Game Design (2013/2014, Semester 1) 

 MODULE OUTLINE Created: 25-May-2013, Updated: 04-Dec-2013
Module Code NM3216
Module Title Game Design
Semester Semester 1, 2013/2014
Modular Credits 4
Faculty Arts & Social Sciences
Department Communications And New Media
Timetable Timetable/Teaching Staff
Module Facilitators
DR Alex Mitchell Lecturer
MR Ong Eng Hwa, Christopher Teaching Assistant
Great resource for board game examples.
Very useful resource.Very useful resource.Very useful resource.
Lots of good industry-focused articles.
Another very useful site for boardgames.
Lots of descriptions and rules for traditional and contemporary playground and group games.
Traditional Game Rules. These pages have the rules of a number of traditional games. Choose a particular game, go to the bottom of its rule page and click on "printable version." This should provide examples of how to present rules for a game. (Note: these example game-rules could be improved with images of the game and different game-situations.)
Game rules for a number of modern non-computer games. Rules are reasonably clear, but the formatting and print-out a bit ugly. Note that sometimes the rules page for a game will have a link to an online version of the game.
Classic console games, playable in browser
Lots of web-based implementations of classic (and new) computer games.
Site devoted to "independent" games.
Independent Games Festival
Board-game cafes in Singapore
Dictionary of video-game terms.
Free online graph paper generator. Good for making game boards... :) Quickly specifying the kind of graph-paper you want, click a button, and you have a pdf file you can save or print.
Internet Archive -- has lots of open source media (images, audio/music, and video)
Wikimedia Commons -- has lots of open source media (images, audio/music, and video)
Tags --

Learning Outcomes | Prerequisites | Preclusions | Teaching Modes | Synopsis | Schedule | Practical Work | Assessment | Workload | Participation | Academic Integrity | Copyright

This module explores some introductory issues relevant to play and game design. Students learn how to develop games using feedback from players and gain an understanding of the basic elements of gameplay: balancing game mechanics, creating tension between risk and reward, and encouraging replayability and curiosity. The module includes theories of play as well as an introduction to innnovative directions in game research, and games as art and entertainment. It also examines the history of gameplay and challenges students to question basic assumptions regarding what makes a good game.

NOTE: detailed information about the module may change up until the start of the module in August 2013.



LECTURES: 2 hours/week
Presentation of major concepts to be explored for each topic, and related design exercises.

TUTORIALS: 2 hours/week
Hands-on exercises, project support, and presentations/critique of ongoing work.

The module aims to introduce students to some of the major theoretical and practical issues involved in designing games. To do this, we will be looking at some of the critical theory that has developed around games. And, in order to really appreciate the theoretical issues involved, we will also be doing a lot of hands-on work playing, designing, and analyzing games.

Note: No programming or technical skill is required for this module, however students are encouraged to be independent problem-solvers. Also, it is not necessary to be an experienced game player to take this module. Students  need to want to learn about interactivity, creativity, and games.

During this module, students will learn

  •     to appreciate aspects of game-design, and
  •     to apply actual design principles and techniques to the evaluation and creation of games.
What students should expect by the end of this module:
  •     A deeper appreciation of techniques used to develop  games
  •     An ability to apply those techniques to design  games and improve existing ones
  •     Familiarity with different types of classic computer and non-computer games
  •     An improved ability to work on design projects in teams, coordinate the essential project activities, etc.

See the IVLE Lesson Plan for weekly lesson plan. There may be slight changes to the lesson plan during the semester, so be sure to check the IVLE Lesson Plan regularly.

In addition to attending lectures, in this module students are expected to do the following things:
  • Participate in the module's IVLE forum
  • Read weekly required readings and occasionally play related games
  • Write 3 individual reflections based on the readings and games
  • Take part in short group design activities during lecture
  • Take part in ongoing work on projects during tutorials
  • Complete and submit one non-computer game and one computer game project.  Project work will involve weekly milestones.
Forum Participation
All students are expected to actively participate in online forum discussions during the module. Note that any questions about the module should be posted in the forums, and all students are to subscribe to the module forum.

