Game Design 2

Course Overview

Units at a glance

If you’ve signed up for this course, you’ve likely got a creative spirit, and you’re ready to add some technical skills to your arsenal so you can move from just playing video games to making and distributing your own games. The field of game studies is relatively young compared to other fields. For that reason, you find bits of a lot of subject areas being used in game design. For example, the action and drama of video games pull from theater, cinema, and storytelling. Game artwork draws on art studies as well as sociology and anthropology; then there’s music and sound design, and the list goes on. If you’re one of those people who likes mixing knowledge from different fields together, then this course is especially for you. But before jumping straight into making your own game, you’ll need to define exactly what your game is and how it will use various other game mechanics to create an enjoyable and engaging player experience.

With the ever-increasing technological capabilities that we have to render new worlds, it’s not surprising that many of the most popular video games in recent years use 3D graphics. Entering a 3D game space adds an entire dimension to the game world and models more precisely how we perceive reality. But that doesn’t mean we are leaving 2D game spaces or techniques behind. Take a closer look at a 3D model in one of your favorite games: you will see that the model is made of a number of flat surfaces, which have 2D images, called textures, applied to them. Are you curious how all those pieces get put together? Then, try your hand at making your own 3D model!

The video game industry is one of the youngest industries in the world, starting in the 1970s when microprocessors and other computer technology became more powerful and affordable at the same time. Since then, the video game industry has evolved at a dizzying pace, incorporating the latest technology right along with it. Developing an understanding of the history of video games, related technology, and the key developments, events, and individuals that helped to shape the landscape of gaming helps a video game designer understand the trends, scope, and pace of the field.

Story has become an increasingly important part of modern games and interactive entertainment, and as a result, creative writing is becoming more and more integral as a game design skill. A game’s story and narrative elements can be immersive and engaging for the player, or distracting and annoying, depending on how well the story is conveyed, what archetypes and framing devices the creative writer employs, and how well scripted the dialogue is, among other things. Let’s exam the elements of a good story, so we can learn to write them well!

Before you ever create a character model or lay out a game level, you have to make a blueprint for your entire game development process. This blueprint, better known as a Game Design Document (GDD), describes your video game from the ground up. This document, actually made up of several smaller documents, includes 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 evolve 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.

A video game takes place in a certain space—a galaxy far, far away, a tennis court, or a 2-dimensional maze field. This space is the game world, or more specifically, the game environment. The game environment must be designed with care, because it is the cities, forests, towns, or mazes of the environment where the player will either enjoy exploring or will feel stuck. Designing a game environment is a large task because you need all the tiny details to fit together to create a believable, whole world.

To be able to communicate with a computer, you have to speak its language. Programming languages have evolved over time, along with the machines they were designed to communicate with. Learning the principles, concepts, and techniques of computer programming is the key to defining the rules and behavior of your game. By learning about object oriented programming and some related concepts, you will be empowered to write well structured, high quality, and reusable code for your games.

Game mechanics are at the core of gameplay. They determine how simulated aspects of the game world will behave and control how the player can interact with the game state. With knowledge of the fundamental concepts of computer programming, you are ready to dig deeper into the subject of game programming and put some action into game design. But with every action, you can expect an equal and opposite action. What? Are you surprised that there’s physics in game design? When you’re building an entire environment, you’re in charge of the physics of that world as well. How do things move and respond to collisions? This is where designing really gets fun.

Game rules are the fundamental building blocks which define higher level game elements, such as game mechanics and, ultimately, gameplay. Think for a minute about your favorite computer game, and then ask yourself: what were the rules that made that game so fun to play? Learn how to define positive and negative outcomes, reward and penalize player actions, and use goal design to create a truly long-lasting, engaging play experience.

Testing, testing, testing. It’s a repetitive, often times laborious task, but it is also one of the most important steps in the professional game development process. Testing is the process by which we, as game developers, evaluate the condition of a game project, identify bugs and issues, improve, fix, and update until the game product is ready. You can be absolutely sure that all of your favorite computer games were rigorously tested. That’s one of the main reasons why they turned out so well; bugs and issues were fastidiously identified and rectified via the testing process. If you want to make some truly great games, you have to learn about the simulation and quality assurance processes!

Have you ever played a game that just felt so immersive and alive that you were compelled to extend your stay in its fictional world? If so, it was likely due, in part, to good sound design and an intuitive user interface. A well-crafted soundscape can turn a good game into a great one. Learning the principles of how to create this emotive, immersive experience is a must for any game designer.

So far, we have looked at the design and development process from a conceptualization and implementation point of view. But what about the ethical and legal considerations involved in the games industry and game development process as a whole? You wouldn’t want to pour your heart and soul into a game development project only to discover, upon publishing the game, that you have accidentally infringed on someone else’s intellectual property, or copyright. It’s extremely important to learn all of the ethical and legal factors of game design when embarking on a game development project.

Course Highlights

Learn the software you need at different stages in game development.
Create a series of challenges that push your players to beat your game.
Use physics and simulations to ensure that your game world is as close to the real world as possible.
Consider your target audience and marketing options.

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