Learning Game Design: Part 2

The process of specifying and modifying the way the game plays: not programming, art, marketing, licensing, sound, etc.
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Instructed by Lewis Pulsipher Design / Game Design
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  • Lectures 80
  • Contents Video: 9 hours
    Other: 11 mins
  • Skill Level All Levels
  • Languages English
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About This Course

Published 5/2016 English

Course Description

[Note: This course exists because my original course "Learning Game Design: as a job or a hobby" more than doubled in size over time, becoming much too large for Udemy's new structure. That massive course is no longer available, instead there is "Learning Game Design" parts 1 and 2. As with that original course, this one is not subject to massive discounts, which only serve to offend those who paid full or near-full price.]

This pair of "Learning Game Design" courses (this is Part 2) is designed for people who want to design games - video or tabletop - but lack information about what is really involved and how to go about it. It's not rocket science, but commercial design is a JOB - one that cannot be done by rote, there is no "Easy Button". I'm not here to encourage you, or entice you, or entertain you, I'm here to inform you. I assume you have the motivation to learn how to design games, you just need to know how. And that means you need to do it from start to finish, to complete games rather than merely start them. We'll discuss the process of game design, the possible structures in games, the best way to start learning game design, what makes a game good (there's a great variety of opinion about this), ways to provide a framework for your design efforts, ways to keep records of your work, software to help you learn. Many aspiring game designers have crippling misconceptions (such as the notion that it's all about a great idea, or that everyone likes the same games they do), and I'll try to clear those out of your way. This is not a "comprehensive" series because there's no such thing. It is a pair of courses about learning game design. Learning is a process that goes on throughout a game designer's career, and it starts here.

This class will never be offered for free or at very deep discounts. That is disrespectful to me and to the students who pay full price or near it.

Keep in mind, this course is not about game development, that is, not about programming, art, sound, and so forth. It is only about game design.Most so-called "game design" courses are actually about game development, with just a little game design involved.

Following are comments from people who took the original course "Learning Game Design: as a job or a hobby":

Great course! Good for the starter like myself :)

Currently I follow this course (at 75% so far) and its a great course for beginner game designers like myself. The course is not a 1 click button and after your a game designer no (please send message if you found that course btw) but it gives a good frame work, hand outs, ideas and background about both video games and tabletop games.

So if you wanted to start with game design this is a great first step.

The teacher is clear and good to follow ( I am a student from The Netherlands and got no problem following this course). Also the course got some assignment I strongly recommend doing them I finaly found out why I Hate Monopoly :)

Cheers all hope this was usefull,

Jimmy

==

Mark Frazier

President

Designs In Creative Entertainment, LLC.

An ideal introduction to game design

Dr. Pulsipher distills the critical elements of designing games into manageable chunks. This is an ideal course to take if you are interested in designing games, regardless of whether you intend to pursue it as a career or not.

Much of the material covers the specifics of the process of game design, but there is alot of prime advice to be had in the lectures on creating the right conditions for quality feedback and on understanding the realities of the publishing business.

A must-have certification if you're serious about designing, and I'd say, even publishing games!

==

Pull Back the Curtain on the Game Design Process

I know that in the past there's only been a couple of times that I managed to blunder into some sort of prototype, but I had no clue as to what I was doing that was different than usual. Well... the material in this course nails down precisely what to do to get over that initial hump. It can save you from countless false starts and dumb ideas. And unlike other commentary on the design process, Dr. Pulsipher provides a whole menu of things that you can do in each phase of development.

This material reveals more of the dials and knobs of gaming than I even knew existed. And being aware of these things was enough to shift me from having an occasional promising idea to having more ideas than I know what to do with. Even just playing new games now, I cannot help but see "behind the curtain" and into the dilemmas the designers were facing. If you care about game design and actually do the work that this course entails, you are in for a profoundly illuminating experience.

What are the requirements?