There is no reading package for this module. All module readings are available online, either as web links or library e-reserves. Please check the IVLE Lesson Plan for details. Be sure to complete the readings before class each week, as I will assume that everyone is familiar with the readings during the lecture and accompanying discussions.

There are also games to play each week. These should also be played before class so that you can follow the lecture and discussion. These will either be free online games, or traditional games for which you can easily find the rules online. Some of the traditional games will require 2 players, so plan ahead.

There will be three (3) short reflections to be submitted via IVLE. Each reflection will involve answering a specific question about that week's reading and one or more games. The reflection should be no more than 500 words and must be submitted via the IVLE “Assessment” mechanism by 5:00pm on Monday of the specified week. Please note that the assessment mechanism will automatically lock after that and students who do not post a reflection item will receive zero points for that reflection item.

Lecture design exercises
During each lecture, there will be a short group design exercise related to the lecture material. This exercise will be completed during the lecture session, and submitted on a piece of paper, together with the names of all group members, at the end of the lecture. These exercises will be short, will hopefully be fun, and will help to reinforce the topics covered during the lecture.

Tutorial activities
Starting in Week 3 there are weekly tutorial sessions. During these sessions we will present some techniques relevant to the particular stage of the current project, and then students will apply these techniques to their own in-progress projects.

Project teams should:

  • acquire and bring their own prototyping materials (paper, pens, tape, tokens, dice, etc.); and
  • bring their game-in-progress to each tutorial.
During the second half of the module, students should be prepared to bring their laptops to the tutorial sessons.

During the module, students will work together in teams of 4-5 on two design projects. Project 1 (the first half of the module) will involve the design and creation of a non-computer game. Project 2 (the second half of the module) will involve the design and implementation of a computer-game.

For each project, teams will be expected to deliver:

  • A final working implementation that people can use to actually play the game.
  • Documentation about the project. Templates and examples of such documentation will be provided in the IVLE WorkBin.
  • A final presentation to the class (see below for details)
Weekly Project Milestones
Each week, every team will need to complete a small milestone that moves your project forward. Most of the work for this milestone can be completed during that week’s tutorial. Unless otherwise noted, team producers are expected to upload the results of the weekly milestone to the module IVLE workbin, by Friday 5:00pm of that week.

Project Teams & Roles
Students will work on their projects in teams of 4 members for Project 1, and 5 members for Project 2. The module lecturer will assign the members to teams. This will be done to distribute students with different backgrounds and skills evenly among the teams. Students will not be on the same teams during the two projects.

For Project 1, the division of roles required for teams of 4 people is as follows:

  • Producer & Project Documentation (Process)
  • Game Designer & Writer (Game Instructions)
  • Prototyping and Content/Asset Development
  • QA/Testing

For Project 2, the division of roles required for teams of 5 people is as follows:
  • Producer & Project Documentation (Process)
  • Game/UI Designer & Writer (Game Design Document)
  • Game/UI Programming
  • Content/Asset Development
  • QA/Testing
Each team is expected to identify which team members are responsible for which roles.

See the Guidelines for Team Roles document in the IVLE Workbin for details and suggestions.

Project Presentations
There will be two final project presentations during the module, one for Project 1 and one for Project 2.

  • For project presentations, it recommended only one team-member present the project.
  • All presentation slides and presentation videos are due in IVLE by 8:00am on the day of the final presentations.
PLEASE NOTE: students will be expected to use the presentation materials (slides and video) they have uploaded. We will not allow people to use presentation materials they bring on a thumb-drive, laptop, etc.

All students in the module are expected to attend the final project presentations, and all students are expected to be respectful of the students presenting.

Note that since Project 1 is due during week 5, which is e-learning week, project presentations for Project 1 will involve uploading a short video demonstration of gameplay, followed by discussion of the video in the IVLE forum. Details will be provided in the Project 1 brief.

This module is 100% CA (“continuous assessment”); there is no exam.

