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Lecture 1 CS170: Game Design Studio 1. UC Santa Cruz School of Engineering www.soe.ucsc.edu/classes/cmps170/Fall2008 michaelm@cs.ucsc.edu 29 September 2008. The year-long game design studio sequence. CS 170 Exposure to a variety of alternative game designs

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lecture 1 cs170 game design studio 1

Lecture 1CS170: Game Design Studio 1

UC Santa Cruz

School of Engineering



29 September 2008

the year long game design studio sequence
The year-long game design studio sequence
  • CS 170
    • Exposure to a variety of alternative game designs
      • Indie, serious games, political games, art games, etc.
    • Individual concept development
    • Frequent design pitches and rapid prototypes
    • Technology selection
    • Team formation
    • Final design documents
  • CS 171
    • The heart of making the game
  • CS 172
    • Emergency design revisions (the “oh my god” moment)
    • Final playtesting and tuning
    • Finish game
    • Win awards at indie game competitions
class mechanics
Class mechanics
  • Syllabus online at
    • www.soe.ucsc.edu/classes/cmps170/Fall08/
  • Login and password for secure page (readings)
    • User name: cmps170
    • Password: M2VkNG
  • This class is technology neutral – no specific platform is required
  • Platforms to think about
    • Microsoft XNA Studio – game development framework for PCs and, in managed code mode (C# only) for Xbox 360
      • It might be fun to be able to run your game on the Xbox – but it won’t be true console development (close to the hardware)
    • PC – use your favorite language (like C++) on the PC, use whatever libraries you want
    • Mobile
      • Homebrew development environments exist for DS (you can run in an emulator)
      • We have access to the Sony PSP development kit (but you have to sign a bunch of stuff)
      • Cell phone, though the innovation bar might be higher
    • Custom hardware
  • No game making tools (like game maker), though you can use engines (like Torque)
    • Torque is part of Microsoft XNA Studio
game innovation
Game innovation
  • To spur innovation in this class, we’ll look at a number of examples of non-traditional indie games
  • We want you to move beyond replicating the elements of standard genres
    • Don’t just want standard RPG #47 or standard FPS #63
game design overview adams chapter 2
Game Design Overview – Adams Chapter 2
  • Player centric approach to design
  • Key components of videogames
  • Stages of the design process
  • Design teams
  • Documenting the game
  • Anatomy of a game designer
player centric design
Player centric design
  • You are creating an experience for the player – all design considerations must flow from the questions:
    • What does the player do?
    • What experience does this create for the player (why would they do it)?
  • You are not your own typical player – you should be able to design games for people different than you
  • The player is not your opponent – the goal is not to crush the player, but to entertain, inspire, create a feeling of agency and eventual mastery
formal game elements
Formal game elements
  • Player manipulates controller and sees/hear/feels outputs
  • User interface translates inputs into gameworld actions and translates challenges inito something the player can perceive
  • Core mechanics are the rules by which the gameworld and game operate
difference between game and simulation
Difference between game and simulation
  • A simulation is a a runnable model of a real-world situation that is less complex than the real-world
    • Aspects of the world have been abstracted away
  • The core mechanics of a game like a simulation (runnable model that describes how the world state evolves)
    • What’s the difference between a simulation and a game?
  • A simulation isn’t playable, specifically
    • It doesn’t necessarily provide for player actions
    • And even if it does, it doesn’t structure the output in terms of challenges
full model
Full model
  • User interface provides an interaction model and perspective
  • Gameplay consists of challenges and actions
  • Gameplay modes delimit subsets of gameplay available at any one time
game design
Game design
  • Game design is distinct from game production
    • Design is the process of defining the concept, core mechanics, gameplay modes, gameworld, and so forth
    • Production is the process of turning a design into a polished, working game
  • In CS 170 we’re focusing on design and the beginnings of production
    • CS 171 and 172 will focus on production
    • Obviously some design continues into production, but the major design decisions should have been locked down before production
  • A game design is captured in a mixture of documents and prototypes
the stages of design
The stages of design
  • Concept stage
    • What is the main concept of the game? Who is the audience? What does the player do? What dream does the game fulfill (especially for representational games)?
  • Elaboration stage, iteratively design
    • Primary gameplay mode, core mechanics, protagonist, game world, additional modes, level design, story
  • Tuning stage
    • Small adjustments to core mechanics, levels, etc. so as to create a balanced, smoothly progressing game
game design teams
Game design teams
  • Lead designer – responsible for overall design, “keeping the vision”. In this class will also serve as producer. Trades creativity for authority.
  • Game designer – defines and documents the game design
  • Level designer – take the essential components of the game defined by game designer (user interface, core mechanics, gameplay) and designs specific levels
  • User interface designer – designs layout of the screen in various gameplay modes. Traditionally has been left to the last minute (bad idea).
  • Writer – writes dialog, cut scenes, introductory material, etc. Often subcontracted to a freelancer or done by one of the designers
  • Art director – manages production of assets, responsible for the visual style of the game, in terms of authority, at the same level as the lead designer
  • Audio director – oversees production of audio assets
game design documents
Game design documents
  • High concept – short document that pitches the big idea of the game. Should sell the concept and player experience
  • Character design document – concept art, move set (animations), backstory for at least the player avatar (if she has one)
  • World design document – provides overview of the world, documents the feel of the world, will guide level design
  • Flowboard – documents how the gameplay modes relate to each other, quick sketches of the screens and what actions are available to the player
  • Story and level progression – large scale story of the game, progression of missions, levels, cut-scenes, etc.
  • The game script – documents the rules and core mechanics of the game in enough detail that you could play it without a computer
designer engineers
  • As computer science students, you all have the chops to architect and implement game engines
  • But you know how to do this from a design-centric perspective
  • As designers, your magic bullet is deeply understanding what can be done with computation
    • Core mechanics are algorithms
  • In the 170 sequence you will have the opportunity to do conceptual design and see it all the way through to implementation