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MMEDIA 3L03 GameDesign

Academic Year: Winter 2017

Term: Fall

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. David Ogborn


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 306

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 27603

Office Hours: Mondays 1-2 PM and by appointment (TSH-306)

Course Objectives:

Students will develop designs and multimedia assets for digital games, informed by readings and discussions of game design theory. The principal learning goals are to:

  1. develop theoretical vocabulary to describe the design of digital games
  2. acquire strategies for iteratively improving the design of digital games
  3. produce 3D game assets and integrate them into a game engine
  4. implement common game mechanics and display structures
  5. explore artistic and career possibilities connected to games and game assets
  6. gain experience with team collaboration, continuous integration and version management

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Course Materials and Texts: All required reading materials are either freely and legally available online (often in the form of open access peer-reviewed journal articles) or are available as electronic resources through the McMaster library. The course will make heavy use of both the free-and-open-source 3D modelling software Blender, and the Unity game engine (which comes with its own specific license terms, but is typically free for exploratory student and "low profit" use). Other software that may be useful at particular points in the course includes the Reaper digital audio workstation (shareware) and the GIMP photo and image editing software (free and open source). The installation of all of this software on students’ own computers is highly recommended, in order to facilitate work outside of the Multimedia wing. Additional readings and other course materials will be available through Avenue To Learn. Students are expected to check both Avenue AND their McMaster email daily.

Method of Assessment:


10% Professionalism and Participation

10% Reflective quizzes

35% Project #1: 3D Game Asset in Context (due Sunday Feb 26th)

5% Mock Job Application (due Sunday Mar 5th)

40% Project #2: Contribution to Game Team (weeks 7-12, with documentation of individual contribution due Sunday April 2nd)

(100% Total)

Expected Time Commitment: 104 hours total as per McMaster standard for a 3-credit course (class meetings 12 @ 3 hours each = 36 hours; required readings 12 @ 1 hour each = 12 hours; extra time to complete tutorial exercises = 6 hours; work outside of class on project #1: 3D Game Asset in Context = 20 hours; preparation of mock job application = 5 hours; work outside of class on team game development project = 25 hours)

Professionalism and Participation: A grade for professionalism and participation will be assigned by the instructor in their sole discretion, and will reflect the quantity and quality of your participation and engagement with every aspect of the course, including but not limited to your record of prompt and complete attendance and engagement in all lecture and tutorial sessions. The following rubric gives a general indication of expectations:

9-10% Strong evidence of professionalism & participation well beyond requirements

8.5% Evidence of professionalism & participation beyond course requirements

7.5% Evidence of professionalism & participation

6.5% Minor problems with attendance, lack of professionalism and/or participation

below 6.5% Major problems with attendance, lack of professionalism and/or participation

Reflective Quizzes: In each the first ten weeks of the course, students will complete a reflective quiz consisting of a small number of short answer questions. The questions ask students to reflect on some or all of (a) the content and discussion of the class meeting that week (b) the content of the required readings and (c) challenges and opportunities in their individual or team work for the course. Students are strongly encouraged to use these reflective questions to help better conceptualize and frame their project work for the course (and the documentation requirement for the final team project includes a reflective writing component). In general, full marks will be awarded for answers that demonstrate a timely engagement with the learning process and course content. These quizzes will each have a deadline shortly before the beginning of the next class meeting. After the deadline, it will not be possible to receive any credit for these quizzes, so students are strongly encouraged to complete the readings, tutorial exercise and reflective quiz as far in advance of the deadline as possible.

Projects and Mock Job Application: Detailed descriptions of the two projects and mock job application will be posted to the course’s Avenue-to-Learn site, together with the rubrics used to determine grades and give constructive feedback. All work is to be handed in electronically through Avenue-To-Learn. You are encouraged to begin working on projects well in advance of their due dates.

Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Late policy: Late work will be subject to a penalty of 5% per day (or partial day) of the week (including weekends). Extensions for late work will be granted only upon the recommendation of a student's home faculty – please take such requests directly to your home faculty's office.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:


Week #1 – Tue Jan 10 – Key Vocabulary

Assets: Meshes; Mechanic: Collisions; Display structure: Top-down

Reading: Doug Church (1999). “Formal Abstract Design Tools.” Gamasutra (July 16, 1999).

Reading: Roger Caillois (1961). “The Classification of Games.” ch. 2 in Man, Play and Games. trans. Meyer Barash. Chicago: University of Illinois Press. pp. 11-36.