Breakdown of marks:

Assignments: 40%
- Reflections: 3 x 10% (individual)
- Weekly project milestones: 10% (group)

Projects: 50%
- Project 1 (boardgame): 15% (10% individual, 5% group)
- Project 2 (computer game): 35% (20% individual, 15% group)

Lecture and tutorial participation: 10% (individual)

Please note that the grading for the module is based partially on team performance (30%) and partially on individual performance (70%). A group grade means that every individual in the team receives the same marks for that component. An individual grade means that each individual will be evaluated separately for that component.

Everything due in this module has a deadline. Unless there are truly exceptional circumstances, late delivery of a particular deliverable is marked down 10% for each hour it is late. See the Lesson Plan for a week-by-week snapshot of deliverables.

Warning: students may not use a project they have created (or are creating) for another module as a project submission for this module. If students want to build upon a project they have created earlier, they need to:

  • seek approval from the module instructor before starting to work on the project
  • provide information about other modules where the project has been submitted, and
  • clearly describe what is new about the project for this  module (note that "what is new'' must be significant and must be equivalent in scope to other module projects that are not based on pre-existing projects)

The official NUS policy is that student should expect to work an average of 10 hours/week in a 4MC module. For this module, students should expect to do roughly the following every week:
  • 1.5 hrs/wk: Lecture
  • 1.5 hrs/wk: Tutorial
  • 4.0 hrs/wk: Assignments / Projects
  • 3.0 hrs/wk: Readings, reflections and preparation for lecture/tutorial
Note: this module is designed so that the work-load is about the same each week
  • If a student spends much less time on this module, it is almost certainly a sign the student will not do well.
  • If a student spends much more time on this module each week, talk to me: either you are doing more than we expect – or we have made the activities too time-consuming.

All students are expected to actively participate in lectures, tutorials, and online forum discussions during the module.

Warning! All students are expected to read and respond to email sent to their NUS email accounts.

This module makes heavy use of IVLE forums to answer questions, support discussions, and make important update announcements. Postings to the module forum are forwarded to NUS email accounts – and those are the accounts we will use if we need to contact students directly.

If students do not check/read mail sent to their NUS email accounts, the consequences may result in lower marks. In particular, students are like to be penalized if they do not respond promptly if we send them email (to their NUS email address). We cannot make exceptions and use other email accounts to contact students.

Note: it is possible to have your NUS email “forwarded” to another email account. To do this, go to https://exchange.nus.edu.sg/ and click on the link for Email Redirection (bottom, left-hand side of the page). Then, follow the instructions.

Please be aware: students need to be responsible for their NUS email accounts. If a student does not read/delete mail from an NUS account (or have it forwarded to another account), the account may “fill up” and mail to the account may bounce. This means: even though a student may be able to send mails from the account, our replies to that account will not get through.

To be very clear: “I don’t read emails sent to my NUS account” will not be an acceptable reason for missing important module announcements, updates, etc.

Academic Integrity is a critical value of the university community and integrity violations destroy the fabric of a learning community and the spirit of inquiry that is vital to the effectiveness of the University. Please find more information on Academic Integrity of FASS at http://www.fas.nus.edu.sg/docs/undergrad/plagiarism_warning.htm

Students are expected to know that using the work of others without proper attribution (e.g. without citing the work properly) constitutes plagiarism. Even when a student paraphrases another person’s work, proper citations are necessary to avoid plagiarism.

FASS offers a small e-course in plagiarism. See http://emodule.nus.edu.sg/ac Students caught plagiarising will receive a zero in their assignments and will be referred to the Deans office. Second offenders can face a fine and other disciplinary actions. So students should be sure to acknowledge any sources or material they use in their assignments!

A project should not include assets – text, art, music, or video – that are violations of copyright. The safest way to avoid this problem is to create your own assets, but students may also use copyright-free assets. Some sites with open-source materials:

    • Internet Archive http://www.archive.org
    • Wikimedia Commons http://commons.wikimedia.org
    • PDSounds Open Library: http://www.pdsounds.org
    • Freesound Project: http://freesound.iua.upf.edu

WARNING! Just because something is “on the Internet” does not mean it is automatically legal to use it in a project. If students use assets that they did not create, they must be able to show an explicit statement from the copyright owner that grants them the right to use those assets. (Teams will be required to provide this information as part of their project documentation.)