Tag Archives: Game Design

Training Design Students to Tackle Art Issues with Prototypes

2015-01-GGS2-Andrew
By 2015, using the Cerny Method the design students were able to create evolved prototypes of their game design. For example, the student above was able to create a Beat-Em-Up/RPG game within 10 weeks, and was able to showcase the game as a portfolio item along with other deliverables. Another problem then appeared: art. Or rather, designers forced to consider art issues. So this was the problem I tackled from 2015 till now.

This is MAMJ reviewing Light Up, a game by an all-designer team for their FYP. Having no programmers or artists on their team – which was the worst case scenario I was concerned would happen –  they had to figure out how to deliver a fun, playable game. They settled on using RPGMaker and was able to deliver a horror game hacked into the engine.

The game was playable, created memorable responses among testers  and MAMJ seemed to truly enjoy trying it out. As a proof of design, the game worked. We did however get a comment from the industry that the art is not impressive. This was settled by explaining the designers had no ability to work on the art, but it did made me realize that in the end, games are still judged by their art. Design, unfortunately, is obfuscated; you won’t get it until you play it.

Now, if art blocks people from playing a game, is it possible for a designer to do something with art? Especially if they’re stuck in a situation where they have no access to artists?

Should designers even consider dealing with art?

Design student prototypes circa 2014.

The fact is, design students do come with varying abilities in art. Sometimes we do get ‘purple unicorns’: design students who can do art and programming thus are able to create a very tight integration of all three aspects in their prototype. Andrew Sin’s Geminate (Image:right) is an example of this. However, we can’t rely on students coming in as all-rounders and an educational program should be catered to an average expectation of what students can do. Expecting design students to be able to do art on their own is unrealistic. Furthermore, game design is best proven with prototype art. If a game is proven fun with ugly art, then good art can only make the game better. Benny Chan’s Rect-y 2 (Image: center) and Tyle Ooi’s Ponch (Image:left) are good examples: they both have serviceable art that allow players to test the game to see what the game can offer.

If there is one good reason to get designers to do art, it is because it will allow them to not wait for artists in order to prove their designs. The design students cited above were able to convey the experience they wanted by generating their own assets. This ability has two advantages:

  1. Artists can be freed to work on other art assets needed.
  2. Designers can confirm their designs without needing an artist to be available.

So if it’s good for designers to have some art ability – but not be able to learn to do art by themselves  – what should they learn in order to do a good game design?

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How Design Students are Taught to Prototype on their Own

I am a lecturer teaching Game Design in KDU UC Malaysia, and about four years ago I undertook the task to train game design students. While the School provided various forms of training for the design students – student projects with artists and programmers, classes on various aspects such as World Creation, Level Design and Systems Analysis – there was an issue regarding training designers I had to address.
The Problem Statement

There are three problems I found with training design students:

  1. Group projects could fail in ways that a designer couldn’t control.  The designer could do good work and the game could still fail due to ineffective management, lack of resources or team conflict. The opposite could also be true: a good game may not be the result of a good designer, but intervention from the other members. The success of a team game project is not a reliable way to measure the ability of the designer.
  2. Regardless of what a University student studies, a Degree graduate is supposed to graduate alone. It simply will not do to have a design graduate that saysI’ll need a programmer and an artist to prove my design will work‘. As a former IGDA Chapter Coordinator, I have met designers who cite that exact statement as a reason for why they couldn’t find work. That’s not an acceptable situation for a game design graduate.
  3. I have noticed that our local game dev students I’ve had generally are inexperienced presenters. Richard Carrillo in his GDC2015 talk on designing design teams clarified what I realized over time: only a subset of game designers – termed by Carillo as Salespersons –  can sell ideas to others. The rest will struggle. Designers are required to be articulate – they have to explain their work to their fellow developers – thus design students have to learn to communicate on a higher level than their fellow classmates. Obviously, they’ll have to learn to communicate on that level, but it is possible to have students who have a good design in mind but could not communicate it properly, thus being unable to prove their design works.

In summary, I will have students who have to graduate alone, show expertise in creating work that can only be proven by others working on it, and may be unable to communicate what he and she can do.

I noted this issue since 2012, and thus went looking for solutions.
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Usability Testing Method for Design Students

Usability Testing in KDU for Design Students

Previously I posted on the prototypes my game design students did for their game design classes. This post is on one of the processes we used to improve the design of their prototypes: usability testing.

The research and application started in 2013 where I was looking into the best ways to teach design for design students. As cited, one of the strongest feedback received was to get the design students to create prototypes. The second strongest feedback I got was to train them to design based on feedback. That is, to collect data from users, and to create a design that would respond to the issues pointed out by said data.

I recognized the application; it’s what online games do when they track user behavior and adapt their game to maximize wanted behavior. It’s a process used by Facebook games in the late 2000s and being used now on data collected from users on mobile games. The feedback made sense in terms of keeping designers relevant.

That means figuring out how to do playtesting for designers in order for them to collect data to analyze. Continue reading

Prototyping for game design: What I taught game design students to do to prove themselves

This is a collection of game prototypes from game design students taking my class on Game Genre Studies in KDU. In this class, they are tasked to work alone creating a game using an iterative process. What you see below are works from solo designers creating game prototypes, using a design-test-iterate model over a span of 5 or 10 iterations. Art used are rough placeholders, programming is limited by what the designers can figure out to do with Stencyl, but the designers have to show using testing that they’re able to *evolve* a prototype into a fun, playable game using testing feedback.

Do check ’em out and see if the prototypes prove that these students can do game design.

2016-01-Joshua-Prototype

10-week iteration process. Game is playable here at https://joshykc.wordpress.com/

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Enviroment Design – Photobash of Divumidas’s Construct

Mugnas-Floating-Reservoir
Photobash of a World Design Construct using the refs indicated by the student’s game design doc. He referenced an ancient Indian reservoir – which I recognized due to the epic sense of scale – and thus mocked out how that reservoir would look based on his guidelines. Again, the purpose is to demonstrate how his designs can be visually interpreted by an artist.

One day work.