Level 20: Course Summary and Next Steps

Here we are, at the end of the course. I appreciate the time that you have put in, if you have read this far and stayed with me from beginning to end. I hope that you got out of this course something of more value than what you put in.

We’ve covered a lot of topics in this course. We started by building the beginnings of a critical vocabulary to allow us to talk about games and game design. We looked at the process of designing games, particularly the advantages of rapid prototyping and iteration. We broke down the concept of “game” into its formal elements, and learned to analyze each element individually. We talked about common concepts that come up in game design: the MDA framework, feedback loops, emergence and intentionality, flow theory, kinds of decisions, kinds of fun and player types. We looked at narrative and the various roles it can play in a nonlinear game experience. We looked at games not only as entertainment, but also as an art form and an educational medium.

And, of course, we made games. Lots of games. Some little ones, and one longer project (which I’m sure you all feel now was way too short, even though you worked on this for a full month). We dove right in, applying the theory in order to make a game. Along the way, we discussed techniques for playtesting (in all its incarnations), balancing, and designing the UI for the game.

At this point, you might be wondering… what next? If this course is over, what are the next steps on this journey towards becoming a better game designer? And when does it end?

Lifelong Journeys

Since none of us are perfect or will ever be, there is always a way for us to improve. If game design is your passion and you want to design better games, you’ll continue to improve over time, and this is a process that continues for as long as you make games.

No, the journey of a game designer does not end. But it does get more interesting, because you can put higher-level concepts together much easier. The kind of thing that used to take you a month eventually takes you a week, and the rest of that time can be spent doing even more for your games.

You might wonder, then, what is the next step on this journey? I have created a page on the course wiki with my thoughts, so visit over there (and leave your own thoughts) if you are done with this course and you want to get to the next level.

Some Other Questions You Might Have

There are some questions I’ve been asked a bit during this course, about what happens when it all ends. Here are my answers.

I want to pass some of this material along to other students/friends/colleagues. Can I get the rights to use it? Can I link to it from my own blog/course/whatever?

I’ve received a number of emails asking about permissions, and I have just upgraded the blog with a fresh new Creative Commons license that should make it clear. Bottom line: feel free to use any or all of the content that I’ve posted here. I created this class to share information, after all. However, please do credit me as the original source if you use my content. My name is Ian Schreiber, and the title of this course/blog is Game Design Concepts.

I came to this class late / I fell behind, so now I’m on my own. What happens to this course now that it’s technically “over”?

I plan to leave this blog right where it is for posterity. Anyone who finds it later can feel free to drop by, going through the course on their own time and at their own pace. They won’t be able to participate with other students as the course is happening, of course, but the material is still all here.

The course wiki will remain exactly as it is, readable to the public. By popular demand, the course forums will remain as they are, allowing those of you who signed up to maintain a community.

Are you teaching this class again?

At present, I have no plans to do an exact repeat of this summer. However, all of the information is here, so anyone wishing to go through Game Design Concepts can do so at their own pace at any time.

Are you going to teach any other classes like this?

Update: YES. Summer 2010, I will do something similar to this one, but with new material.

The topic for next summer is game balance. I want to go into greater detail on ways to take an existing design and get it feeling right: identifying feedback loops and other relationships in a game, cost curves, metrics, randomness, payoff matrices, and similar topics. It’s an area of fascination for me, and I would love the opportunity to share what I have learned among a community of like-minded game designers and hobbyists. Since Game Design Concepts is experimental in nature, I’d like to take the opportunity to go into an experimental topic, the kind of thing that I would probably not be allowed to teach at most schools because it is too specialized. No textbook for it exists (yet). I’d like to write one, some day, but I’ve learned to not write a textbook unless you’ve taught a class in it first. In Summer 2010, I’ll teach that class, and I am already looking forward to it.

The course blog for Game Balance Concepts is at gamebalanceconcepts.wordpress.com. Details for signing up are on that site.

And Now, Some Shameless Plugs…

Game Design Concepts reached a lot of people. As you see in the sidebar, there were over 1400 people who sent an email to formally sign up for the course ahead of time, covering nearly every state in the US and an additional 47 countries. Here are some other stats for the interested:

  • 400+ game industry professionals (including 160+ professional game designers)
  • 200+ teachers and educators (including 60+ who teach game design)
  • 400+ students, ranging from middle school to graduate school
  • 350+ people who signed up in a group (that is, not alone), forming 120+ groups
  • All of the above is just for people who signed up in advance. There are, of course, many more who visited the blog but did not formally sign up ahead of time.
  • Starting out, the blog had 6,000+ unique visitors for both if the first two lessons, with 13,271 hits in the first week total.
  • More recently, we get about 1,000 hits when there’s a new blog post, and about 400 on days in between posts.

So, if you’re reading this, you are in good company.

As a result, I ask the following:

  • Do you work for a school or company that would be interested in sponsoring next year’s course? I can offer your logo and link on the main blog page, and mentions at the end of each blog post with your message. Your message could be seen by thousands of repeat visitors. Contact me by email to receive sponsorship info.
  • If you are a professional educator (teacher, professor, etc.) at an institution that offers online classes: would you be interested in an adaptation of Game Design Concepts for your institution? I can do that for you. Are you looking for game design professors to teach an existing online class? I can do that, too. Contact me by email, and let’s talk.
  • Do you work at a game company that may eventually look for a freelance game designer on a short-term contractual basis? Ask me for my full contact details by email. Résumé and references available on request.

