intro - milestones - schedule - readings - resources

Game Capstone - Winter 2017

 

Professor Brian Schrank

#200F in 14 East Jackson Daley Building Loop Campus
DePaul University
College of Computing and Digital Media

Overview
Students will be guided through a full production cycle of game development from brainstorming a cool game concept to playtesting and polishing a complete, short but awesome game. The primary purpose of this course is for students to gain experience working intensely as a team or “game studio.” Students will learn how to work successfully with people that have diverse skill sets, backgrounds, and interests. Teams will be formed by students (with instructor approval) or by the instructor. Once teams are formed they can’t be changed and will last both Winter and Spring quarters

Course Goals

  • To experience a full game development production cycle (from concept to asset production) within a collaborative context;
  • To learn how to “scope” a game design idea based on available time, resources, and expertise;
  • To gain experience working in cross-functional teams;
  • To gain practice in evaluating game design ideas, game prototypes, and demos in order to improve their quality.

Main Deliverable
The main deliverable of the two-quarter course is to design and develop an original, fun, indie game. Capstone I (winter quarter) will deliver an alpha build of a game, defined as a demo that articulates the core gameplay, art, animation, and audio concept; Capstone II (spring quarter) a demo build, defined as 1-minute of awesome gameplay experience which includes exemplary animation, art, writing, and audio.

 

Grading Criteria for Capstone I - Winter 2017:

1) WORK HERE AND WORK HARD - 20% of grade
Work on capstone 20-30 hours a week. And work on capstone at the DePaul Loop campus outside of class for at least 6 hours a week.
Putting in the time is necessary to making excellent work. You may have to rethink your freetime on the weekends, mornings, and evenings. Some students might say they do not have that much time to work on capstone but then they proceed to burn 20 hours a week on Overwatch, Netflix, etc. Working at least 6 hours a week at DePaul will ensure you're around to give and receive feedback, help, and so on from teammates, tutors, and classmates. Each student must submit a hardcopy report to the instructor at the beginning of class each Tuesday documenting all the things they worked on during the 20-30 hours they spent on capstone over the past week as well as when and which room in the loop campus they worked on capstone for 6 hours.

2) SEEK HELP AND FEEDBACK ALL THE TIME - 20% of grade
Get substantiative help or feedback on your capstone work at least 2x per day for a total of 14 times per week. One of the places you ask for help is this capstone section's Slack channel. Asking for help or feedback DURING class does NOT count for this.
Students of all stripes: programmers, designers, artists, and sound folks, are notoriously stubborn about getting help and feedback on their works in progress, sketches, ideas, technical challenges, etc. "Substantiative" means you received clear, actionable advice that made your work or process obviously better. One of the places you must solicit daily help or feedback is through this section's class Slack channel. Asking your teammates for help or feedback does not count for this. You must ask for help or feedback from someone outside of your team. The other place you ask for help must not be Slack but elsewhere. For example, Jeremy Crockett in the tutoring lab is an excellent source of help for designers, programmers, artists, and even sound folks. There are online communities that can also be helpful. And of course other people sitting in the lab with you may be a rich source of help and feedback. Seek out others who are better than you at your job and show them what you are doing as often as possible so they can help you rapidly improve your work. Each student must submit a hardcopy report to the instructor at the beginning of class each Tuesday documenting the 14 cases over the past week in which they asked for help or feedback and what actions they took to improve their work or work methods.

3) GIVE HELP AND FEEDBACK DAILY - 20% of grade
Help someone on this section's capstone Slack channel who are not on your team at least once per day for a total of 7 times per week. Helping someone DURING class does NOT count for this.
What comes around goes around. You should enjoy helping and giving feedback to your classmates and vice versa. All your games will be 1000% better from the amount of goodwill, interest, and support you collectively offer each other. Each student must submit a hardcopy report to the instructor at the beginning of class each Tuesday documenting the 7 cases over the past week in which they helped a non-teammate on the class Slack channel.