  • A familiarity with many kinds of games. If you think Monopoly is a good game, you have a very long way to go
  • An open mind. If you think you know it all, you probably won't like what I have to say
  • Being a "bad-dude gamer" or expert game player *not* required - game design is a different set of skills!
  • No programming or other technical skills necessary

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Improve your success playing multi-sided conflict games
  • Understand how negotiation works (it may not be what you think)
  • Learn a process and structure for designing games
  • Learn what makes a game "Good" - not quite what you think
  • Learn the vital importance of repeated playtesting and modification, the "heart" of game design
  • Create and COMPLETE a game through the two courses. This is likely to take a long time, likely much longer than it takes to go through the course lectures
  • And much more . . .

What is the target audience?

  • Anyone who wants help in designing games, professionally or as a hobby

What you get with this course?

Not for you? No problem.
30 day money back guarantee.

Forever yours.
Lifetime access.

Learn on the go.
Desktop, iOS and Android.

Get rewarded.
Certificate of completion.

Curriculum

Section 1: Introduction
05:39

This is a discussion of what you'll learn and how the class works. Keep in mind, there are two parts to the class: this is a description of the entire two-part course.

I might add that it isn't necessary to take the course in exact order. If you see a topic that interests you, there's nothing that says you can't listen out of order.

01:08

You have two choices in addition to the 1 minute main video.

Notice the resource PDF which goes into more detail than this quite brief video. This is written in the third person, as is required for most mini-biographies.)  

Notice also the resource two and a half minute video, in which you
actually see me talking. It's the original intro to the larger course,
from 2012.

02:52

Udemy classes are traditionally organized as oral books, without interaction with students. This is not so different from lecture classes in universities where the instructor talks at hundreds of students and doesn't know any of them.

I come from a seated classroom environment (college), where I rarely had as many as 25 students, and I could talk with them, not at them.

Online classes provide very few opportunities for interaction. I've tried to do it through a discussion group on Yahoo Group, but that hasn't worked. Facebook seems to be favored these days but I haven't set that up as of now.

I may try an "Ask Me Anything" online, but that usually requires a larger following than these specialized classes afford.


08:19

It's virtually impossible to tell whether a game is "really good" or not without extensive playtesting. Experienced people can spot the weak games (usually), and the ones that might be easily fixed to be decent games.

I strongly prefer performance-based assessments for game design. There is no practical way to do this in the current format.

I've added some traditional tests to the course, though even as traditional tests go I prefer short answer and essay, which is not practical in this format.

Even though game design is much about thinking, what matters is what you can do, not what you can respond to on a highly simplified test.

02:06

There's a lot of material in the course, but the most time-consuming part will be if you actually try to make a game.

07:42

There's lots of material "out there", but less that's well-organized,
and even less that directly addresses the process of game design as
opposed to game analysis, game business, game production . . .

Section 2: What Makes a Game "Good"?
09:11

What's good (from a mass-market point of view) and bad (often the same

features) from a hobby game point of view, about Stratego? You'll make
your own list and then devise an improved Stratego (which could be an
entirely separate game).

02:53

Games are for the players, not the designer. And games are active, not
passive. So one of the most important questions you can ask is, "what
is the player going to do?"

10:50

To understand where we are, you need to know where we've been. So here's a brief summary of the evolution of non-sports games, part 1.

07:53

To understand where we are, you need to know where we've been. So here's a brief summary of the evolution of non-sports games, part 2.

01:49


You must know who your target audience is. If you don't have a target
audience, how can you have any idea what kind of game you're making?

07:38

Many people have tried to define or list kinds of "fun". I don't even

like to use the word fun about a game, as I think fun comes from who you
play with and the circumstances of the game session, not from the game.
"Enjoyable" or "interesting" is better. But here are some lists of
kinds of fun.

05:16

The objective of game design isn't "fun", because people define fun in

so many different ways. And sometimes games are "serious". Here's a
description of some of the many ways that designers strive for to make
games enjoyable/useful.

06:21

Many novice game designers get hung up on story. Stories help sell
games, but people continue to play them because of the activity. Big
studios hire writers when they want a big story, they hire game
designers to design games. The bigger the game, the more likely that
someone will be hired specifically for story- and dialog-writing. See
the "lecture" "Are you a Game Designer or a Fiction Writer", below.

05:12

Theme makes a difference in how a game is designed and played.

Atmosphere is something tacked onto what is essentially an abstract
game.

