Game Design 1a: Introduction

Course Overview

Units at a glance

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to create your very own video game? Well, this unit is going to equip you with everything you need to know in order to start that process! We’ll begin with some important history to help you get a feel for the games that have succeeded and those that were big-time flops. You’ll explore gaming’s “family tree” as you learn about the different generations of games. Finally, prepare to become an expert on the common characteristics that all game systems share, as well as what sets some apart from the competition.

Video games can put you in the driver’s seat of a rally car or send you into a mythical mountain to overcome a dark wizard and steal a dragon’s treasure. You might even have to mimic certain rhythms or dance steps to emerge victorious. But no matter what type of video game is at the top of your most-played list, it is sure to make use of four critical elements to create the unique blend of fun and challenge that keeps you coming back for more. Learn these elements and how they can be combined to form a totally addictive and engaging video game.

In big gaming studios, the processes and tasks that go into making a video game require different skills and would be broken up among many people; a game design team can range in size from just one to hundreds of people. While you’ll be doing pretty much everything yourself in this course, understanding all the roles and tasks involved will serve as a useful roadmap when designing and building your own game and considering a career in this field. It will also help you find where your strengths will shine best in the real world! Which game piece will you be?

Grab your tool belt and gear up to add a whole slew of brand-new gaming tools to your inventory! It’s time to get serious about what your game’s going to look like. What approach will you take? How often will you iterate? And what about your mechanics? There is so much to consider when designing a video game, and it all continues here in pre-production. Pretty soon, you’re going to have the know-how to answer those questions and many more. So, grab your toolbox, start your engine, and get ready…get set…here we GO!

While getting your game mechanics down pat is the most important task of pre-production, creating a blueprint of your game development process is the most important deliverable. This blueprint, better known as a Game Design Document (GDD), describes your video game from the ground up. It covers everything from the subject, style, nature, functionality, gameplay, mechanics, characters, plot, environment design, and user interface design to the narrative devices of your game. Yes, that’s a whole lot of information in one document! But the great thing about the GDD is that it is flexible. The document exists as your working catch-all for your plans and hopes for your game and, being a living document, can change as you adapt your design and your ideas during the design process. Learning how to create a meaningful and effective GDD, whether working alone or as part of a team, is essential to conveying a clear image of the intended game concept and final product.

Now that your game mechanics have been tried and tested, it is time to write a game story around them. The age-old skill of storytelling plays a very central role in creating a video game! In fact, in games, storytelling involves much more than coming up with an interesting character and developing a plot. You have to create an entire parallel universe, from its laws of gravity all the way down to its look and feel. Let’s examine the elements of a good story, and prepare you to complete these crucial sections of your GDD.

You might think game design is nothing but fun and games, but the business side of gaming is as serious and cut throat as any other industry, with its own unique ethical and legal considerations. Ignore these issues at your peril! It’s certainly not much fun putting your blood, sweat, and tears into building a fabulous game, only to get into hot water having accidentally infringed upon someone else’s intellectual property or being called out by the media because your game has contributed to absenteeism or other negative behaviors! You’ll also have to develop special skills, such as social media marketing, to find new users and make your game go viral! #gamesusedtobefun #seriouslygaming #Adulting101

Time to roll up those sleeves and move into the development phase. Imagine you were the first person to ever create a video game, say a hunting game like the Nintendo® classic, Duck Hunt®. You would have to write computer code to mimic the laws of gravity, momentum, elasticity, and who knows what else! To make things a lot quicker (and cheaper), developers build their games in existing game engines that have a lot of tools and data already built in. You are going to learn to work with Unity® software, one of the most popular game engines, to create the basic elements of your game prototype.

Course Highlights

Develop strategies to market your game to its fullest potential.
Integrate math with art and programming to develop believable gameworlds.
Use immersion techniques to keep your players focused on your game.
Consider which role on the game design team is the best match with your skillset and interests.

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