Fordham, New York City's Jesuit University
back Back to course home page
Fordham College at Lincoln Center

Department of Computer & Information Science


 Semester:  Spring, 2014
 Course Number:  CISC 2540 L01
 Course Title:  Intro to Video Game Design
 Instructor:  Dr. Robert K. Moniot
    Office LL 817-E, Phone (212) 636-6334
    Office hours: TF 2:30-3:30 pm
    RH Office JMH 340A, Phone (718) 817-5280
    (As chair of CIS, I will often be at RH on MWR)
    Other office hours by appointment
 Class Hours:  TF 1:00-2:15 pm Room LL-402
 Required Text:  Fundamentals of Game Development, by Heather Maxwell Chandler & Rafael Chandler, Jones & Bartlett, 2010 (ISBN: 978-0-7637-7895-8)
    Reality is Broken, by Jane McGonigal, Penguin Press, 2011 (ISBN: 978-1-5942-0285-8)
    Recommended: Game Maker's Apprentice, by Jacob Habgood & Mark Overmars, Springer, 2006 (ISBN: 978-1-59059-615-9)

Course Outline:

This course provides a gentle and fun introduction to the design and production of computer-based video games, for students with no prior programming experience. Students will learn principles of game design, and apply them to create an actual computer game of their own design. Students will also research selected aspects of games and/or the game industry, write term papers about their topics, and give presentations.

Grade will be based on:

There will be no midterm or final exam. The class is required to meet during the final exam period. This time will be used to demo students' completed game projects.

This course fulfills the EP 3 core requirement. It may be used as an elective for the Computer Science or Information Science major or minor.

The term papers: The topic for a term paper may be: a review of a commercial video game; exploration of some aspect of the social impact of a game or of some genre of games in general; a study of issues raised by some aspect of the game industry; or other topics of interest related to video games. Papers are expected to be of academic quality, based on at least some research and including critical analysis. For instance, a game review should not be based solely on opinion, like those found on IGN, but should relate the good or bad qualities of the game to fundamental principles of game design.

In order to meet the requirements for an EP course, the two papers must total at least 15 pages of material that has undergone at least one cycle of revision. The 15 page minimum (which does not count the bibliography or any figures) is divided between the midterm (minimum 6 pages) and final (minimum 9 pages). For each paper, I request, at intervals of about two weeks, a proposal (about a page long) describing your topic and the thesis you will argue in the paper, as well as an indication of the research you have done initially; then a rough draft that should be at least 2/3 of the final length and containing some citations to sources; and finally the finished paper.

The presentation: Your presentation topic should be the same as the topic of one of your two term papers, but no two students are to give a presentation on the same topic. (Your term paper topic other than your presentation topic can be the same as another student's topic.) The presentations will be scheduled in the last few weeks of class. Three students will present each day. This provides about 25 minutes for each student. The oral presentation should be 15 to 20 minutes long, followed by a few minutes of question and answer. Presentations will be evaluated by the other students for qualities of effectiveness, clarity, organization, etc. These peer evaluations will be a part of the grade assigned for the presentation.

In order to provide feedback and guidance to improve the presentation, I request students to send me their visuals and notes one week before the presentation. One class day will also be devoted to a review of good presentation technique.

The game project: Each student is required to create an original game project. We will have a brainstorming session early in the term to help generate ideas. Because the aim is for each student to experience the complete game development process from concept to finished product, team projects are not permitted. All game projects must be implemented using GameMaker 8.1 (not Studio). This is a very easy-to-use game creation system that requires no prior programming experience. The software is available for free download from this location:

The free version is sufficient to create games that will get full credit for this course. If you desire, you can upgrade to the licensed version, which has some extra features, for $40. The licensed version is also installed on the computers in the instructional lab in LL 304.

Your game project is due at the time set for the final exam period. That period will be used for game demos. You will have about 5 minutes to demo your game.

On that day, bring your game in GameMaker form (*.gm81). You can bring it on a flash drive or use an online service such as Dropbox. (Be aware that game files are often too large for email.) If you use an online service, please arrive early so that you can put it onto the podium PC's desktop ahead of time. At the end of the demos, I will collect all the GameMaker files from the podium PC for grading purposes.

