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T-624-CGDD: Computer Game Design & Development, Spring 2014

Basic Info

  • Instructors: David Thue, Marco Bancale
  • Contact: David: Office in Venus floor 2, telephone 599-6412, e-mail davidthue[ ]
  • Contact: Marco: marco[ ]
  • Presentations, Tests, and Discussions: Weekdays 10:00-12:00 (V108)
  • Project Work (with Instructors on-hand): Weekdays: 13:00-16:00 (V108)
  • Online Forum: Piazza Course Page
  • Project Tracking Software: Trello


This course covers the theory and practice of designing and developing computer games, from generating initial concepts to creating a fully playable game. Computer games are interactive environments that serve a specific goal: some enable player fun, some convey rich emotions, and some change the way that people think about the world.

The emphasis of this course will be team-based collaboration, with each team working to design and develop a game from the start to the end of the course. In support of this process, each team will progress through a structured sequence of challenges during lab time, as guided by the concepts that are discussed and practiced during class.


There is no course textbook, but you have access to several books in the library: Game Programming Gems 1 through 8 (various), GPU Gems 3 (Nguyen), CryENGINE 3 Cookbook (Tracy), Unity 3.x Game Development Essentials (Goldstone). You also have access to Game Developer's Magazine (several years).

Intended Learning Outcomes

Upon completion of the course, students should be able to:

  • Describe the formal elements of games and the relationships between them
  • Employ focused strategies to generate ideas for computer games
  • Communicate game ideas clearly and concisely
  • Discuss the basic issues around intellectual property in game development
  • Describe the most common emotions that arise from playing games
  • Describe common forms and structures of narrative in games
  • Explain some common game AI techniques
  • Describe methods for assessing and tuning a game's balance
  • Discuss the influence of sound effects and music on player experiences
  • Conduct a play-test to evaluate a game
  • Describe some current directions in computer game research
  • Design and develop a game demo in a limited amount of time

Project Work: Events & Deliverables

The term will consist of three major events. On “Pitch Day” (May 2, morning), each student team will present their game idea to the class and receive feedback from a panel of judges (comprised of both their peers and industry professionals). On “Alpha Day” (May 9, morning), each student team will conduct an evaluation of a playable prototype of their game with their peers as test participants. On “Demo Day” (May 20, 9:00-12:00), each student team will present their finished game demo and run a station where students and guests can play their game.

During weeks 2 and 3 of classes (May 5 to May 16) each student team is expected to post brief daily progress updates using the course project tracking software. Each update is due by 7:00 on the weekday following the period of work covered (e.g., 7:00 on Wed for work done on Tue).

Before Alpha Day, each team is expected to write and submit an Alpha Testing Plan (due by 17:00 on May 7). NB: Any team that fails to submit their Alpha Test Plan on time will be eligible to receive at most half of the maximum grades for both the Alpha Test Plan and Alpha Day.

After Demo Day, each student is expected to write and submit a Post-Mortem that gives their personal account of working on their team’s game (due by 23:59 on May 23). Late submissions of Post-Mortems will incur a penalty of 15% per day including weekends and holidays.

Pitch DayPresentation1 per team Fri May 2 (morning) 10%
Daily UpdatesCards on Trello10 per team May 6 to Fri May 16 (by 7:00 daily) 5%
Alpha Test PlanDocument (1-2 pgs)1 per team Wed May 7 (by 17:00) 5%
Alpha DayTestable Prototype & Alpha Test1 per team Fri May 9 (morning) 10%
Demo DayPresentation & Final Game Demo1 per team Tue May 20 (9:00-noon) 30%
Post-MortemDocument (3-5 pgs)1 per student Fri May 23 (by 23:59) 20%
Total 80%

Discussion System

Please use this course discussion system for posting questions regarding lectures or your projects, rather than sending us emails. That way we can build a shared repository of useful questions/answers (you can of course still send us emails, but consider first whether you can post things here instead).

Piazza Course Page

Student Speaking

On both Pitch Day and Demo Day, each team will deliver a presentation. During each presentation, each student will be graded individually on their presentation ability. For each student, the two resulting scores will have a combined weight of 5% on their final grade. The two scores (scorePitch and scoreDemo) will be combined as follows: if scoreDemo is higher than scorePitch, scorePitch will be ignored and the final score will be based entirely on scoreDemo. Otherwise, the final score will be based equally on both scores.


Please note that attendance during both morning and afternoon sessions is required. Please inform the instructors if this is hard for you for some reason, such as scheduling conflicts or sick leave.

Participation Grade

Participation grade will be based on: (1) Attendance (both mornings and afternoons), and (2) Participation in online discussion. To the extent possible, this will also be based on how actively the student participates in in-class discussion (based on the instructors' subjective assessment).

The base participation grade will be calculated as 7.5 * (portion of mornings attended) + 7.5 * (portion of afternoons attended)). The instructors can then add possible bonus points to this base grade based on a subjective evaluation of the student's participation throughout the semester (into which the online discussion may factor).


Part of CourseTotal Weight
Group Work
Pitch Day 10%
Daily Updates 5%
Alpha Test Plan 5%
Alpha Day 10%
Demo Day 30%
Individual Work
Participation 15%
Student Speaking 5%
Post-Mortem 20%
Total 100%
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