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Lecture 1 CS170: Game Design Studio 1. UC Santa Cruz School of Engineering www.soe.ucsc.edu/classes/cmps170/Fall2008 [email protected] 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


[email protected]

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