Game Design Studio III

Game Design Studio III is the last of three courses comprising a year-long project sequence in which students work in teams to develop a fully functional computer game. The course is offered at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is intended to be taken by seniors in the BS Computer Science: Computer Game Design major as a capstone experience. The other two courses in the sequence are Game Design Studio I (CMPS 170) and Game Design Studio II (CMPS 171). The three course sequence typically starts in Fall quarter, and continues through Winter and Spring quarters.

Overall, the three-course Game Design Studio sequence is intended to provide an experience where students can take a non-trivial game concept from initial idea through to completed game experience, thereby experiencing the full range of issues inherent in producing a working computer game. The sequence requires students to synthesize the concepts they have learned in their prior classes by applying them to a concrete game creation task. Since the course involves the creation of design documents, giving presentations, creation of project management materials (user stories, burndown charts, etc.), and the creation of a project website, the sequence also satisfies the UC Santa Cruz Disciplinary Communication general education writing requirement. The course also exposes students to the issues of working in teams, and software engineering issues such as project management, software design, software testing, configuration management, and software builds. Teams additionally have to learn the specific capabilities of their game platform (e.g., Playstation 3, iPhone, XNA, etc.), and how to coordinate with artists, musicians, and animators to create the art assets for their game.

The specific learning goals for CMPS 172 are as follows. By the end of the quarter, students will know:

  • Gameplay experience tuning
    • Refining game controls
    • Creating a pleasing and unified end-to-end gameplay experience
    • Creating an effective tutorial system
    • Crafting levels to ensure strong pacing and flow
    • Developing a splash screen, menu system, credits page
  • Release engineering
    • Creating a final, complete, self-contained game image
    • Creating a complete web page
  • Scrum software development process:
    • Release and Sprint planning
    • Experience performing several Sprints and two Releases
    • Project management using Scrum (burndown charts, task boards, daily scrums)
    • Coordination with artists and musicians
  • Game testing:
    • Game playtesting, concept and application
    • Gameplay metrics, including instrumenting of code to collect metrics
    • Running gameplay testing sessions, collecting feedback from playtesters
    • Delivering playtest information to team to drive design changes
  • Art style:
    • Developing an art style for a game
    • Communicating with artists to develop and refine a game's art style
  • Disciplinary communication:
    • Use of user stories, tasks, task boards, and task burndown charts to represent and present software project status
    • Use of a website to communicate the game to an audience of potential players
    • Creation of a game trailer to communicate the gameplay experience
    • Presentation of gameplay and gameplay metric information gathered during playtests
    • Use of Powerpoint to give presentations on project status
    • Ability to give a live demonstration of software during a presentation
    • Use of Powerpoint to deliver a final game presentation to a large audience

By the end of the quarter, game projects will meet the following goals:

  • The game is a complete, stand-alone experience that can be run external to its software development environment
  • A complete website exists that describes the game
  • A gameplay trailer exists, and is available on the game's website
  • The game will be publically presented

Game Design Studio I focused on game design and developing a novel game concept, and Game Design Studio II focused on software engineering issues and realizing the initial game concept. Now, in Game Design Studio III, students focus on completing all of the content for their game, refining the overall gameplay experience, and focusing on polishing the overall game feel, leading to the final release of their game.

Instructors and Assistants