Syllabus & Schedule

DESMA 171: Worldbuilding
Fall 2015
UCLA Design Media Arts
Monday, Wednesday 9:00am – 11:45am
Broad Art Center room 4240

Professor: Eddo Stern
TA: Theo Triantafyllidis

(Office Hours at The UCLA Game Lab (Broad 3252) )

Course Description:
Worldbuilding is an art that has been around for thousands of years as a central component in ancient mythologies, theologies and cosmologies. Worldbuilding is thriving in our contemporary landscape within the contexts of theme parks, computer games, TV series, comics, serialized fiction, and “transmedia” marketing enterprise (..and their discontents…). Worldbuilding often functions as the foundation for storytelling (and is especially prevalent  in genre fiction such as fantasy horror and science fiction).

The course will cover worldbuilding concepts and techniques through written assignments, class presentations, discussions, technical exercises and an ongoing multi-component creative project. The focus will be  on building rich and compelling navigable environments using software, visuals, sound and text. Students will be using the Unity3D game engine as the primary worldbuilding tool as well as 2D and 3D tools of their preference.

Worldbuilding Project: Outline, Index  and UI (30%)
Worldbuilding Project: Navigable World (60%)
Worldbuilding Project: Printed Addendum (10% EXTRA CREDIT)
Class Participation (10 %)

Projects are graded based on these parameters:


*project scope/ambition/amount of work

*attention to detail/craft  (bugs, visual artifacts, spelling)


All assignments must be submitted before the beginning of class time on the day they are due unless a midnight deadline is indicated (as 24:00). Late projects and assignments will be penalized by one letter grade per day they are late.

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: You will be working in Unity3D (version 5) and any combination of image making and 3D software of your liking – you are encouraged to use unity3d on your laptop if possible as it is free for students. In addition you should use some version tracking software (bitbucket + Sourcetree)

Worldbuilding project components
You will be working on one large project throughout the course which will involve several components:

World Outline

Prepare a one page description of the world you want to build – include as much detail as you can – imagine this as an introductory paragraph that could concisely describe the world one is about to enter.
* Text only!
* No Images!

A one page PDF

World Index and UI
DUE Monday week 4
Create and populate an interactive index/glossary/encyclopedia/atlas/ taxonomy / or almanac of your navigable world in unity3D. You can reference the class demos as examples of how to build  the user interface for the database in 2D or 3D . It is up to you to build a taxonomy of how you may want to order and categorize  the elements in your world ( you are not working spatially at this stage).

*Your index should include at least 25 initial entries that will be in your world . You will be adding content to this database throughout the quarter.
*The database must include image and text for each entry.
*optionally you may add sound, and animation to the UI and/or each entry.
* consider the final aspect ratio and pixel dims of your project when you design your UI. Make sure it looks the way you want it to on various screen sizes.

1. A playable mac or PC build  (bug free. and does not crash…)
2. Your entire unity project folder uploaded the class folder.
3. we will explain in class how to submit your projects online.

Navigable World  
DUE week 10

Create a rich, compelling, and original 2D or 3D navigable world. ok that’s simple.             now get to it…

*All of the visual and textual elements in your world should be created by you! (no sampling).
* your world should include at least 50 unique visual elements that are either 2D or 3D – you may of course create a modular visual system to build many permutations (for example a forest may have several stump,  branch, leaf, flower and fruit variations as well as color shifting to create hundreds of tree and plant variations)
* Your world should include sound (these you need not necessarily create yourself).
* Your world should have a method for the user/visitor to move in spatially (this consideration involves questions of what input devices are used oculus, kinect, joystick, kb, mouse etc)
* Integrate the World Index and UI you built previously into this world (it can toggled on and off as you wish)
* Make sure you project includes instructions on how to navigate ( in the software)
* You may design your world so that objects are collidable.
* You may add text and dialogue to your world.
* You may allow users to examine elements in the world (to gain more info for instance)

*Remember that the focus of this project (and class) is not on game design, interaction or programming but specifically on the craft of worldbuilding – most of your workload should go into building and populating a rich world – rather than designing interesting methods of interaction  (you could of course consider this project as a base for a more interactive project or game that you can develop later)
* When building your world consider the camera’s position, point of view and final presentation (first person, third person, god’s eye views , oculus, multi screen, projection etc..).
* Consider how you use lighting in your world.

Worldbuilding Project: Printed Addendum (EXTRA CREDIT)
DUE week 10
Create any form of  printed material that goes along with your project. For instance a map, a manual, a printed version of your taxonomy, a narrative backstory…
* An accompanying printed object that is well crated and adds positively to  the experience of the project.


171 Weekly Schedule:

week 1:

class introductions and questionnaire
worldbuilding Intro

go over assignments deadline and grading

Unity setup

Examples of Worldbuilding

Unity Intro


week 2:

Monday : Project outlines DUE


UI Demos

work in class


week 3:

Monday: unity tutorials DUE

pipeline 3D

work in class

pipeline 2D

work in class


week 4:

Monday: Index UI DUE

review projects

terrain / input / nav tutorials

work in class


week 5:

sound / light tutorials

work in class

field trip (WEVR)


week 6:

VR tutorial

work in class


week 7:

in-progress feedback

Veterans  Day – no class


week 8:

work in class

work in class


week 9:

work in class

work in class


week 10:

Wednesday: Final Project DUE

playthroughs in class


week 11:

DUE: All final class materials submitted to the website


Student Responses