4) CONSTANTLY POST LATEST STUFF ONLINE - 20% of grade
Instant Access to Constantly-Updated Working Builds and WIPs.
This is necessary to be able to get constant help, feedback, and to continually evaluate how each team and student is doing. Each team must continually make and post latest working builds of their game available online. Each team might create a blog for this purpose. These builds should be updated daily as you improve and develop the game. In the beginning of the project these might just be prototypes. In addition to game builds, all game materials, sketches, works-in-progress must be made available online. This will help artists, designers, and audio folks get continual feedback. Like the project builds, each student could use the team's blog for this purpose. However, if artists would rather use Tumblr or something that displays images more easily they can use whatever method they'd like to ensure all their latest work is readily available online. Students will be tested and if they have to look up the URL then it doesn't count as "instant." The links for these must be easy for people to remember and look up.

5) ALPHA BUILDS - 20% of grade
Alpha build due at end of quarter that articulates the core gameplay, art, animation, and audio concept.


Feedback
Feedback on your progress and performance in the course will be based on the following items:

  • Communication and Critical Thinking: How well are you able to express your ideas, verbally, through your design, and in written form? Is critical thinking evident in your design work?
  • Design Process: What are the strengths and weaknesses of your game design process? Are you able to evaluate the work at different points in the process and to identify areas for future development?
  • Collaboration: Are you able to leverage the strengths of your teammates in ways that are both productive and generous??

Promises
Two promises to be made:

  1. To your faculty and your peers: that you will respect our time and efforts with your own; that you will work your hardest, and seek to be a better designer, programmer and artist through trial and error, offering enthusiastic criticism and accepting it in order to improve on your ideas.
  2. To yourself: to push yourself beyond the bounds of your comfort zone, and to be brave, adventurous and surprising.

Attendance
You are expected to attend all classes and participate in class activities as scheduled. If you miss a class for any reason, you are expected to follow up with the instructor and your team, and find out what was missed and make up any work. A note from a doctor or nurse will be required for an absence to be excused. The third unexcused absence, and each subsequent absence, will result in an automatic final grade deduction of 1/2 a letter grade. Being late to class counts as 1/3 of an absence. More than 4 absences will result in automatic failure of the course.

Late assignments
Late assignments will only be accepted within three days of the due date. Each day the assignment is late will decrease the possible point value by 10%.

Incomplete
An Incomplete grade is given only for an exceptional reason such as a death in the family, a serious illness, etc. Any such reason must be documented. Any incomplete request must be made at least two weeks before the final and approved by the Dean of the School of Computer Science, Telecommunications and Information Systems. Any consequences resulting from a poor grade for the course will not be considered as valid reasons for such a request.

External Expert Advisors
Each studio team is expected to work with an External Expert Advisor, defined as an expert in some aspect of game development (art, audio, design, programming, etc.) that is not on staff or faculty at CDM. The role of the advisor is to provide additional support and perspective. Studio teams are expected to get input from their advisors at key milestones during the development process, as laid out in the Milestones document. Capstone faculty will help teams to identify advisors, if needed.

The Fine Print
Academic Integrity
Work done for this course must adhere to the University Academic Integrity Policy, which you can review in the Student Handbook or by visiting the Academic Integrity page at DePaul University http://academicintegrity.depaul.edu.

Students with disabilities
If you feel you need an accommodation based on the impact of a disability please contact me privately to discuss your specific needs. All discussions will remain confidential. To ensure that you receive the most appropriate accommodation based on your needs, contact me as early as possible in the quarter (preferably within the first week of class), and make sure that you have contacted either:
PLuS Program (for students with LD or AD/HD) at:
http://studentaffairs.depaul.edu/plus/
The office of Students with Disabilities (for all other disabilities) at:
http://www.studentaffairs.depaul.edu/studentswithdisabilities/

 

Team Studio Culture
Each student game studio will be able to determine its own group culture and develop a set of unique strategies that helps that culture flourish. Based on your team’s group identity, you’ll determine together how you’ll work and collaborate in the ways that best serve your development process. Communication is key to fostering and maintaining a healthy team dynamic.

Team Member Roles
Each student will be responsible for producing quality work in one of the 4 following job fields:

  1. Artist
    Artists will work in 2D, creating icons, buttons, model textures, and game screens as well as 3D, creating models, UV mapping, rigging, and animating. A close working relationship with the programmer will be key to creating assets that will work well in the game engine.

  2. Designer
    Designers will write and maintain game design documents, develop and program prototypes, devise and implement level design in code, and strategically structure playtests to solicit the most meaningful feedback. A close working relationship with the programmer will be key to designing a game that will work well in the game engine.