Pacing
03:32
05:59

Most of this is a discussion of "suspension of disbelief, realism, and
the like. But the most important thing is, don't get so tied up in world-building that you don't design a game!


For a look at an invented world geography that is quite interesting and explained in great detail, see

http://www.worlddreambank.org/P/PEGCON1.HTM


The link is to a description of one continent, with maps. There are at least 8 continents.

05:27

Here's a method for quickly "deconstructing" games, to evaluate what they're about.

04:24

Symmetric games - everyone starts with identical situations - are less
interesting than asymmetric, where they're not identical, but much
easier to balance.

16:42

Tastes in games change. In this long video I discuss current tastes and
preferences, which are often different from those of the 60s and 70s.

08:38

Video games owe a great deal to Dungeons & Dragons. And RPGs have been a large segment of tabletop gaming.

08:11

Video games owe a great deal to Dungeons & Dragons. And RPGs have been a large segment of tabletop gaming.

06:18

Games need to feel whole, complete, without extraneous aspects.
Everything in the game should contribute to the whole impressions and
feeling. This is called harmony in games, something you can learn to
recognize just as you can recognize harmony in music, or lack of
harmony. The opposite of harmony is the kludge, something that doesn't
fit the rest of the game.

This is part 1 of the discussion.

08:56

Games need to feel whole, complete, without extraneous aspects.
Everything in the game should contribute to the whole impressions and
feeling. This is called harmony in games, something you can learn to
recognize just as you can recognize harmony in music, or lack of
harmony. The opposite of harmony is the kludge, something that doesn't
fit the rest of the game.

This is part 2 of the discussion.

08:07

A game designer cannot control certain parts of the player experience,
such as who you play with, where you play, attitudes of players. Nor is
the game designer responsible for such players as the "Bored Loser".
Players need to bring an active attitude and take responsibility for
their entertainment (unlike with movies or novels). Part 1

08:17

A game designer cannot control certain parts of the player experience,
such as who you play with, where you play, attitudes of players. Nor is
the game designer responsible for such players as the "Bored Loser".
Players need to bring an active attitude and take responsibility for
their entertainment (unlike with movies or novels). Part 2

Article
Part 1: figuring out what's wrong with Risk.
Self-assessment: what makes a game good
10 questions
01:18

This assignment is from the early part of the first course in this pair.

Section 3: Making a Playable Prototype
06:05

Some tips about making paper prototypes. Some examples are provided in next video.

Be sure to look at the supplementary materials as well.

05:08

When you make a software prototype, think small, something that you
can complete. Half-done (half-baked) games won't impress anyone.
Recognize that what you can complete in a practical amount of time is a
lot less than you think. Think 2D, not 3D; think practical, not pretty.

I’ve been talking in this class about a playable prototype, something
that is an early version of the final game. In video games, studios
sometimes produce a “demo”, which may be called a prototype, to
demonstrate gameplay for a potential funder. It shows gameplay, it
doesn’t let anyone play. That helps a publisher or investor decide
whether to put up the money.

The not-actually-playable “demo” code is discarded when the actual game is made.

03:48

Tools (hardware, software, simple things like cars and pieces) for
making prototypes. This is more about tabletop games because video
games are mostly electrons, not so easy to show to other people.

02:44

Part 1 (no sound). This turn-based game is vaguely related to Stratego, insofar as
piece identities are initially hidden, and combat is hierarchical,
e.g., a 5 always beats a 4.  It is originally a board game, now being
programmed for PC, with the main goal to be player versus player games.

I skipped the tutorial scenarios. I randomized my setup to make the
game more challenging against a rudimentary computer opponent.  This
exposed my command ship (the "1") far to the left without much cover, so
I tried to bring a 6 across to help defend.

You'll notice that the computer opponent commits suicide at times. A
ship is brighter when the opponent knows what it is. My 5 is revealed
early on, but the computer attacks with a 2, even though this is
suicide.  (If it had a 3 to move as the second fighter, it could match
the 5 and all would die; whether it has the capability or not, it
doesn't use it.)  It gets worse in the second clip, when the same Battle
Cruiser is attacked  by a lone fighter at least twice.

