Game Design Principles, Spring 2015

During the Fall of the 2014-15 school year, I decided to create a Video Game Design pathway of courses for my school. I was incredibly lucky that a local junior college, Norco College, has several Video Game related degrees, and they were willing to help me design my curriculum. I cannot thank them enough, especially James Finley and Judy Perry, the current and former Department Head respectively.

During the spring of 2015 I was able to teach our first course, Game Design Principles, which uses analog (read tabletop) games to teach the basics of design. As part of the course, students work in small groups and create their own original game over 4-5 weeks. Using story dice I gave each group a set of images to start from for their brainstorm. After the brainstorm and a game concept was decided, the groups created the prototype and internally playtested their own game. Then other groups playtested the game and provided feedback; this process was repeated for a few weeks. Once finalized, students had to create a polished final product along with accompanying documentation. The following pictures and accompanying descriptions are the games the students produced. During the game creation process I functioned as mentor and creative consultant.

IMG_1239This game was a derivative of Forbidden Desert or Forbidden Island; the players had to gather pieces and rally to a location to escape. The twist was this was an asymmetrical game. Four players played as the characters searching for supplies in an abandoned city. A fifth player played as a lizard monster that was actively trying to kill the other players. If any of the other players died, the lizard won. Otherwise if the team was able to gather enough supplies and escape, they won. This game was fun to play, and I really have to commend the team for their board and the player board interface.

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This game unfortunately went completely off the rails. Despite my constant reminders, the team kept making a mediocre concept more bloated instead of using reduction to “find the fun”. The water-color painted map is a nice touch, but it wasn’t enough to save this game. During the internal testing, the team themselves weren’t enjoying the game, which is never a good sign. The one positive is that these students have learned what not to do, and can take this knowledge to the next course.

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The premise of this game was that the players were robbers attempting to clean out a mall before the sun came up (15 rounds). Player movement again functioned very similar to Forbidden Desert (it was one of the last games the students played prior to this project). The wrinkle that made the game work were the security guards. Three AI security guards wandered the mall and would move towards players breaking into stores. Additionally, at the beginning of each round the security guards would move according to randomly drawn cards. This kept the players on their toes. If caught, the players were moved back to the entrance of the mall. There were different store categories with loot, and bonuses at the end depending on what each robber was able to get, ala Tokaido.