Game design program vision
The CG Spectrum game design program builds skills that students can use to get good jobs in the game industry. We will guide you through the process to move you from beginner to advanced in a step by step way.
We provide aspiring video game developers three important things:
- Industry veterans to guide you and review your work weekly
2. Skills for Today
- Hands-on skills and practice with today’s tools and practices
3. Skills for a Long Career
- Timeless skills of designing, prototyping, playtesting, and iteration that can be used as tools and platforms change
- Team leadership andcommunication effectiveness skills that can be used for a lifetime
As a student you will:
- Create: Console, Mobile, PC, Web, Switch, VR, and AR games
- Learn how to work on industry game teams
- Master playable System & Level design
And learn the following hands-on skills:
- Playable System Design
- Level Design
- Industry Standard Engines – Unity 3D and Unreal Engine
- Coding Fundamentals
- Industry-standard tools – Adobe Suite, Google Suite, Maya, Github, JIRA, Slack, and others
- Agile Development & Game Development Processes
- Story and Narrative in Games
Plus how to:
– Build a winning personal portfolio and website
– Get help finding internships and jobs at game companies
– Build a professional network
- Demonstrate mastery of Playable System Design methodology including knowledge of formal elements and dramatic elements. Speak and write competently about Meaningful Choice, Play Mechanics, and Engagement Loops.
- Use game engine and coding at beginner’s level.
- Use 2D and 3D visual design software at a beginner’s level.
- Prototype playable games using non-digital means.
- Prototype playable games using state of the art game engine.
- Conduct playtest sessions which elicit formal feedback from playtesters that can be used to improve the quality of the play experience.
- Collaborate formally with teammates and iterate on projects to improve player experience.
- Develop and iterate playable “levels” using original or existing core mechanics.
- Scope software development projects effectively and deliver working software on a schedule.
- Develop and deliver working software using industry best practices, including Agile and Scrum. Use state of the art online tools and procedures from industry.
- Use a programming and scripting languages such as C#, Python and deliver working code.
- Create interactive story scripts with facile understanding of the core dramatic elements of games including Premise, Challenge, Story, Character, Play, and Dramatic Arc. Speak and write competently about Embedded Narrative, Emergent Narrative, and Integrated Narrative.
- Develop visual designs using art direction concepts including color theory and composition. Build 2D and/or 3D assets using best practices from industry. 3D concepts include modeling, texturing, lighting, rigging, and rendering.
- Evaluate industry trends and the business practices of professional game publishers and their counterparts. Evaluate marketing best practices used in the game industry.
- Develop producorial materials such as budgets, schedules, and pitch presentations using best practices from industry
Note: At the start and end of each term in this course, we will have you visualize your future, and think more about what you really want to do. Your interests may change over time. That is normal and encouraged. The end goal of the program is to help you get a job in the game industry that is the right fit with who you are and who you want to be.
Equipment, software and games
Being a great game designer requires you to be skilled with a variety of hardware and software. platforms. It also requires you to play a lot of games and understand them. This section describes equipment, software tools, and games/game services that we recommend for student success.
Personal computer (required)
You need a personal computer with a webcam and broadband connection to participate in this program. Here are recommended minimum specifications for a personal computer:
- Operating System: Windows 10 or later
- Form Factor: Laptop (laptop is recommended but a desktop is ok)
- Screen Size: 15” or bigger
- CPU: Intel i5-4590, AMD FX 8350 equivalent or better
- GPU: Nvidia GeForce GTX 970, AMD Radeon R9 290 equivalent or better
- RAM: 4 GB or more
- Video Output: HDMI 1.4, DisplayPort 1.2 or newer
- USB Port: 1x USB 2.0 or better port
- Web Camera: 720p or higher
- Microphone: standard
- Wifi: high-speed
- Audio: standard speakers or headset with microphone
- The game industry runs primarily on PCs (as opposed to Macs). We recommend that you use a PC for this reason.
- We recommend a laptop over a desktop because it is more versatile and portable. This makes it easier to collaborate with people.
- All that said you can still complete the program with a PC desktop or a Macintosh laptop or desktop
- We do not recommend computers running Linux or other less well-known operating systems because they are less likely to run all the industry standard tools.
Mobile smartphone / tablet
Mobile games are becoming more and more part of the gaming landscape. We strongly recommend (but do not require) that you have access to a smartphone and/or tablet that is capable of gaming. We recommend a smartphone and/or tablet that can run Apple’s latest ARKit or Android’s latest ARCore for viewing augmented reality games.
We recommend (but do not require) that you gain access to leading game consoles. Here are our recommendations in order:
- Microsoft Xbox
- Sony Playstation
- Nintendo Switch
- HTC VIVE or Oculus Rift VR Headset
Drawing tablets are a “nice to have” but not necessary piece of equipment. They are used for freehand drawing on your computer. We recommend the One by Wacom tablet ($60) or better.
The landscape of software tools used in the game industry is constantly evolving. The following are the leading tools used in game studios today.
1. Unity 3D – game engine (free for students)
Used to make playable games. This is the professional game engine used by a majority of game developers. Beginners can use to create simple games with minimal code. Experts can use to create AAA titles as part of large teams. Unity allows you to write the game once and output to all major platforms including PC, Xbox, Playstation, Switch, iOS, Android, etc.