This IS a prototype. Notice how the ships and black holes don't align
correctly with the squares. Consider the computer opponent defects
(though it must be said, the main intention of the game is for a human
to play against a human, online). The computer opponent is also pretty
aimless, that is, lacking strategy, but that's really hard to
incorporate at the best of times.

There are game-stopping bugs as well, though none manifest in these clips.

02:36

Part 2 (No sound). This turn-based game is vaguely related to Stratego, insofar as
piece identities are initially hidden, and combat is hierarchical,
e.g., a 5 always beats a 4.  It is originally a board game, now being
programmed for PC, with the main goal to be player versus player games.

I skipped the tutorial scenarios. I randomized my setup to make the
game more challenging against a rudimentary computer opponent.  This
exposed my command ship (the "1") far to the left without much cover, so
I tried to bring a 6 across to help defend.

You'll notice that the computer opponent commits suicide at times. A
ship is brighter when the opponent knows what it is. My 5 is revealed
early on, but the computer attacks with a 2, even though this is
suicide.  (If it had a 3 to move as the second fighter, it could match
the 5 and all would die; whether it has the capability or not, it
doesn't use it.)  It gets worse in the second clip, when the same Battle
Cruiser is attacked  by a lone fighter at least twice.

This IS a prototype. Notice how the ships and black holes don't align
correctly with the squares. Consider the computer opponent defects
(though it must be said, the main intention of the game is for a human
to play against a human, online). The computer opponent is also pretty
aimless, that is, lacking strategy, but that's really hard to
incorporate at the best of times.

There are game-stopping bugs as well, though none manifest in these clips.

12:20

Keep in mind, every game, video or otherwise, that depicts maneuver
requires a board, even if only a virtual board. Civilization I-IV use
square grids, V uses a hex grid. In the end, even if every individual
pixel is used as the anchor for a specific location, the pixels are a
grid.

By the way, I may not have said in the video that a brick pattern
(where the bricks are square rather than rectangular) is exactly
equivalent to hexagons.

I have attached a longer discussion of this topic, which will be an article in Against the Odds magazine.

03:41

A brief demonstration of a mapping program. (When I point to the

choice of graphics, I notice in the video that the the cursor appears to
be about an inch above where it actually was. Did not happen on the
main map. This is an artefact of my screen capture program, sorry.)

Article

My evaluation of Risk. You're likely to have listed some other problems, as well as some of these. See attached resource file.

05:43

The game interface (video or tabletop) lets a player know what's
happening, and lets the player manipulate the game. If it's bad, the
entire game will probably be thought bad.

03:08

When a player does something, the game must provide feedback, show cause

and effect, especially video games, which don't need the intervention
of the players to provide the feedback.

Article

This is an illustrated example of interface improvement in a non-electronic game.

Because illustrations are involved, it is attached as a resource.

Article

My "solutions" to Risk's problems. Yours will be different, of course.

Article

I hope that by now you're ready to make your prototype so that you can test it. The next section is about playtesting and modification as a result of playtesting, which is the heart of game design.

Section 4: Playtesting: the Heart of Game Design
06:07

Playtesting is not focus groups, or bug testing, or validation testing.

It's testing how the game plays to make sure it's entertaining (or
otherwise effective, if it's a "serious" game).

04:50

The playtesting process is similar to the way project management is
conducted. It's an iterative and incremental process that seeks to
compare the desired result with reality, detect discrepancies, change
the game to fix the problems, adjust the overall plan, and continue the
cycle until done.

An articulate and fascinating look into the head of a budding game designer (who took my "Learning Game Design" course . . .):

http://jeffro.wordpress.com/2014/02/19/how-game-designers-actually-think/

05:44

What are alpha, beta, and gamma (post-release) playtesting?

Article

Don't forget to play your Main Assignment game solo - even if it's a
game for two or more players, you can do it - a few times to work out
the worst bugs before you inflict it on someone else. People don't want
to play a game that's obviously broken, you need to fix the obvious
stuff before they play.


09:34

Playtesting is the heart of game design, and there are a lot of things to look for during a playtesting session (or from reports from blind testers). Which results in a two-part discussion.

