Foundations of Interactive Game Design, S11

Spring 2011
Lecture: T/Th 12:00-1:45pm, Media Theater M110
Lab location: BE 109

Last modified: 3 June 2011

About This Course

This course focuses on the elements that make computer games compelling — from their rules and simulated worlds to their stories and social experiences. Over the quarter, students will collaborate in two-person teams to design a working computer game. Students in the course will be able to check out game consoles (NES, SNES, N64, PS2, Wii, XBox 360, PS3) and notable games from the Science and Engineering Library. Readings will include work by influential game designers and game studies theorists. Lectures are designed to invite student discussion. The course labs will teach the use of the Game Maker game development environment, as well as provide a place to discuss design ideas, game analysis concepts, and related subjects. No programming experience is necessary.

Lecture Faculty

Noah Wardrip-Fruin
office: E2 271
office hours: 2:00-3:00pm Tuesday in DARC 139 & more TBA

Lab Faculty

John Murray
email: lucid /at/ soe /dot/ ucsc /dot/ edu
office: E2 393
office hours: 12-2pm Wednesday

Christopher Maraffi
email: topherm /at/ soe /dot/ ucsc /dot/ edu
office: E2 387
office hours: 3-4pm Thursday and by appointment

Serdar Sali
email: sali /at/ soe /dot/ ucsc /dot/ edu
office: E2 393
office hours: 3:30-4:30pm Monday

Tu 10:00AM - 11:45AM, John Murray
Tu 2:00PM - 3:45PM, Christopher Maraffi
Tu 4:00PM - 5:45PM, Christopher Maraffi
We 12:30PM - 2:15PM, Serdar Sali
We 3:30PM - 5:15PM, Serdar Sali
Th 10:00AM - 11:45AM, John Murray


Required textbook and software:

Optional book:

General Course Notes

Making contact:



Week 1

March 28:
Class introduction.
Lecture slides.

Section 1:
Introduction to sections and Game Maker. Sprites, sounds, objects, events, and rooms.
Assigned: Game Maker tutorial #1, "Your First Game." Minimum customization: a second clown with different behavior. If you can: change the rules (adding whatever you need) to make a better game. Due week 2.
Assigned: One page mechanics analysis. Due week 3.

March 31:
Read: Fullerton chapter 1 (Role of the Game Designer) and chapter 2 (The Structure of Games).
Lecture slides.

Week 2

April 5:
Read: Fullerton chapter 3 (Working with Formal Elements).
Lecture slides.

Section 2:
Games, teams, and more Game Maker. Variables, properties, collision detection, GMScript, and more.
Due: Game Maker tutorial #1, customized. Graded in section.
Assigned: Team selection for game design projects, due week 3.
Assigned: Game Maker tutorial #2, "A Scrolling Shooter." Minimum: get as far as you can for week 3 (e.g., through "Scores, lives, and damage" section). If you can: finish the tutorial and add something with new behavior (e.g., a boss battle, a new form of movement). Due week 3.

April 7:
Read: Fullerton chapter 6 (Conceptualization).
Lecture slides.

Week 3

April 12:
Read: Fullerton 7 (Prototyping).
Lecture slides.

Section 3:
Discussing game design concepts, physical prototyping, and two new game tutorials: platformer (pdf / gmk) and hidden object (pdf / gmk). Physical prototype and storyboard help session.
Due: Team selection for game design projects (collected)
Due: One page mechanics analysis (collected)
Due: Game Maker tutorial #2, customized. Graded in section.
Assigned: Core concepts and physical prototypes for game design projects, due week 4.

April 14:
Read: Fullerton chapter 4 (Working with Dramatic Elements)

Week 4

April 19:
Read: Fullerton chapter 5 (Working with System Dynamics).
Lecture slides.

Section 4:
Physical prototypes demonstrated and evaluated (and storyboards, if TA gave approval).
Due: Core concept and physical prototype. Required in-section prototype demonstration.
Assigned: Game project design document and schedule, due week 5.
Assigned: Game project computational prototype, due week 6.

April 21:
Read: Fullerton chapter 8 (Digital Prototyping).
Lecture slides.

Week 5

April 26:
Read: Do You Kodu?, Edge Magazine.
Guest lecture: Jill Denner, ETR Associates and Teale Fristoe, UCSC.
Guest lecture slides. Game history lecture slides.

Section 5:
Designs, work breakdowns, schedules. Computational prototype help session.
Due: Game project design document and schedule. Collected. Schedule evaluated in section, missing pieces pointed out and fixed.
Assigned: Game project weekly schedule/progress updates, due weeks 6 through 9.

April 28:
Read: Fullerton chapter 9 (Playtesting). Lecture slides.

Week 6

May 3:
Read: Skim the Wikipedia article on particle systems.
Guest lecture: Kate Compton, Maxis.
Guest lecture slides.

Section 6:
Computational prototypes demonstrated.
Due: Game computational project prototype. Required in-section prototype demonstration.
Due: Game project weekly schedule/progress update, collected.
Assigned: Multi-game analysis essay, due week 8.

May 5:
Read: No reading
Lecture slides.

Week 7

May 10:
Guest lecture: Anastasia Salter, University of Baltimore.
Read: Good Video Games and Good Learning, by James Paul Gee
Game contest and prototyping lecture slides and slides from guest lecturer.

Section 7:
Game analysis, game project progress. Multi-game analysis help session.
Due: Game project weekly schedule/progress update, evaluated in section.

May 12:
Read: Swap Adjacent Gems to Make Sets of Three: A History of Matching Tile Games, by Jesper Juul
Guest lecture: Jim Whitehead, UC Santa Cruz.
Guest lecture slides.

Week 8

May 17:
Guest lecture: John Davison, Gamespot and Metacritic.
Read: "The future of games is in your web browser" by John Davison.
Lecture slides.

Section 8:
Completing games. Playtestable game help session.
Due: Multi-game analysis essay.
Due: Game project weekly schedule/progress update, evaluated in section.
Assigned: Playtestable version of game project, due week 9. Assigned: Playtesting the games of other teams, using the playtest form, for optional extra credit.

May 19:
Read: Pages 1-54 of Procedural Rhetoric, chapter 1 of Persuasive Games by Ian Bogost.
Lecture slides.

Week 9

May 24:
Read: "Alice and Dorothy Play Together" by Richard A. Bartle.
Lecture slides.

Section 9:
Playtesting, completing games.
Due: Playtestable version of game project with playtest report.
Due: Game project weekly schedule/progress update, evaluated in section.
Assigned: Final version of game project, due week 10.

May 26:
Read: "Interview: Jonathan Blow & Chris Hecker" from Edge Magazine and "Interview: Alex Neuse" by Daniel McKleinfeld.
Guest panel: Jonathan Blow (Thekla, Inc), Chris Hecker (definition six), and Alex Neuse (Gaijin).

Week 10

May 31:
Guest lecture: Jane Pinckard, UC Santa Cruz.
Lecture slides.

Section 10:
Presenting final games.
Due: Final version of game project, in-section presentation required, contest finalists chosen based on presentations.

June 2:
Final exam review lecture
Lecture slides.

Week 11: Final Exam and Contest

June 6:
Final Exam: Short final examination, 8-9am, Media Theater
Final Game Contest: Game project demonstration and judging of best games in class, across all sections, 9-11am, Media Theater