation exercise
2hrs Work time, the goal is to produce a proof of concept, and a look and feel and production schedule for the week with at least one intermediate check-in person.

Topics covered week by week:
Jan 18 – Prototyping, tools, jams, paper modding workshop
Jan 25 – Shared code bases, genre bending, teamwork and conflict resolution workshop
Feb 1 – Game design lexicon, Callois play forms workshop
Feb 8 – Scripting agents, emergence, games-as-systems
Feb 15 – UI and canvas
Feb 22 – Physics
Mar 1 – Intro to shaders
Mar 8 – Spring break?
Mar 15 – Spring break
Mar 22 – Game feel, feedback, and juiciness
Mar 29 – 
Visual polish, programmer art, style, color
Apr 5 – Sound design
Apr 12 – Indiepocalypse, marketing
Apr 19 – Playtesting
Apr 26 – Crunch, labor
May 3 – Final show

GRADING

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 – 10% each
30% Final project
10% Class Participation

POLICIES

> Attendance: three or more unexcused absences result in the drop of a letter grade.

> Absences: you are responsible for what happens in class whether you’re here or not. Organize with your classmates to get class information and material that you have missed.

> Tardiness: students who arrive late over three times without an excuse will have their class participation grade lowered to z e r o.

> Participation: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage actively in discussion, reflection and activities.

> Net addiction: you can exist for few hours without tweeting, facebooking, snapchatting, texting, sexting or emailing. Any device for mediated communication is banned during theory classes, crits and discussions. A participation grade reduction will result from being found using them.
During the lab hours you will be allowed to network as long as your behavior is not disruptive.

> Assignments: late assignments are only accepted with permission of instructor. You lose 10% of your points per day late up to a max of 7 days late.

INCLUSIVITY STATEMENT

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.

CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

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.

STRESS CULTURE

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.