Game Design Curriculum
Students combine the programs focus on production with two of three specializations below, to develop a professional-quality online portfolio that demonstrates a thorough understanding of game design.
- Game Art
- Level Design
Term 1 Course Descriptions
Students are exposed to the fundamentals of game theory; unpacking the principles that make games, such as chess, dice, and cards, popular across centuries and cultures. Building on this base, students analyze contemporary non-digital games and discuss the risk/reward, captured through von Neumann’s minimax theory. The result of this class is the development of an analog game prototype.
Students will learn to play games like a designer. They will familiarize themselves with analog games and use this as a space to grow their own design sensibilities. They will gain more industry terms to increase their communication abilities for design ideas and game descriptions, as well as analyze what makes a game fun, while emphasizing critical thought. Board Game Practical ties into Board Game Theory by familiarizing students with popular board games as a point of reference for terms and design lessons learned.
This course introduces students to the Pre-Production Process, one of the most vital steps in the creation of new intellectual property. Whether in film, television, or videogames, this process is the visionary step that will map out the building blocks of a future project. Throughout the duration of this course, students will learn how to utilize the fundamental tools necessary for brainstorming, rapid visualization, and creative design as it applies to a variety of fields. As the preproduction process requires multiple disciplines, students will learn to communicate and delegate within a creative team structure that invites individual strengths to contribute to a greater goal.
Interactive entertainment software is one of the more intense and creative forms of software development. This course covers the fundamental concepts and processes involved with the various stages of creating high-quality entertainment software titles. The course will consist of discussions and in-class exercises.
Contemporary entertainment franchises are not limited by the storytelling constraints of one medium. This course examines how different media can be used as part of a unified story strategy that leverages the strengths of each, while capitalizing on the potential of the whole.
Students will learn the foundations of level design theory, as well as some general game design theory. This course covers the basics of how to work within the Unreal Engine and students will plan levels around the game’s mechanics by creating supporting documents, understanding the game’s mechanics, and whiteboxing levels in Unreal.
This course begins with the fundamentals of basic programming using C#, including data types, logic flow control, conditions, loops, file I/O, functions, classes and objects. It explores game-related concerns such as the game loop, rules, and game object design and implementation.
Art skills are required for building great game experiences. From ‘Minecraft’ to ‘Battlefield’, art brings game concepts to life. In Game Art 1, students explore the fundamentals of non-destructive asset workflow in Photoshop and are introduced to Maya. Using Maya, students are introduced to hard surface modeling and the High to Low workflow that is standard in industry. Students learn best practices and time-saving techniques they can apply in their own games. By the end of Game Art 1, students will be comfortable with reference gatherings, the core Photoshop and Maya toolsets used in game art creation, will have made several game-ready assets, and will have learnt the process to integrate them into Unity3D and Unreal. Game Art 1 will significantly enhance the quality of students’ game art projects and portfolios.
The purpose of this course is to introduce students to the essential skills needed to create professional level technical communications. Beginning with the basics of what constitutes as excellent presentation, students will learn how to compose engaging presentations. The final assignment for this course is the writing and presentation of a technical topic which will be presented formally to the class. The written document will be suitable to include as a portfolio piece to indicate that the student is adept at writing at a professional technical level.
Term 2 Course Descriptions
Game Theory Digital will introduce the students to various design principles and apply them to video game development. This course will offer different design perspectives and techniques, from gaming and non-gaming sources, to build a broader understanding of how to form ideas and systems for all design decisions and aspects of videogame creation phases.
The success of any game/app application is not just dependant on strong publishing and great design; it takes a team of experts across multiple disciplines with extremely varied backgrounds. This course provides programmers with an understanding of how these teams come together and what keeps them performing at the level necessary to build “A” titles. It also covers the key leadership skills fundamental to facilitating a high performing team.
As students have come to grasp Level Design Theory from Level Design 1, they will apply that to build out levels using industry standard tools. Students will cover creating 2D layout plans of 3D levels, and how to translate those ideas into geometry and architecture. By the end of the term, students will understand how to create interactive environments for video games and how to build levels that support the game’s mechanics. Students will continue working from Unreal Engine 4 to create unique levels of their own for existing games.
Students will learn the necessary tools to script gameplay using blueprints in the Unreal Engine. By the end of the term, students will have a basic understanding of the fundamentals of blueprints and programming concepts to script interactive events. They will script gameplay for their own levels, implemented in Level Design 2, learning how to use Visual Scripting blueprints on more complex levels yet to implement.
Mastery of object-oriented programming allows designers to tune their own game scenarios/levels without the need of engineering support. This course grounds students in the rigors of an object-oriented language (C#) used in Unity3D via Visual Studio. Topics covered include inputs, 2D/3D physics, materials, Animation, HUD/Menus and local multiplayer principles. This course concludes with the creation of a space shooter that makes use of the content covered.