Also, if you liked the textbook, my co-author and I would appreciate if you’d leave a review on Amazon. For as many people as have bought the book, there are currently very few reviews, and it would be nice to see that change.

Course Evaluation

Update: This survey is now closed, but you can still send email to me directly if you want to comment on the course.

At the end of most college courses, students are given an evaluation to fill out. It asks all kinds of questions about the strong and weak points of the class and the professor. The answers are collected, compiled, and given back to the professor. I continue this tradition here.

I want to know what I did right, and more importantly, what I did wrong.

I have set up a survey here: http://survey.constantcontact.com/survey/a07e2kh03mmfz3laohv/start

If you are reading this at all, I would like to hear from you. This is true whether you originally signed up for the course, or came in late; whether you kept up with the coursework, or not; whether you enjoyed yourself or whether you thought this was a complete waste of time.

Go there and fill out the survey. I’m asking you to do this as a personal favor to me, in exchange for the time I have given you in putting together the content for this course. Your responses help me to make things even better next year. Thank you.

Final Words

I would like to thank you for your interest, your participation, and your time. I wish you well, in games and in life. Keep playing, keep designing, and keep learning.

– Ian Schreiber


19 Responses to “Level 20: Course Summary and Next Steps”

  1. BastienCil Says:

    Thank you for everything!

  2. Ciro Continisio Says:

    Thanks Ian!
    I fell behind and will complete the project in my spare time, but the course was a very good initiative!

  3. SteveEG Says:

    Thanks Ian for undertaking this imposible task this summer!
    Over all I am glad I did the work.

    unfortunately real life interfered with my ability to participate in the final project.

    But, I have my notes on the game I was gonna design and will finish it one day.


    Steven Eric Goodman

  4. Delfar Says:

    By the way, it could be not needed at all but I want to thank you the great effort you made to give us this course for free. Although I’m just some levels behind in the project I’m trying to read each week the texts…

    I will like to try to translate into spanish the complete course to my friends and colleagues and try to make some attending classes and some podcast lessons. If you don’t mind I’ll probably ask you any question when needed, but is a far future project.

    As RPG (book to play on table ones, offline) designer I think it was very useful and I have learned too much from you. It’s a pity not to have more spare time (I didn’t have holidays in these days, only for more working in a RPG convention) to follow the course more intensively…

    I will keep finish the course in the next weeks with my prototipe of card game. Would be all the webs and tools up for long time?

  5. Szonja Says:

    Thanks a lot! Great job! It was hard to get enough sparetime with a baby, but this course was worth it.

  6. Ben Newman Says:

    Thanks so much, Ian! I had too much on my plate, and too few other playtesters handy, to keep up with the exercises, but I’ve enjoyed reading both the blog posts and the textbook and found both of them to be informative and encouraging background for future game design projects.

  7. Adolfo Says:

    Thanks a Lot Ian,

    You made a great work!
    I’m going to finish my games and search for inspiration in your book!

    Until next Year. Dear “Master”.

    BTW: I want to see some of your critics in the final projects. I think that the people that made it so far wants to see what our profesor thinks about our projects!

  8. Mkr Says:

    Thanks a million for your teachings!!! It was hard to keep the pace because of my thesis projects and the remaining exams but it was worth it!

  9. SeamusP Says:

    Thanks Ian 🙂 Amazon review added and survey completed. Best of luck to you with all your future projects and work. Your “realword” students are lucky yo have you 🙂

  10. SeamusP Says:

    Thanks Ian 🙂 Amazon review added and survey completed. Best of luck to you with all your future projects and work. Your “realword” students are lucky to have you 🙂

  11. Jorge Diaz Says:

    I will be looking forward to next years course. The vocabulary aspects and testing methods were very helpful. Thanks Ian.

  12. Russ Says:

    I came in late and tried to sign up to the forums, but was rejected. Is there any possibility of opening the forums up or is the membership limited to whoever is on it now?

    • ai864 Says:

      Hi Russ, unfortunately the forums are now closed to the people who signed up in advance. Since the class is over, posting your material on the forums no longer has much meaning, as you wouldn’t be able to get a lot of feedback from others or find playtesters, which was the whole point of the forums anyway. So you’re not missing anything really 🙂

  13. CodeJustin Says:

    Thanks for offering the course, it was fun!

    Hope you do something next year =)

  14. Dr. Mike Reddy Says:

    Have filled out the questionnaire and made some suggestions. Well done Ian.

  15. JohnVanD Says:

    IAN thanks a lot
    I made a PDF and at last I finished it .D with this lesson.

    U rock Man we really appreciate that you have invested so much time
    without monetary rewards, but as they say “we become richer when we help others”

  16. Jason Tam Says:

    Hey Ian ive finally got around to finish this course. thanks so much and im looking forward to future lessons!

  17. Meesan | Buy Gaming Computer Says:

    Thanks a ton Ian! It’s amazing you invested so much time into this and helped us all. We all have grown because of you! Once again thank you!

  18. Aleksander Says:

    A thousand thanks for providing this course! It’s really been enjoyable, and I’ve learnt a ton! I’ll be sure to credit you in future work

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