  1. Programmer
    Programmers will work with the designer to develop the game mechanics and implement the game levels, and will work with the artists to develop the GUI and HUD. Programmers, with the help of designers, will prototype game concepts in order to test their technical feasibility, playability and fun. NOTE: Messy code that that works imperfectly is infinitely better than beautiful code that takes a long time to write—holding out the empty promise of working perfectly.

  1. Sound Designer and Music Composer
    Sound designers/composers will work with the game designers to create sound effects and music that serves the narrative and theme of the game design. Downloading sound effects from the internet and remixing them into new sound effects is encouraged.

Producer
I will designate each team's producer by talking about it with each team. It's simple. The most organized person will be the producer. The producer must have a dual-role designation and primarily serve as programmer, artist, designer, or sound person and IN ADDITION to that major role, they will also serve as producer. The producer will be responsible for project scheduling, organizing meetings, making sure every teammate has what they need to work properly and do their best, and always ensuring that the big picture is always being served (the big picture is to actually complete a game that provides an awesome 1 minute experience). Note that every year there is always a producer or two who turns out to be not up to the job. In those cases I will designate a new producer for that team.

Remixing is Okay!
Students are allowed to download any asset they wish and use them in their game: 3D models, music, images, etc. Teams do not need to ask permission to use whatever they want. The only caveat is that at the end of each quarter each student must provide a list of the assets that they created and the things they did for their studio.

LEARNING GOALS:

  • To experience a full game development production cycle (from concept to asset production) within a collaborative context
  • To learn how to “scope” a game design idea based on available time, resources and expertise
  • To gain experience working in cross-functional teams
  • To gain practice in evaluating game design ideas, game prototypes, and demos in order to improve their quality.

Main Deliverable Related to Course Learning Goals

  • The main deliverable of the two-quarter course is to design and develop an original, engaging, indie game or game 4 change. Capstone I (winter quarter) will deliver an alpha build of a game defined as a demo that articulates the core gameplay, art, animation and audio concept; Capstone II (spring quarter) a demo build, defined as 5 minutes of engaging / purposeful gameplay which includes exemplary art, animation, writing and audio.

Learning Domain Description
GAM 395 is included in the Liberal Studies program as a course with credit in the Senior Year Capstone domain. The Senior Capstone experience allows students to explore substantive areas of scholarship and creative works within their major. Students are given the opportunity to create knowledge within the context of the ideas, perspectives, and research of others in the discipline. The Capstone further provides students the opportunity to integrate and compare knowledge gained from their major with that which was learned in the domain area and core courses of the Liberal Studies Program.  In this culminating experience, students create, under the mentorship of a faculty member, a final project of their own design.

Learning Outcomes
Students will be able to:

  • Draw selectively on the wide range of different Liberal Studies courses they have taken, in ways that will illuminate what they have learned in their major programs.
  • Pull together the work of their major.
  • Combine the work of their major with other Liberal Studies courses and concepts.
  • Apply one or more theories or concepts from courses within their major to an analysis of a particular issue relevant to the major.
  • Discuss an idea, method or concept from a discipline outside their major field of study to an analysis of a particular issue relevant to their major field of study.
    • Identify perspectives and/or values of the major field, and compare them with those of one or more disciplines outside the major.

How Learning Outcomes Will Be Met:

  • Students are required to produce at least 10 pages of written work in a "Post-Mortem Paper" that address one or more of the above-mentioned Liberal Studies Learning Goals.

College Policies

Online Course Evaluations Evaluations are a way for students to provide valuable feedback regarding their instructor and the course. Detailed feedback will enable the instructor to continuously tailor teaching methods and course content to meet the learning goals of the course and the academic needs of the students. They are a requirement of the course and are key to continue to provide you with the highest quality of teaching. The evaluations are anonymous; the instructor and administration do not track who entered what responses. A program is used to check if the student completed the evaluations, but the evaluation is completely separate from the student’s identity. Since 100% participation is our goal, students are sent periodic reminders over three weeks. Students do not receive reminders once they complete the evaluation. Students complete the evaluation online in CampusConnect.

Academic Policies

All students are required to manage their class schedules each term in accordance with the deadlines for enrolling and withdrawing as indicated in the University Academic Calendar.  Information on enrollment, withdrawal, grading and incompletes can be found at: cdm.depaul.edu/enrollment.

 

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