Week #2 – Tue Jan 17 – Agôn (including discussion of rewards/punishments)

Assets: Rigging & Animation; Mechanic: State Transitions; Display structure: Side-scrolling

Reading: Allison Gazzard (2011). “Unlocking the Gameworld: The Rewards of Space and Time in Videogames.” Game Studies 11:1.

Reading: William Poundstone (1992). “Prisoner’s Dilemma.” ch. 6 of Prisoner’s Dilemma. New York: Doubleday.

Week #3 – Tue Jan 24 – Alea (including in-game uncertainty, and procedural generation)

Assets: UV colour textures; Mechanic: Spawning; Display structure: First person

Reading: Gillian Smith (2015). “An Analog History of Procedural Content Generation.” Proceedings of the 2015 Conference on the Foundations of Digital Games (FDG 2015), Monterey, California.

Reading: Greg Costikyan (2013). “Sources of Uncertainty.” ch. 5 in Uncertainty in Games. Cambridge: MIT Press. pp. 71-104.

Week #4 – Tue Jan 31 – Mimicry (including discussion of games as narrative)

Assets: Normal Mapping; Mechanic: Inventories; Display structure: Heads-up displays (etc)

Reading: Mark Grimshaw, John P. Charlton and Richard Jagger (2011). “First-Person Shooters: Immersion and Attention.” eludamos 5:1, pp. 29-44.

Reading: Carrie Anderson (2015). ““There Has to Be More To It”: Diegetic Violence and the Uncertainty of President Kennedy’s Death.” Game Studies 15:2.

Week #5 – Tue Feb 7 – Ilinx (including discussion of games as emergence/complex systems)

Assets: Particle Systems; Mechanic: Interdependencies; Display structure: orthographic bird’s eye view

complete lab activity and associated reflective quiz prior to beginning of next lecture

Reading: Jesper Juul (2002). “The Open and the Closed: Games of Emergence and Games of Progression.” In Computer Games and Digital Cultures Conference Proceedings, edited by Frans Mäyrä, 323-329. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 2002.

Reading: Ben Kirman (2010). “Emergence and playfulness in social games.” Proceedings of the 14th International Academic MindTrek Conference: Envisioning Future Media Environments (Tampere, Finland, Oct 6-8). pp. 71-77.

Week #6 – Tue Feb 14 – Sound

Assets: Sounds; Mechanic: Following; Display structure: “2D” and 3D sound

Reading: Karen Collins. “Being in the Game.” ch. 2 of Playing With Sound: A Theory of Interacting with Sound and Music in Video Games. Cambridge: MIT Press. pp. 39-58.

Reading: Aaron Oldenburg (2013). “Sonic Mechanics: Audio as Gameplay.” Game Studies 13:1.

*** Project #1: 3D Game Asset in Context due by end of Sunday Feb 26th ***

Week #7 – Tue Feb 28 – launch of game team and discussion of available roles; git version management exercise

*** Mock Job Application due by end of Sunday Mar 5th ***

Weeks #8-12 – Tue Mar 7 – Tue Apr 4: all of every class will be devoted to working together as a game team. Students are expected to devote substantial and regular time to the game team’s work outside of class meetings.

*** Documentation for Project #2: Contribution to Game Team is due by the end of Sunday April 2nd with the last class on Tuesday April 4th devoted to final collective integration and iteration ***


Other Course Information:

Format: The class meets for three hours each week in TSH-203 and in the Multimedia wing. The semester is divided into two halves:

1. During the first six weeks, the initial hour of class will focus on discussion of game design theory and strategies, including analysis of selected video game examples. The second hour during the first six weeks will generally focus on technical considerations and creative process, with each week introducing a specific asset type (for example, a 3D modelling element produced with the Blender software), a game mechanic and a “structure of display” (the latter two implemented using the Unity game engine). During the third hour, the class will complete a tutorial exercise involving the asset type, mechanic and structure of display introduced in the preceding hour. There is also a set of required readings in each of the first six weeks – these must be completed before the next class meeting.

2. During the last six weeks, the class will form into a single game development team, applying for specific roles by completing a mock job application in week 7. All of each class meeting will be devoted to working together on a single, shared game project. Students are expected to spend time outside of class meetings working on this game project and will submit documentation of their specific contributions to the project as the final assessment requirement of the course.