DESMA 157: Game Design Workshop                                Professor: Eddo Stern

Fall 2019, UCLA Design Media Arts                                TA: Blaine O’Neill        

Monday, Wednesday 9:00am – 11:45am

Broad Art Center room 4240

Office Hours @ UCLA GAME LAB (BROAD 3252)
Eddo:  Wednesday 1:00pm - 2:00pm

Blaine : Monday 1:00pm-2:00pm

Course Description: 
This course provides a foundation in game design, production, and literacy through coursework that develops concepts that are unique to these areas. The course will focus on non-digital game creation skills with options available for those students who wish to create digitally . Throughout the course students will develop playable games, each project will explore various aspects of game design, including: game fabrication, rule design, game balance, physical play and performance, multiplayer dynamics, complexity, randomness, polemics, narrative, adaptation, and the various aesthetic and pragmatic aspects of game design.   The course will cover a range of  concepts primarily through creative projects, which will be  supported through reading and written assignments, class lectures, discussions, game analysis, and playtesting sessions.  Two game projects will be created in the course: (1) an experimental group game project involving the whole class and created as a team effort , and (2) a final polemical game project which may take on any form (digital or not).

Attending visiting lectures and events:
We will be incorporating attendance and feedback to DMA or Game Lab visiting lectures and other events that are relevant to our coursework  as part of the requirements for the class. Lectures to attend are TBD. Additionally the Indiecade International Games Festival is happening in Santa Monica Oct 10-12, and we encourage students to visit.

Students in the class will be required to attend and write a 1-2 page response for two events or lectures.

Class participation (15%)

Written Assignments (15%)

Game #1: Group Game : Character Design (15%)

Game #1: Group Game : Team contribution (15%)

Game #2: Polemical Game: Proposals (10%)

Game #2: Polemical Game: Playtest (15%)

Game #2: Polemical Game: Final (15%)

Written Assignments will be graded based on these parameters:
*attention to detail/craft  (bugs, visual artifacts, spelling, clarity of writing)

Game projects will be graded based on these parameters:
*project scope/ambition/amount of work
*originality/creative challenge/risk taking/trying something unusual
*attention to detail/craft  (
bugs, visual artifacts, spelling)
*punctuality - especially meeting the in progress deadlines

All assignments must be submitted before the beginning of class time on the day they are due unless a midnight deadline is indicated (as 24:00).  Late projects and assignments will be penalized by one letter grade per class day they are late  and will not be accepted if more than one week late.

Grading to student strengths:
Game design and development involves a diverse set of skills: visual, technical, logical, written and conceptual. For each project we will ask students to identify and select the areas of focus which they see as the particular strengths and focus areas of their project. We encourage students to diversify these areas of focus from project to project, and grading will be considerate of these choices.

More than one absence without the professor or TA’s prior permission will lower the participant’s final grade by one fraction (e.g. a A- will become a B+). With each additional unexcused absence (3 and more) the grade will drop a full unit (e.g. a B+ will become a C+).

Total Absences: If you miss two weeks of class (4 or more total absences (excused and  unexcused) you will not able to pass the class.

Arriving late to class: Arriving 10 minutes late will officially count as as being late, 3 lates count as an absence. Students arriving more than an hour late to class will be considered absent.

Note about attendance:

This class has a waiting list and a long list of students outside of DMA who have requested to  take it. We would like to emphasize how important it is for us  that if you choose to take the class you treat your attendance seriously and be considerate that your enrollment in the class means someone else is not able to attend. Please do keep that in mind and try and embrace class participation and presence.

Additionally, if your project or presentation is not ready on time on days that projects are due, it is important that you come to class on time on such an occasion - we spend these class sessions  to review and playtest student work and have noticed over the years that these are often days on which students do not come to class arrive late. Please make an effort to attend class and be on time on these presentation days - engaging with your fellow student’s work is a very important aspect of your class participation and our learning goals for the class.

Mobile Phone use in class:

We request that you turn off  and put away your mobile phone during class time. Our class departs every day at 9:00am and lands at 11:50am :)

Recommended Reading

-Caillois, Roger. Man Play & Games. University of Illinois Press  2001

-DeKoven, Bernie. The Well Played Game: A Player’s Philosophy. MIT Press 2013

-Huizinga Johan. Homo Ludens: A study of the play element in culture. Beacon 1971

-Salen, Katie and Eric Zimmerman. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. MIT Press 2004

-Hocking, Joseph, Unity in Action, Second Edition Manning Publications, 2018

Class Schedule:

Schedule color key:
Magenta : something is due
Purple: Play Games
Blue : Class Lecture/Demonstration
Green : Visiting Lecture/Class Event

Red : No Class

Week 1 :: Game Literacy

Monday Sept 30:

        Class Overview

Class Introductions
Kubb: The Swedish Game of Kings

Wednesday October 2:


Deck Building Card Games: Magic, Munchkin, Dominion, Keyforge

        HW: Play a deck building card game over weekend with group

Week 2 :: Game Literacy / Group Game Project

Monday October 7:
        Descent / Mice and Mystics / Arkham Horror / D&D Board Game

        Action Castle

        (Deck Building Card Games: Netrunner)

HW: Caillois reading response

HW: Indiecade response

<<Thurs-Sat October 10-12: Indiecade Festival (Santa Monica)>>

Wednesday October 9:

        Caillois + What Makes a good game?

Introduce Group Project + Determine  roles

HW: Group Game: Character Design

DUE: Caillois response

Week 3:: Group Game Project

Monday October 14:

DUE: Characters, Deck prototypes

Discussion - guidelines, balance, decide deadlines

Wednesday October 16:


        Work in class

<<Thurs October 17: Context Collapse, DMA Fall Group Show, 5-8pm New Wight Gallery>>

Week 4:: Group Game Project

Monday October 21:


        Work in class

DUE: Decks Content finalized

<<Tues October 22: Morehshin Allahyari artist talk, 6pm EDA>>

Wednesday October 23:


        First Playtest

        Discussion - improvements

Week 5:: Group Game Project + Polemical Games

Monday October 28:


Second Playtest

Discussion - improvements

Wednesday October 30:

David O’Grady Guest Dungeon Master
Play Roleplaying Games (DnD, Fiasco, Dungeon World)

HW: Polemical Games Reading Response

HW: Polemical Game Proposal
Week 6:: Polemical Games

Monday November 4:

Introduce Polemical Game Project

Polemical Game Lecture

Play Polemical Games

DUE: Polemical Games Reading Response

Wednesday November 6:

        Pecha Kucha Project Proposal Presentations

DUE: Pecha Kucha Polemical Game Proposals

Week 7::  Polemical Game Design

Monday November 11:

        Veterans Day No Class

        A great time to do a lot of thinking and planning about your final project!

Wednesday November 13:

1 on 1 meetings / feedback

Work in class

DUE: Detailed Proposal with Questions to work on
<<Fri-Sun November 15-17: Feature Extraction conference>>

Week 8::  Polemical Game Design

Monday November 18:

        Analog and Digital Demos (Printing, Unity , Etc)

        Work in Class

Wednesday November 20:

Work in Class

HW: Polemical Game Playtests
Week 9::  Polemical Game Design

Monday November 25:

        Play Demo Games


        DUE: Playtests Due (A)

Wednesday November 27:

Play Demo Games


DUE: Playtests Due (B)

Week 10:: Polemical Game Design

Monday December 2:

        Work in Class/ Feedback

Wednesday December 4:

        Work in Class/ Feedback

Week 11:: Finals Week

Day  (TBA):

DUE: Lectures/Events Responses (x2)

        DUE: Finished games and documentation