This Course at MIT

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Course Overview

This page focuses on the course CMS.611J Creating Video Games as it was taught by Philip Tan, Sara Verrilli, Richard Eberhardt, and Andrew Haydn Grant in Fall 2014.

In this course, students learned creative design and production methods while working together in small teams to design, develop, and thoroughly test their own original digital games. Design iteration across all aspects of video game development was stressed. Students were required to support and challenge their game design decisions with focus testing and data analysis.

Course Outcomes

Course Goals for Students

  • Learn how to work in a team to solve a creative problem
  • Implement productive project management strategies
  • Apply the iterative process to all aspects of video game development, including game design, audio design, visual aesthetics, fiction writing, programming, and project management)
  • Engage in playtesing and data analysis
  • Gain exposure to professionals in the industry
  • Gain experience working with a client

Possibilities for Further Study/Careers

Students interested in designing games for entertainment often go on to take CMS.617 Advanced Game Studio and CMS.610 Media Industries and Systems. Students interested in designing games for education usually take CMS.615 Games for Change and CMS.590J Computer Games and Simulations for Investigation and Education. Some students develop an academic interest in games, and for them, courses like CMS.300 Introduction to Videogame Studies and CMS.616J Games and Culture provide a good foundation for their work.

 

Meet the Instructors

An image of instructor Sara Verrilli taken from an interview in which she is seated in front of large bookcases filled with various games.

In the following videos, the instructors introduce themselves, share their research interests, and discuss what games they’re playing and creating now.

 
 

Client Insights

In the following video, Pablo Suarez, the client for Project 4, shares his insights about partnering with the students and instructors in CMS.611J.

Student Insights

In the following videos, students describe various aspects of their experiences in CMS.611J Creating Video Games.

 

Project Timeline

A screenshot of the interactive timeline, showing an embedded video with accompanying text and links, with a side-scrolling bar of various events below.In the following interactive timeline, the instructors illustrate how they sequenced the course projects to enable students to incrementally develop the skills needed to complete the final project.

CMS.611J Project Timeline

 

A Closer Look

The following video provides a closer look at the development of one team’s final project game, Hello Waves. Capturing each step in the team’s iterative process, the video gives educators an in-depth view into how the team took their idea from pitch to product.

From Pitch to Product: The Development of Hello Waves

 

Play Hello Waves

 

Curriculum Information

Prerequisites

Requirements Satisfied

Offered

Every fall semester.

The Classroom

  • Photo of tiered tables and chairs with an instructor’s table at the front of the room. Modern wood paneling lines the walls.

    Lecture/Lab

    This course was taught in a room with tiered fixed furniture, A/V equipment, and board space. The instructors would have preferred to teach the course in a flat classroom (not tiered) equipped with moveable tables and chairs.

 

Assessment

The students' grades were based on the following activities:

The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by preparedness for class. 25% Preparedness for class, which included overall participation in individual and group exercises in class and in group focus testing, as well as participation in the Game Engine Tutorial Assignment (PDF)
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by the first team project. 15% Team project 1
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by the second team project. 15% Team project 2
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by the third team project. 15% Team project 3
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of the total grade contributed by the fourth team project. 30% Team project 4
 

Project Grade Breakdown

Note: Students shared 80% of their grades on individual projects with their team members.

The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of each project grade contributed by game functionality. 20% Game functionality. Teams were required to meet specific project constraints as well as standards of playability, code stability and adequate user feedback.
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of each project grade contributed by adherence to the design process. 20% Adherence to and rigorous use of iterative design process, including responsiveness to tester and instructor feedback.
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of each project grade contributed by teamwork and project management. 20% Teamwork and project management, including the thoughtful and consistent use of project management methods and tools.
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of each project grade contributed by an individually written postmortem. 20% Individually written postmortem, assessed on the basis of clarity and depth of writing.
The color used on the preceding chart which represents the percentage of each project grade contributed by a group postmortem presentation. 20% Group postmortem presentation, assessed on the basis of clarity and depth of presentation.
 

