Carnegie Mellon University School of Art
Term: Spring 2021
Course number: 60419
Location: The Internet – Zoom + discord
Days / time: 09:00AM – 11:50AM + 02:10PM – 05:00PM Friday
Professor: Paolo Pedercini – paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
Office: School of art 419A – 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment
Description: Let’s face it: there are too many videogames in this world. Luckily, game engines and game design principles can be used for a variety of purposes! This installment of Experimental Game Studio focuses on artful software, interactables, nongames, digital toys, procedural generators, educational applications, and other playthings. The course is divided in two parts: in the first half of the semester students will be asked to create a prototype every week starting from an open-ended prompt. In the second half, the most promising prototypes will be iterated, playtested, and polished into complete projects. Students will work in teams, and will be introduced to a variety of tools for remote collaboration. Some programming experience is recommended but not required.
Upon completion of the course you will be able to:
- Work remotely in teams
- Scope a project according to limited time and resources
- Use game engines and tools for non gaming purposes
- Identify promising concepts and accept failures and dead ends
- Contextualize your own work within contemporary cultural practices
- Develop your personal style and artistic identity
- Add at least one piece to your creative portfolio
Hardware: Computer. You don’t need a powerful gaming computer but most of classwork can’t be done on a phone or tablet. A reliable internet connection at home is necessary. A webcam and a second screen are recommended.
Software: all the programs used in this class are free. 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.
Lesson plan and topics
The first part of the semester will involve 4 fast prototyping assignments, one every two weeks, starting from a theme. A new theme will be revealed at each other session. We are adopting a “flipped classrom” model: frontal lectures and technical tutorials will be prerecorded and viewed as homework, while synchronous class time will be mostly devoted to workshops and prototyping.
Feb 5 – Feb 12: Intro to Unity, intro to prototyping, finding 3d assets online, fast 3d modeling, level design and grayboxing, walking simulators, Unity Collaborate.
Feb 19 – Feb 26: UI and canvas in Unity, wireframing, figma.
Mar 5 – Mar 12: Instantiation, hierarchy, random generation, noise, tile systems.
Mar 19: Mid semester break.
Mar 26 – Apr 2: 2d workflow, animation, colliders, storytelling, character design.
Apr 9: Final project discussion and final team formation, project management.
Apr 16: Spring carnival, no classes.
Apr 23: Skill sharing, milestone check.
Apr 30: Game feel, feedback, and juiciness, visual polish, style, color.
May 7: Sound design, Indiepocalypse, marketing, playtesting.
May 14: Final show
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 project is incomplete and/or the idea is derivative.
D. The project 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
40% Final project
20% Class and team Participation
> 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: there will be plenty of unstructured work time in which you’ll be able to take breaks and check social media. You are categorically forbidden to “multitask” during frontal lectures and critiques.
> 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.
> Office hours: office hours are by appointment but there will be at least two brief required one-to-one meetings for feedback and a general check-in.
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.