Department of Cognitive Science

Game Design

65039 GSAS-2510-02
Mondays, Thursdays 10:00AM - 11:50AM

Sage 2510

Instructor: Marc Destefano
Office: Sage 3118
Email: destem [at] [you know the rest]
Office Hours: Thursdays, 1-3PM

Book: The Art of Game Design, by Jesse Schell

Course Description: This class deals with the decisions that a designer is faced with when crafting an interactive experience. Generally, these decisions are made from a "top-down" perspective, in which the designer treats the game as a fictional world, or from a "bottom-up" perspective, where they experiment with low-level systems to see if they combine in interesting ways. This class will cover both approaches.

Objective: My objective is to teach the fundamentals of game design, but also to serve as a practical primer to anyone interested in entering the gaming industry. In the beginning, topics will center around players, characters, and stories and will progress toward mathematical foundations. Game design and construction is a huge topic, requiring many fields of knowledge. Besides programming skills, it is important to understand how to get the reaction you want from the end user, how to make an interface as transparent as possible, and how to look ahead in solving the difficult problems of the future, especially those involving AI.

Course Policies

Preparation and Attendance: This is largely a lecture course, but there will be a great deal of discussion, and multiple assignments will involve in-class exercises. Attendance is mandatory, as there will be material covered in class that is not found in the course book. Comments and questions relevant to the course material are encouraged.

Academic Honesty: Student relationships are built on mutual respect and trust. Students must be able to trust that their teachers have made responsible decisions about the structure and content of the course and that they are conscientiously making their best effort to help students learn. Teachers must be able to trust that students do their work conscientiously and honestly making their best effort to learn. Acts that violate this mutual respect and trust undermine the educational process. They counteract our very reason for being here at Rensselaer and will not be tolerated. Any student who engages in any form of academic dishonesty will receive an F in this course and will be reported to the Dean of Students for further disciplinary action. The Rensselaer Handbook defined various forms of Academic Dishonesty and procedures for responding to them. All of these forms are violations of trust between students and teachers. Please familiarize yourself with this portion of the handbook. In addition to the violations listed within the handbook, I also do not tolerate multiple submissions of the same assignment to different classes.

Gender-fair language: Because the way we speak and write affects the way we think, everyone in this course is expected to use gender-fair language in all discussions and writing. A guide to gender-fair language is available from the Writing Center and from the Library.

Grading: The graded assignments for this class will include six "normal" homework assignments, each of which will be a paper or a short design project. There are also two major projects: a two-hour roleplaying adventure for three of your classmates (as well as participating in three other roleplaying adventures), and a system design using the Machinations tool. All papers should be typed in 10-point font, with 1-inch margins and spacing of one-and-a-half. Your final grade is determined as follows:

Percentage of Grade
Homework - Memories 10%
Roleplaying Project 25%
Homework - Personality 10%
Homework - Probability 10%
Machinations Project 15%
Homework - Growth 10%
Homework - BattleBattle! 10%
Homework - Us vs. It 10%

The late penalty is 10 points per 24-hour period past the due date/time, up to a maximum of 50 points


Dates Topic
Aug 30 Orientation*
Sept 6 Design Skills
Sept 10, 13 Inspiration, Stories**
Sept 17, 20 Characters, Players*
Sept 24, 27 Spaces, Transmedia Worlds
Oct 1, 4 Roleplaying sessions
Oct 9 (Tues), 11 Roleplaying sessions
Oct 15, 18 Race to the End, System Dynamics
Oct 22, 25 Probability I*, II
Oct 29, Nov 1 Machinations I, II**
Nov 5, 8 Balance I, II
Nov 12, 15 Growth I*, II
Nov 19 Daikatana
Nov 26, 29 BattleBattle*, Us vs. It*
Dec 3, 6 Induction, Gamification
Dec 10 One-page Designs

Slides used in class

Department of Cognitive Science
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Carnegie 108
110 8th Street
Troy, NY 12180
Phone: (518) 276-6472
Fax: (518) 276-8268