Instructor Insights on Assessment

This course focused on teaching students effective processes and procedures for working as a team on a complex, multi-functional project. While it was important for them to deliver projects successfully, we were more interested in helping students learn how to practice and improve their project management and group teamwork skills. Their project grades depended heavily on the methods, tools, and processes they used to develop their games, as well as the justification and explanation of the choices they made in organizing their teams and projects. We used multiple methods to capture this information, including presentations, written reports, design diaries, project management documentation, and mandatory in-class playtesting sessions.

 

Student Information

41 students took this class when it was offered in Fall 2014.

Breakdown by Year

Mostly sophomores, juniors, and seniors.

Breakdown by Major

Typical Student Background

During the Fall 2014 offering of the course, women constituted 1/4 of the class.

Students brought very different tastes and experiences to the class based on having played games throughout their lives, but students did not have to be “gamers” to enroll or excel in the course.

Ideal Class Size

The ideal class size is 30-35 students per section. This size allows students have the opportunity to work on multiple teams with different students on each, as well as to form teams for the final project that are big enough to fail. We purposefully set teams up for the final project to have communication issues (having 7-8 students on a single team) because part of their challenge is to use the tools and methods we provide to overcome the challenge. A class size of about 35 students is still small enough, however, to allow instructors to get to know students well. This is important because it helps instructors assess and intervene when teams are having motivational or interpersonal issues.

 

How Student Time Was Spent

During an average week, students were expected to spend 12 hours on the course, roughly divided as follows:

In Class

6 hours per week

Met 2 times per week for 3 hours per session; 27 sessions total; mandatory attendance.

Use of class time varied widely as students moved through different stages of each project. Main activities, with approximate average time spent, included:

  • Lectures (1-2 hours/week)
  • Discussion (1 hour/week)
  • Workshop (1 hour/week)
  • Playtesting (variable)
  • Presentations (variable)
 

Out of Class

6 hours per week

Students completed most of their game project development outside of class, working collaboratively to meet regular deadlines.

 

Semester Breakdown

WEEK M T W Th F
1 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. Lecture session scheduled. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
2 Lecture session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; playtesting session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
3 Student presentations scheduled; playtesting scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No classes throughout MIT.
4 Lecture session scheduled; student presentations scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Guest lecture scheduled; playtesting session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
5 Lecture session scheduled; student presentations scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Guest lecture scheduled. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
6 Lecture session scheduled; student presentations scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Guest lecture scheduled; playtesting session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
7 No classes throughout MIT. No session scheduled. Guest lecture scheduled; playtesting session; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
8 Lecture session scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
9 Student presentations scheduled; playtesting scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
10 Guest lecture scheduled. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; playtesting session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
11 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. Guest lecture scheduled; playtesting session; assignment due date. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
12 Guest lecture scheduled; asignment due date. No session scheduled. Guest lecture scheduled; playtesting session scheduled. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
13 Lecture session scheduled; assignment due date. No session scheduled. Lecture session scheduled; student presentations scheduled. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
14 Guest lecture scheduled; asignment due date. No session scheduled. Guest lecture scheduled. No session scheduled. No session scheduled.
15 Rehearsal for final presentation. No session scheduled. Student presentations scheduled; assignment due date. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
16 No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT. No classes throughout MIT.
Displays the color and pattern used on the preceding table to indicate dates when classes are not held at MIT. No classes throughout MIT
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when lecture sessions are held. Lecture session
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when students presentations are held. Student Presentations
Displays the symbol used on the preceding table to indicate dates when assignments are due. Assignment due date
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when no class session is scheduled. No class session scheduled
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when guest lectures are held. Guest lecture
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when playtesting sessions are held. Playtesting
Displays the color used on the preceding table to indicate dates when the rehearsal for final presentations is held. Rehearsal for final presentation