- Unity Tutorials (learn the program)
- Unity Asset Store (download 3D models and sounds)
- Unity Collaborate (work on projects with other people)
Tool suite used by professionals to create game visuals. These include 2D assets, UI elements, sketches, logos, etc. Most used programs are:
- Photoshop – used for graphic design and image editing
- Illustrator – vector graphic companion to Photoshop
- Premiere – used for video editing including for internal presentations
Alternatives: GIMP for graphic design (free), Figma for vector graphics (free), Blender for video editing (free)
Tool used by professionals to create 3D assets and animation.
Alternatives: Blender (free), Cinema 4D for Students (free)
Used to create collaborative documents, spreadsheets, and presentations. Accessible via web browser.
Alternative: Microsoft Office 365 online
5. Google Drive – cloud storage / file sharing (free for 15 gb)
Makes your files accessible via any computer via the cloud. Negates the need for hard drive back-up services. We recommend you sync your personal computer hard drive to your cloud drive for optimal performance.
Alternatives: Dropbox, Microsoft OneDrive
View PDF files.
Advanced and specialized software tools
As you progress through the program your mentors will expose you to advanced and specialized tools. The things you do with these tools build upon what you learn with the Base Set-Up. These tools may include:
- Unreal Engine – game engine
- Houdini – procedural animation
- Zbrush – advanced 3D sculpting
- Substance Designer – 3D material development
- Python – scripting editor for Python programming language
- Trello – project management and collaboration
- Github – code source control and collaboration
- Bugzilla – bug tracking
As mentioned, being a game designer requires you to play and understand lots of games. This program will teach you how to deconstruct, analyze, and talk about games using a common language with other developers.
The CG Spectrum game canon
We curated a list of the greatest games of all time into one list. These are games you should know. We encourage you to play all of these games before graduating. We aspire for you to be able to reference and talk about the great games from our field in design meetings.
Here is the CG Spectrum Game Canon.
Note if you can’t play certain games because the platform is out dated try watching gameplay videos of them on Youtube.
The following are our recommendations for games and game services to use to maximize your exposure to games at reasonable prices. Note that you will get specific assignments for games to play regularly throughout the program. If you want to play a game for an assignment that is different from our recommendation please get permission from your mentor before you submit an assignment.
This service has over 100 games to play monthly on both the PC and Xbox platforms.
- League of Legends
- Apex Legends
This services allows you to download and stream 800+ PS games.
4. Steam (free to play and a la carte)
A wide variety of games and demos to checkout.
Apple’s new game subscription service.
Keep up with the latest in free to play and for mobile. Look at the AppAnnie charts to see what games are hot each month.
The Internet Arcade is a web-based library of arcade (coin-operated) video games from the 1970s through to the 1990s, emulated in JSMAME.
Nearly every game worth knowing about can be observed by searching and watching Youtube. Watch classic games and new games for a quick look at how they work and why they are fun.
This provides 100 games for Xbox and Playstation
Hundreds of PC games.
Hundreds of PC games.
12. Gamefly ($15/month – not available on all regions)
Rent game disks through the mail. Play each as long as you like. Mail a disk back to get the next game in your queue.
13. Jump ($5 – $10/month)
Cool service for mostly Indie games for PC.
14. Utomik ($6/month)
Over 1000 PC games from different publishers.
Web resources, books and other learning materials
Think of the field of game design like river rapids of information. The rapids move fast and are constantly churning and changing. No one can comprehend the full river of information all at once. So we recommend that you build a practice of reading key websites for 1-2 hours per week. Doing this will, firstly, allow you to make sense of the rapids, and, secondly, to be able to move and bob along and have fun in the rapids instead of getting bowled over by them.
Here are our recommendations for what to follow on a weekly basis:
- Gamasutra.com – This is the leading online community for game developers. Read it every day. Consider posting questions and engaging with the people. This is the most important site of the three.
- Gamesindustry.biz – This site provides business headlines and articles so you can understand where the business is going on a global basis. Good game designers understand our craft from a creative, technical, and business perspective. This site will help you understand the business perspective.
- Metacritic.com/game – This site takes the review scores from reviewers across the industry, normalizes them on a scale of 1-100, and provides a weighted average “metascore” from the results. In other words, it applies the wisdom of the crowds to game reviews. Game professionals will know what is at the top of this list and will know the metascore of all their competitors.
- LinkedIn Game Groups – As a student in the CG Spectrum game program you will learn the value of a LinkedIn network. You will also learn how to tap your network for career opportunities. We recommend that you join game-related groups on LinkedIn and engage with the people in them on a weekly basis. Doing this will pay off for you for your whole career.
There are plenty of other web resources out there for game information. The four above are focused on information and community for professional game developers.
The following are leading books about game design (in order of our recommendation). The books are not required to complete the program. Rather reading them can provide a valuable, optional, supplement to the curriculum.
- Game Development Essentials: Gameplay Mechanics, by Troy Dunniway
- How to Become a Straight-A Student: The Unconventional Strategies Real College Students Use to Score High While Studying Less, by Cal Newport
- Introduction to Game Design, Prototyping, and Development: From Concept to Playable Game with Unity and C#, by Jeremy Gibson Bond
- Level Up! The Guide to Great Video Game Design, By Scott Rogers
- The Art of Game Design: Book of Lenses, by Jesse Schell
- Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals, by Eric Zimmerman and Katie Salen
- A Theory of Fun for Game Design, by Raph Koster
Other learning materials
When you are confronted with a problem, use all the resources at your disposal to solve it. Here are some leading sites to use when stuck:
- Unity Forum
- StackOverflow Unity Answers
- Adobe Support Community
- CG Talk: Maya
- YouTube – yes YouTube. There is an amazing wealth of information on YouTube – especially for beginner questions about game tools.