Game Design 1

Course Overview

Units at a glance

How does “play” work? Whether we’re talking about cooperative or competitive games against humans or artificial intelligences, it’s all play. Here you’ll analyze classic games to see the common elements they share; you’ll also look at what makes successful games in high-demand, or what makes people pass them over for something more fun. Then you’ll move on to the concepts of gameplay, strategy, and game mechanics, essentially, how and when to make certain moves in order to win. And if you play your cards right, you might just master all this material and move on to the next lesson!

There’s a lot we take for granted once we switch on a device and start up a game. Can you imagine electronic games before the internet? How do you think they worked? To better understand present technology, it’s important to understand the major innovators in the video game scene. Gaming itself has also contributed to history. Let’s start with a look back in time.

The video game industry is expected to generate more than $100 billion in revenue worldwide in 2017. In the United States, the game industry grew by 9 percent between 2009 and 2012, while the overall U.S. economy grew by only 4 percent. At a time when older industries such as newspaper and print media production and even aerospace manufacturing are laying off workers and closing down production facilities, the video game industry is expanding—growing at 13 times the rate of the overall economy. But many people are unsure of what game designers do. In this unit, you’ll learn all about the different roles in a game design team.

Creating a game is like writing a novel. Wait—really? Well, sort of. Game designers follow a similar process, as they are also hoping for that beautiful quality called the “suspension of disbelief” when a player feels like they are part of the game. How does a game design team create this illusion? Through a lot of concrete decisions about the characters, point-of-view, strategy, and player choice in the game. All of these decisions are carefully documented as the game design team moves through their creative process. They will make so many changes along the way, but, at the end of the day, they will have a one-of-a-kind game ready to hit the market.

Let’s get to work! Using Unity, a game engine you will download, you will start creating the basic elements of your game prototype. You might be surprised to know that designing a game involves some level of physics knowledge, but don’t worry—Unity has you covered. As long as you have a general idea of how you want the different parts of your game to react when there is a collision, you don’t have to go through all the sweat of calculating how far and how fast something will move after it is struck. In fact, playing with your game prototype might help you apply Newton’s Laws of Motion in a new way that will make more sense than your physics textbook! You will also discover the basic elements of coding and write your first script. Exciting stuff!

Ready to be a multilinguist? Programming a video game asks you to learn how to put a new language together and requires you to learn about algorithms, expressions, and conditional logic. Does that mean that you must have aced grammar and geometry just to get your player to jump away from fire at the right moment? Not necessarily—but if you enjoyed those classes, you might have a slight advantage. Now we will get down to the nuts and bolts, or wheels and triggers, as you learn how to link game events together and move your game objects around on screen.

When you create a game level, or environment, you are essentially a city planner. You get to decide the layout of all the objects. You have to help your players know how to move through the level in order to progress through the challenges you have laid out for them. You have to keep the players safe: Players shouldn’t fall out of your game into dead space because you forgot to create a barrier that keeps them in the level. But you also have to challenge players with hidden enemies or attacks that they might see if they are skilled enough. All of these design components, and more, are a part of level design.

Because video games are so visual, the artwork that goes into creating a video game is highly complex. There are a number of specialized careers related to getting the art in video games just right! If you’ve been considering merging a number of your interests like art, programming, and math into a video game art-related career, you’ll find more information here on what you can be doing to gain experience in your field of interest, as well as the software and tools you should consider becoming familiar with. And, as usual, we have a few new tricks that you can use immediately on your game prototype you’ve been developing.

After a video game is in general working condition, the next step is to test the game and make sure that everything works as intended. You must also ensure that the game is fun to play! How do you do this? First, you must make sure the game mechanics work smoothly; the game should feel just the right amount of fair and challenging. Along the way, you will notice that there are bugs that pop up, which you will need to address. This is no easy task, but there are a number of considerations and questions you can ask yourself to check if you have things covered.

So, you’ve developed your innovative, revolutionary game through lots of hard work. You’ve created a gripping story, an immersive world, clever puzzles, and gameplay mechanics that appeal to almost everyone. There’s one catch, though—it’s likely that no one knows anything about your game. Are the only copies of your game on your developers’ hard drives? It’s time to start thinking about releasing a game that will meet the approval of the gaming community.

Course Highlights

Learn how to balance chance and skill to create a game others want to play.
Consider the factors that lead a player to feel totally immersed in your game.
Experiment with programming concepts to learn how a game is developed.
Learn how games have impacted societies over the years.

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