This section contains detailed instructions for the course's final project in which each student was part of a design and development team that was responsible for developing a working presentation, business plan, and marketing plan for a videogame. (A more generalized overivew of the project is available in the syllabus.)
The project consists of pitching a video game concept to a panel of experienced professionals in the video gaming industry. These professionals at the end of the term will hopefully find very few weaknesses in your pitches. That is the ideal. Pitching is a little easier than actually building a concept, and for this course, what we shall do is pitch.
It is a team project and you will need to bring your projects to some realized fruition. You do not necessarily need to program anything or design anything. But you will need to pitch your idea to a group of people from the gaming industry who are tough critics. Pitching an idea will be a lot of work to do it well and take a lot of time because you will come to realize that there are a large number of individual pieces, every one of which will need constant attention. If you try and fudge it by blowing the presentation off all term and pulling all nighters at the very end, I promise that you will end up with a garbage presentation and probably crash and burn. So, in the spirit of full disclosure, consider yourself warned.
In the fourth week of a 14-week class, we will have a stripped down core of everyone's game. The student games will be voted on, and the 4 top concepts will remain. Each concept will be pitched by 3 to 4 students per group. Initially, the idea creators will create their own team, but the professor has the final say. The professor needs to have the final say because students need a diverse group to succeed with their project. It is not enough to have 3 or 4 literature specialists any more than programmers alone on a team. Not that there is anything wrong with literature scholars or programmers in moderation, but the pitch must be held together in all aspects of the design and execution. The professor’s associates who work in the games industry will be the judges of the final projects and they will be very straightforward in their critique of the pitches.
For the initial pitch to the class, students will have 3 minutes each to explain their ideas.
Team leaders will meet with their team members and establish which method to use and also establish a schedule in accordance with the milestones. Leaders are responsible for holding to these milestones and they will meet with the professor concerning their team’s progress. Leaders will write weekly reports for the professor as to where they are, and where they think their team members are. The individual team members will also write weekly reports as to where they think they are. It's an interesting exercise and tells the professor a lot about how the teams are doing. The project is 40% of the grade and students will need to do the requisite work for the projects if they want to do well.
The art is very important; do not underestimate the visual aspect. In the professional world, you would design the world exactly as you envision it. From a practical standpoint, you can strive for that in your groups, but you may not have enough time to achieve that bar. Focus on the one or two art oriented people in your group to show you (the team leader) their concept of how the world should look and what it will take in terms of time.
In the real world, there are people who write the music, create the sound effects, record the audio, etc. It is very involved, but you do not have that luxury. The programming person will likely be the person who will be able to get the audio to work. Each person on the team will need to remain flexible and wear many hats.
Remember that you are asking for money from experts in the games industry who listen to pitches for a living. Why are they going to give their money to your team? You need to answer that question. You have to achieve that goal and you need a great pitch to get there. This is not about marketing yourself, but about marketing your team and the idea. The judges will ask you questions-hard questions. Then they will discuss which team they think should get the money and why. If you do it right, you will learn a great deal about what goes into making a pitch and winning another person's confidence. And the good news is that even if you do it wrong, you will still learn a lot about yourselves, your fellow students, and others who listen to what you are trying to convey.
You have 30 minutes to pitch, including questions and answers. Why are you making the presentation? The real reason is because you want to get the hypothetical investment money. The professor would rather have 5 minutes of very tight, interesting material than 30 minutes of nonsense. You are not required to use up the whole time frame.
We have tried not to set an arbitrary budget. The budget for a Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG) is very different from a budget for a small, casual game. Having said that, you have the flexibility to ask for whatever money you think you need, but you have to be prepared to defend your numbers. If you are "guesstimating", you need to offer some foundation.
You need to communicate your ideas clearly without confusing or distracting your audience. Your pitch also needs to be truthful. People who are wealthy and interested in investment carefully analyze their expected return before deciding to invest their money in a project. You will have to remember the key things that you want to say, but also be prepared to answer the underlying things that go into what you are saying. They are equally important.
It is very important among team members who are going to present that you remember that there needs to be a sense of genuine dedication and fluidity to any good presentation. This will require practice.
For weak points, you make mention of those points and plan as to how best you will address them. Do not just ignore these weak points. The "venture capitalists" are going to have tough questions, and you need to come into the presentation with an idea of what the tough questions will be along with answers. Chris Crawford said that everyone needs to develop their own inner tyrannosaurus. The question will be if you can realize and bridge your weaknesses.
Leave your presentation at a high point. If your presentation is tight, sweet, and exciting, get out of your own way. The goal is to win the prize and get your "funding." Remember what your goal is and work toward it. If you want to go out separately and sell it to the third party, you can do all that beyond the pitch but remember that all of that is ancillary to your goal for this class.