09:41

Playtesting is the heart of game design, and there are a lot of things to look for during a playtesting session (or from reports from blind testers). Which results in a two-part discussion.

04:17

Categories of playtesters and how they differ, and where to find playtesters.

03:23

Playtesting a game is an invitation to say it sucks. But that's not to
say YOU suck. You have to keep playtest feedback at arms' length and
use it judiciously.

08:43

Emergent behavior - player and game behavior not intended or anticipated

by the designer - is what you're looking for in playtesting. Depending
on whether you're a game designer, puzzle designer, or story writer,
governs how you deal with emergent behavior.

03:18

Westerners (as opposed to East Asians) expect games to be fair. Video
gamers generally want rewards to be commensurate with effort and risk,
"balanced". Challenge-based games need to be neither too hard nor too
easy. But many players are now not interested in being challenged, they
want to be rewarded for playing.

Self-assessment: making a prototype and playtesting
10 questions
Section 5: Other considerations
How are Level Design and Game Design Related?
03:16
11:44

A discussion of the business of game design, which is NOT actual game
design, but necessary to deal with if you want to be a commercial
designer.

I will likely do a separate class about this at some point, as well as writing a book.

13:34

Your published games speak for themselves up to a point. But YOU are a
brand, and if your brand is well-known, people are more likely to try
your game, or at least look into it. Marketing yourself to help sales
of your games is a long-term task that you need to start NOW if you're
intending to be professionally published.

07:54

No one knows why items on the Internet "go viral", so we certainly
can't plan to do so. BIG games can be bought, by companies with enough
money - though failure still happens - bit hits, games that make a lot
more money than they cost, are uncommon, and ordinary game developers
cannot plan to make them. Just make the best game you can and hope you
get lucky.

URLs mentioned

www.gamesindustry.biz/articles/2014-03-20-adam-orth-internet-toxicity-has-been-chilling

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PmTUW-owa2w

06:29

Free-to-play video games have become very common, but raise ethical
issues because of methods used to persuade players to spend money
in-game.

05:47

I describe six different, often contradictory, goals for commercial
games. Marketing has displaced game quality as the most important
aspect of a game, unfortunately. The next lecture describes the major
problem, Discoverability.

"Discoverability"
04:39
07:27

There are some habits that "obviously" don't work well in game design.

06:05

When there is player behavior you do not like, try to rearrange the
gameplay so that it no longer makes sense for the player, rather than
try to legislate against it ("you can't do that"!) It's a complicated
question.

I've just (14 Apr14) run across a blog post that approaches the same idea ("Ban the Ban"):

http://nickbentleygames.wordpress.com/2014/04/14/game-design-tip-prohibit-bans/

11:09

The most important thing about most games (perhaps excepting
educational games) is the game, not the information. Researching
information for a game should not get in the way of designing a good
game (even an educational game). And it should never be an excuse not to
work on the design.

As game research most often involves historical data (as in wargames) I do focus on that.

09:00

Beginning with Magic: the Gathering, these games have become very
popular with their two-player, tactical gameplay and metagame add-ons.

The most important thing: if you like the gameplay style, DON'T
design a CCG, design an LCG. CCGs are a marketing scheme, and beyond
Magic: the Gathering and video games such as Hearthstone, no one wants
any part of it any more.You can't successfully sell a CCG. Period.

Part 1

07:47

Part 2 

Beginning with Magic: the Gathering, these games have become very
popular with their two-player, tactical gameplay and metagame add-ons.

The most important thing: if you like the gameplay style, DON'T
design a CCG, design an LCG. CCGs are a marketing scheme, and beyond
Magic: the Gathering and video games such as Hearthstone, no one wants
any part of it any more.You can't successfully sell a CCG. Period.


05:47

By formats I mean primarily, tabletop or computer/video. Some games will
work better as one, some as the other, and some have elements favorable
to both. Example provided.

03:16

A game designer cannot get mixed up in the notion that some people are

bad (or good) dice rollers.  There's no such thing, no one can twist the
Laws of Probability. Consider how people can think that, though.

Section 6: Conclusion
10:55

Here is what I've derived from Stratego, which is likely much more
extensive than your effort - but I've been working on it for many, many
years.


