DESMA 157: Game DesignFall 2014

UCLA Design Media Arts

Tuesday, Thursday 2:00pm – 4:45pm

Broad Art Center room 4220

Professor: Eddo SternTA: Peter Lu


Course Description: This course provides a foundation in game design.  The coursework develops the concepts that are unique to game design and production. Both non-digital and digital game creation skills are developed. Throughout the course students will produce four playable games, each project will explore various aspects of game design, including: game fabrication, rule design, game balance, multiplayer dynamics, complexity, randomness, polemics, narrative, adaptation, physical interaction, user interface, basic game programming, game asset creation, and the aesthetic and pragmatic aspects of physical and digital game design.

The course will cover game design concepts through reading and written assignments, class lectures, discussions, playtesting sessions, and game design and production projects.

 Grading: Project 1 (20%), Project 2 (20%), Project 3 (20%), Project 4 (25%)

Reading notes (10%), class participation (5%)

All reading notes, assignments and documentation  must be uploaded to the class website before the beginning of class time on the day they are due unless a midnight deadline is indicated (as 24:00).

 More than two absences without the professor’s prior permission will lower the participant’s final grade by one unit (e.g. an A will become an B). With each additional unexcused absence, the grade will drop an additional unit. Late projects will drop one letter grade, and will not be accepted if more than one week late

 Required Materials: Class assignments will require the use of a wide range of mixed media such as paper, cardboard, foam core, magnets, wood, plastic, fabric, and any other materials you may want to incorporate into your projects. It is recommended that you sign up for use of the fabrication labs if you are interested in using the equipment and tools available.

 Required Books:

  • Magriel, Paul, “Backgammon – 2004 Edition”, Clock & Rose Press, 2004 (ISBN: 1593860234) (Available for purchase Online or through

 Recommended further reading on game design:

  • Salen, Katie and Eric Zimmerman, “Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals”, MIT Press, 2004 (ISBN: 9780262240451)
    Caillois, Roger, “Man Play & Games”, University of Illinois Press, 2001 (ISBN: 9780252070334)
  • Huizinga, Johan, “Homo Ludens: A study of the play element in culture”, Beacon 1971 (ISBN: 9780807046814)
  • Rouse, Richard, “Game Design: Theory and Practice”, Wordware Publishing, 2001 (ISBN: 9781556229121)
  • Crawford, Chris, “Chris Crawford on Game Design”, New Riders Games, 2003 ( ISBN: 9780131460997


157 Weekly Schedule:

 Class Intro (week 0)

  • week 0.5 (Oct 2) – class overview, student introductions, handout reading, order book, fab lab demo, backgammon, game lab jams

 Project 1: DIY Backgammon (weeks 1 – 2)

Constraints: 2 player game, game bits and boards, laser cutter, printed manual

  • week 1(Oct 7, Oct 9)   – Game scope lecture, set up tournament, indiecade writing
  • week 2(Oct 14, Oct 16)  – Game design basics lecture, present projects

Project 2: Proverb Game (weeks 3 – 4)

Constraints : 4 player game, concept, board or card based

  • week 3 (Oct 21, Oct 23) –  examples, discussion
  • week 4 (Oct 28, Oct 30) –  prototypes, present projects


Post-Halloween game jam (week 5)

Constraints : Candy, furniture, classroom, items on the 4th floor

  • week 5.0 (Nov 4) –  halloween game jam, intro to unity


Project 3: Unity Intro modding angry birds (week 5 – 7)

Constraints : Unity, new visuals, modify code

  • week 5.5 (Nov 6) – Intro to unity, mesh creator , unity game demos
  • week 6 (Nov 11 (no class), Nov 13 ) – Veterans day, unity programming 101
  • week 7 (Nov 18 , Nov 20) – greggman lecture, present/playtest projects, feedback forms, polemical games homework and reading


Project 4: Polemical game (week 8 – 11)

Constraints : Digital or Non, polemical, polished

  • week 8 (Nov 25 , Nov 27 (no class))  – polemical game proposals
  • week 9 (Dec 2 , Dec 4)  – polemical games lecture, individual meetings
  • week 10 (Dec 9 , Dec 11) – work week, playtest in progress
  • final (Dec 16) – final presentations

Student Responses