Game Art 2 expands upon the curriculum introduced in Game Art 1 by introducing more advanced concepts in Maya as well as Substance Painter, a powerful texturing tool used in the game industry. Using Maya, students will be introduced to organic character modeling and UV unwrapping, whereas using Substance Painter students will learn the High to Low baking pipeline and the principles of physically based rendering (PBR), the new standard in the game industry. Students will continue learning and using the pipelines that allow them to bring their content into Unity3D and Unreal.
In 2021, the mobile gaming market was worth 119 billion. With the dizzying rate of technological progress and the increasing disruptions to business models in mobile & social games, it can be a challenge to stay on top of trends. In this course, students will be shown the cutting-edge design techniques that world-class game studios, both massive and indie, use to achieve success in this hyper competitive market. They will be taught how to utilize big data analysis, brainstorm viral game concepts, and design mobile & social games that are high-quality and fun.
In Video Game Practical, students will learn to play games like a designer. They will gain more industry terms to increase their communication abilities for design ideas and game descriptions. They will analyze what makes a game fun by experiencing as many as they can, while emphasizing critical thought. Students will play unique or popular games and determine the reasons behind their popularity.
Term 3 Course Descriptions
Students begin to adapt their design sensibility to the requirements of game information systems. In addition to constraints imposed by platform selection, students consider optimal ways to engage players through an adaptation of real estate to the dictates of title/genre. Essential treatments of way-finding, intuition and color palette are applied to concepts ranging from HUDs to game initiation screens.
Game Mechanics are the building blocks that make up game-play. Students look at the various aspects of game mechanics; what they are, how they can be formed, how they interact with each other, and various topics relating to the application of game mechanics.
Building on the fundamental theories of story structure, students are given a structured series of exercises that allows them to develop the essential building blocks of their story. Classes focus on dramatic arc, conflict, character vs. characterization, backstory and dialogue.
This course will focus on Mission and World Design, which are subsets of Level Design. Students will continue to learn the common procedures for building game levels with a view to becoming a professional level designer in the game industry. They will learn how to plan and design mission arcs, as well as how to script them into the game world. Students will also learn how to develop an area of the world to give it rich history, geometry and environmental narrative that enhances the gameplay experience. They’ll use this knowledge to create a game that they will continue to work on next term, in Level Design 3.
This course continues the students' learning in how to develop 3D games using Unity3D and Visual Studio. Course content focuses on specific aspects of the Unity3D engine, including common scripting tasks like interactive cameras & cutscenes, humanoid locomotion and animation, AI vision, targeting, navigation, health, weapon systems, complex UI/menu work with setting screens, shader creation via Shadergraph, VFX via ParticleSystem and Visual Effect Graphs and inverse kinematics animation. The culmination of this course is a 3D top-down shooter created by the students.
Building upon previous art classes, this course focuses on the modeling and texturing skills required to build simple environments. Students start with reference gathering, followed by hard surface modeling via Maya and using Substance Painter for High to Low baking and texturing of art assets, followed by integration into game engines.
Live operations covers the design and management strategies for the work required on games once they go live to the public—for many titles, especially (but not limited to) mobile games, this is when the work really begins! How do you engage your player-base for weeks, months, or even years?
Create an original game in a team-based environment. Students will explore Unity game engine’s features and techniques to empower them to realize their visions. They will collaborate with the Programming for Games, Web and Mobile students to gain valuable game development experience through overcoming team conflicts, meeting milestones and submitting major deliverables. Students will define their roles on the team by taking ownership of various aspects of game production, such as programming, art, audio engineering and project management. The course concludes with a final presentation of each team’s game to the entire Game Design student body and staff.
Animation Materials and Shaders focuses on giving the students the necessary skills and knowledge required to effectively deliver visually engaging game products that would be at home in today’s evolving industry. The early part of the term focuses on using Maya to make use of skeletons for animation, skin binding, weighting, and rigging to learn the workflows of the Rigger and Animator on a game team. The latter part of the term focuses on working with materials and shaders in Unreal to explore what can be done beyond the “built-in” or “off-the-shelf” materials provided by today’s game engines.
Term 4 Course Descriptions
Production Documents will take the students' design and documentation skills practiced in previous terms and expand on them, with a course mostly focused on document creation and editing. Most classes begin with lectures detailing a variety of gameplay mechanics and systems, with a focus on what makes for a clear and complete design specification. Later in the course, once final project concepts have been confirmed, class assignments focus on the clear and complete documentation of the mechanics, systems, and level design making up their final project games. Most classes include at least some mentored time to review and refine concepts, discuss design, and write documentation.
Pre-Production Project Planning establishes core foundation skills in project management. Students will develop an understanding of project planning, execution, tracking, risk analysis and closure in the project life cycle in the field of game development. Class time will focus on project management theory and in-class, mentored, practical assignments in areas such as work breakdown, estimation and scheduling, risk management, project resources, and quality management. Emphasis will be placed on developing a project plan and schedule for current game design assignments.
In Terms 5 and 6, students will design and build an industry-style project using tools and techniques they have learned in Terms 1-4. Students will plan out their projects, the tools needed to build them, and create a visual design. The size and scope of these deliverables require tremendous dedication and effort, efficient execution, and ongoing team and project management. Term 4’s Pre-Production Design course is a major portion of planning for the Projects. The classes will consist of mentored time to focus on team building, design documents, visual designs, and technical design planning. The foundation for a Project Plan and schedule will also be created concurrently in Term 4‘s Pre-Production Project Planning course, allowing students to begin the development of their Projects at the start of Term 5.