To help me keep track of all the game projects, please name your GameMaker file something containing your own name. For example, Jane Smith's game titled ``Weird Waldo'' might be named smith-weird-waldo.gm81.

If your game requires licensed version features in order to run, you must also bring the game in executable (*.exe) form for the demo, since we will be running the unlicensed free version of GameMaker on the podium PC. I will still need the *.gm81 file as well.

Your game should include a help screen (F1 and/or a start page) that gives a complete description of the game controls. It can also have some back story or narrative if that helps. The help screen should also provide acknowledgements for any assets (sprites, sounds, etc.) that are not your own creations or part of the GameMaker resources. The acknowledgements need not be detailed: for instance, a statement like ``all sprites and sounds were found at'' would suffice.

Assets do not need to be of professional quality. A homemade look is just fine.

There is no requirement for how many levels your game should contain. It is perfectly OK to have a well designed and executed game with only one level. You are expected to put an appropriate amount of work into the project, but there are no extra points for elaborateness.

The peer reviews on demo day will rate your game based on five factors: originality of concept, challenge, feedback system, storytelling or theme, and fun. My own evaluation of your game will include those factors as well as adequacy of effort, help system, good game design principles, and correct and clean implementation.

I will be looking more for an original, balanced, and fun game than for fancy effects, polished graphics, or laboriously built environments.

Other matters:

Academic integrity is very important to the mission of the university. Plagiarism or failure to properly cite sources will result in an F on the paper and may result in an F for the course. You are responsible for and expected to follow the Fordham College policy regarding matters of academic integrity.

If you believe that you have a disabling condition that may interfere with your ability to participate in the activities, coursework, or assessment of the object of this course, you may be entitled to accommodations. If so, please schedule an appointment to speak with me immediately or you may go to the Office of Disability Services (Room LL 207, x6282).

Course Objectives: After completion of this course, the student will:

Schedule of Topics, Readings and Assignments:

Jan. 14-17
What is a game? History of computer games. The game industry. Reading: Chandler, chaps. 1-2.
Jan. 21-28
Game concept. Game genres. Brainstorming. Defining a game. Characters, setting, story. Reading: Chandler, chaps. 7-8.
Jan. 31
(in lab) Intro to GameMaker. Reading (optional): Habgood & Overmars, chap. 1. Midterm paper proposal due Jan. 31.
Feb. 4-7
(in lab) GameMaker tutorials. Sprites, objects, events, actions. Rooms, backgrounds, sounds. Reading (optional): Habgood & Overmars, chap. 2.
Feb. 11-14
(in lab) GameMaker tutorials, cont'd. Working with sprites. Scores and levels. Reading (optional): Habgood & Overmars, chap. 3. First draft of midterm paper due Feb. 14.
Feb. 18
No meeting. Monday schedule.
Feb. 21-25
(in lab) GameMaker tutorials, cont'd. Parent objects and inheritance. Reading (optional): Habgood & Overmars, chap. 6. Game proposal due Feb. 21.
Feb. 28
(return to classroom) Game design principles. Reading (optional): Habgood & Overmars, chaps. 5, 8. Midterm paper due Feb. 28.
Mar. 4-7
Design teams; roles on the team. Reading: Chandler, chaps. 3-4. Presentation proposal due Oct. 22.
Mar. 11-14
Effective communication. Reading: Chandler, chaps. 5-6.
Mar. 17-21
Spring break.
Mar. 25
How to give an effective presentation.
Mar. 28
Game design: what makes a good game. Reading: McGonigal, chaps. 1-2.
Apr 1
Game motivations. Reading: McGonigal, chaps. 3-4.
Apr. 4
Games & society. Reading: McGonigal, chaps. 5-6.
Apr. 8-15
Student presentations (three per class meeting). Final term paper proposal due Apr. 8. Presentation previews due 1 week before presentation.
Apr. 17-21
Easter break.
Apr. 22-29
Student presentations. First draft of final term paper due Apr. 22.
May 5
(second reading day) Final term paper due May 5.
May 9, 1:30 pm
(Final exam day: tentative date.) Game demos. (No final exam.) Game project due May 9.
(Note that this schedule may need to be adjusted slightly as the course progresses. Any changes will be announced in class and posted on the Blackboard web site.)

Robert Moniot 2014-01-10