Yours will be entirely different, which is of course to be expected. The question is, how well does it playtest?

02:19

In achieving the objective of making complete games, the aspiring
designer may do fine on his own, but some may want more organized forms
of practice. There are "game jams" and game design contests to enter.

01:48

If you want to be a commercial full-time game designer, you'll need an

online game portfolio to show potential employees what you've done.

04:03

Unfortunately, successful people are magnets for destructive criticism.

Especially in the video game industry, where a great deal of nastiness
resides. So you may have to learn to cope with such criticism.

Article

Sometimes it's useful to try to summarize "everything" in one page. Here's my attempt for game design.

Article

Maxims are pithy phrases that can illuminate an idea. Game design

maxims have been collected in one project, and I provide some of my own.

01:01

The last check on the game you're making.

07:13

Robert Heinlein once said about jokes, "Good once, good twice, or always
good." We can apply the same to games, especially nowadays when the
standard has fallen - because most people don't care about playing a
particular game more than a few times. I want to make games that can be
played over and over with interest: how about you?

Article

This podcast (MP3) attached is an effort by the designer (me) to help

people who might be interested in playing Britannia (2nd Edition). I
posted it on my website.

01:46

A brief conclusion to a long course. Make complete games!

Self-assessment
10 questions
Section 7: Bonus Materials
08:24

Why write a book in the 21st century, an era when people rarely read non-fiction books? And why a game design book? Here's why…

http://www.mcfarlandbooks.com/book-2.php?id=978-0-7864-6952-9

http://www.amazon.com/Game-Design-Create-Tabletop-Finish/dp/0786469528/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?

What makes my "Game Design" book unusual or unique
04:40
01:04:12

I talk about game design each year at the grandiosely-titled World

Boardgaming Championships in Lancaster PA. This year I talked about the
business of game design quite a bit, a topic covered in only one
non-bonus lecture, really, in this course.

Attached audio file.

World Boardgaming Championships Annual Game Design talk 2013, part 2
54:18
Article

Origins Game Fair 2008 talk about breaking into the game industry.

Attached audio.

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Instructor Biography

Lewis Pulsipher, Commercially Published Game Designer, College Teacher

Dr. Lewis Pulsipher (Wikipedia: "Lewis Pulsipher"; "Britannia (board game)"; "Archomental" ) is the designer of half a dozen commercially published boardgames. His game "Britannia" is described in an Armchair General review "as one of the great titles in the world of games." Britannia was also one of the 100 games highlighted in the book "Hobby Games: the 100 Best". He has over 17,000 classroom hours of teaching experience including teaching video game design and production, and over 20 years of part-time graduate teaching experience.

His book "Game Design: How to Create Video and Tabletop Games, Start to Finish" (McFarland) focuses on practical advice for beginning game designers, about how you actually create and complete game designs. He also contributed to the books "Tabletop: Analog Game Design," "Hobby Games: the 100 Best," "Family Games: the 100 Best." His game design blog has been active since 2004, and he is a contributor and "expert blogger" on Gamasutra, the #1 site for professional video game developers.

His latest published game is the 2011 reissue with additions of "Dragon Rage," originally published in 1982. Three new versions of Britannia, including a 90-120 minute version and a diceless version, are forthcoming, as well as several other games from Worthington Publishing and others. His Viking adventure game "Sea Kings" was published by Worthington in August 2015.

Lew has a Ph.D. in military and diplomatic history from Duke University, from ancient days when degrees in media, computer networking, or game design did not exist--nor did IBM PCs. In 2012 he was a speaker at the East Coast Game Conference, PrezCon, Origins Game Fair, and World Boardgaming Championships. Long ago he was contributing editor for White Dwarf and Dragon magazines, and publisher of various game fanzines. In 2013 he was Industry Insider Guest of Honor at GenCon, and in 2014 is again speaker at the ECGC.

Game design blog and teach game design blogs are on blogspot

"Expert blogger", Gamasutra

former contributing editor, White Dwarf, Dragon, Space Gamer, etc.

former publisher, Supernova, Blood and Iron, Sweep of History, etc.


"Always do right--this will gratify some and astonish the rest." --Mark Twain

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