Taking the output of the requirements analysis class, students develop a technical design document (TDD) to fully scope out a software project. The TDD helps identify the key software features, development timescales, test plans, prototype development, and external contingencies.
This course builds on the principles established in Storytelling and Creative Writing. It focuses on the challenges of telling a story in the interactive and nonlinear world of computer games. Game Designers will gain an understanding of the techniques used to immerse a player in a role in an interactive world. Through lectures, game and film clips, and practical real-time exercises, students will learn the fundamental structures and emotion enhancing tools to immerse a player in an interactive environment.
During this course, students will continue to work on their game project created in the Level Design Pipeline class in Term 3. They’ll learn more technical aspects that influence level design as well as other areas of the Unreal Engine, such as learning how to work with behavior trees to create AI states, creating shaders to enhance levels, working with dynamic material instances, and how to update their properties on runtime.
By the end of the term, students will have more practical experience following practices and processes for designing and constructing levels for different genres of games. They’ll also have a completed game they’ve been working on for the past 2 terms that can be used in their portfolio.
Using Unity3D and Visual Studio, this course builds upon the fundamental programming skills learned in previous programming and Unity classes. This course continues to refine the students' abilities as related to game development. Topics covered include advanced object-oriented programming, programming patterns, event-based programming, animation state graphs and animation events, mission scripting, rendering and lighting implementation & performance, code performance and profiling and advanced debugging and testing. Students will create a melee combat project and a top-down shooter with mission objectives.
This advanced course focuses on the modeling and texturing skills required to build professional-level portfolio pieces. Using reference gathering, Maya and ZBrush, students produce one highly polished, portfolio-quality piece. Professional workflows will be introduced to further detail models and textures. Students will be assessed on a continuous basis in class and on completed final assignments. The lessons consist of demonstrations followed by direct production workshop sessions. This course provides the students with the proper workflow for creating highly detailed pieces which will help them build out their professional portfolios. Topics covered include Hard Surface and Organic Sculpting in Zbrush, Retopology and UV unwrapping in Maya, High to Low baking and texturing in Substance Painter and engine integration of the assets created.
With game levels using ever larger environments, good quality set dressing and detailed immersive lighting is needed to enhance the game experience. In this course, we will learn how to quickly prototype an environmental model, create vertex lighting, and ambient occlusion texture maps for game levels. Students start by reference gatherings, then using Maya for UV unwrapping for tiling textures, using Substance Designer for tiling texture creation and engine integration of assets followed by set dressing, lighting, and composition of an environment in Unreal.
Term 5 Course Descriptions
Project Development allows students to work solo or in teams to develop their final projects. Set blocks are designated as mentored time. During mentored blocks, industry-based instructors and advisors with varied disciplines will be in the classroom to evaluate student work, discuss difficulties, give advice to help with technical or artistic elements, and monitor students’ progress towards major deliverables and milestones.
These deliverables include all goals set out during Term 4 and will be presented to instructors for Green Light approval. Once the project is underway, its progress will be evaluated on an ongoing basis for course correction, scaling, rescoping, or other required changes up to its completion in Terms 5 and 6.
The final deliverables include a playable, functional game/app, trailer, and screenshots.
The preservation of quality during game production relies on vigilant game testers to identify defects and communicate risks that may impact consumers. This course establishes the importance of analyzing, measuring, and assuring quality while challenging the often-misunderstood stigma of quality assurance. This course provides game designers the skills to reduce risk in their designs, what to expect from QA, and what crucial reporting documentation Is used to assure that a game’s quality is where it needs to be.
The development of games is not only about creativity, technical, and artistic elements; it also has diverse business aspects. This course provides students with a grounding in the three key areas of business associated with game development. The course consists of three separate sessions: Legal Wrangling; Dollars and Sense; and Marketing Savvy.
This hands-on course introduces game designers to the tools and techniques of film production. In addition to pre-production basics, the course provides a comprehensive overview of camera operation, sound and lighting techniques, as well as the storyboarding process. Each student writes a cinematic treatment and create a storyboard for a film trailer.
Term 6 Course Descriptions
Post Mortem establishes core foundation skills in the area of conducting a project post mortem. In this course, students learn how to plan and conduct a post mortem. They learn the key inputs and outputs of a post mortem and discover how future game development projects can use the derived information.
This course includes lectures and a mentored practical assignment using the student’s industry project.
The aim of this course is to empower students to create a compelling online presence and to showcase the work they have done during the program - be it art, design, or programming. They'll also learn how to integrate their portfolio with social networks such as LinkedIn or ArtStation, making them more desirable to employers.
As crucial as a portfolio is the student’s preparation for securing their first position. This mentored workshop guides students through the process of corporate research, networking, résumé preparation and interview techniques. At the conclusion of this course, students should have several first interviews arranged with local game development studios.