*Formerly known as Game design for artists, mavericks and troublemakers.

An hands-on game development course focused on innovative and expressive forms of gameplay. Structured in a series of short assignments, the class will involve the radical transformation of "standard" games engines into meaningful / original / impossible / playable artworks. Or beautiful failures. The class material is centered on the Adobe Flex / Flash builder platform but other languages and environments are allowed. All students will be required into some extents to produce graphics and code.
Previous programming experience is appreciated but not required if you commit to develop the needed skills independently (this is not programming 101).

I'm collecting all the course material and some useful tools in a separate resources page:

Term: Fall 2010
Course number: 60424
Classroom: CFA 303 or CFA 317 (PC Lab)
Time: 01:30PM - 04:20PM
Professor: Paolo Pedercini
Office: CFA 419A - 4th Floor
Office hours: By appointment
Email address: paolop [at] andrew [dot] cmu [dot] edu
* Being passionate about game might help but please keep in mind this is not a class for sharing our love for video games or video game culture. We'll try to approach the subject critically and focus on cutting-edge developments at the margins of the mainstream game industry.

* This is an art course and CMU School of Art is focused on conceptual practice, it means that your primary goal will be to create meaningful works (read: video games as new media) - not necessarily elegant, balanced, well designed, entertaining products. A more straightforward (read: games-as-systems-of-rules) and industry-oriented class is provided by Jesse Shell at the ETC.

* Making games can be a great and fun way to learn programming, but if you never wrote code before I strongly suggest to invest some time this Summer to test your tolerance. For my experience you'll realize pretty soon if you love it or hate it. There's no way you'll get it away without writing code.
Upon completion of the course students will (hopefully) be able to:

* Create playable games or prototypes with innovative gameplays or expressive/political value.

* Critically analyze the mechanics of games including its ideological and cultural underpinnings.

* Discuss their interactive works in the context of new media art and/or in relation with mainstream cultural production.

* Attendance: three or more unexcused absences result in the drop of a letter grade.

* Absences: you are responsible for what happens in class whether you’re here or not. Organize with your classmates to get class information and material that you have missed.

* Participation: you are invited, encouraged, and expected to engage actively in discussion, reflection and activities.

* Net addiction: you can exist for few hours without tweettering, facebooking, chatting, texting or emailing. Any device for mediated communication is banned during theory classes, crits and discussions. A 1% grade reduction will result from being found using them.
During the lab hours you will be allowed to network as long as your behaviour is not disruptive.

* Assignments: late assignments are only accepted with permission of instructor. You lose 10% of your points per day late up to a max of 7 days late.

Tardiness: 1st tardy = free.
Less than 10 minutes late = 1% grade reduction.
Over 20 minutes late = absence (unless justified).


The course is structured in units, every unit revolves on a practical assignment. All the assignments are essentially hacking experiments. Instead of developing your games from scratch you'll be required to transform functional but boring engines into something personal and innovative. Some assignments might change or disappear according to the overall class performance.What follows is the best case scenario.

Turn the classic arcade Breakout into something visually appealing. It doesn't have to be playable or winnable.

Programming basics, variables syntax, classes, development environments overview.
Topics: Game luddites: the Art Mods scene, new retro.
1 week

Customize an engine for non linear text navigation (namely: a branching structure like a choose-your-own-adventure book) and create a narrative based-game about something that relates with you personally or about an historical/current affair topic.

Skills: XML, Text, custom events.
Topics: Non linear-narrative overview. Story based games. Joystick envy: women in games.
2 weeks

Starting from a basic space shooter engine, develop short game with an original visual style and/or unusual sounds and/or innovative gameplay elements. What about a pacifist shooter?

Skills: keyboard controls, custom classes, sounds.
Topics: A brief history of war and games. Isreali-palestinian conflict in games. Indie revolution: a changing industry.
3 weeks

Make a game focused on atmosphere and exploration. Try to provide a compelling experience avoiding combats and "standard" goals.

Skills: A combination of the previous two assignments. Tile based games - level design
Topics: Art games and game art. Serious and Activism games.
3 weeks

Make a simple game / interactive artwork that employs a non-standard game controller or a non-screen based output. One button or no button games, site-specific projection, accelerometers, physical interfaces, sound input etc.

Skills: Various technical tutorial will be provided
Topics: Games in the gallery: radical interfaces and game performances.
3 weeks

Your final project will be a development/extension of your most successful assignment.

If are technically proficient and responsible, you can propose a more personal and ambitious final project and even skip up to two assignments in order to work on it. A comprehensive design document and a prototype/proof-of concept is a requirement for this option.
The final project can also be a non digital artifact as an alternate reality/urban game or tabletop or even a non-game artifact as performance or machinima as long as it related with the course topics.


10% Breakout
15% Tamagotchi
15% Shooter
15% Narrative game
15% Alternative interface
10% Final project (or more if negotiated, see above)
20% Class participation

Bonus: if you want to make up for a bad grade you can write a 2 pages (or more) reaction paper of one of the suggested readings. This extra effort will positively affect the final grade.

Grading sucks but someone has to do the dirty job. Assignments and final project are graded according to these criteria:

E. The student failed to deliver the assignment.
D. The game/prototype doesn't work, has major bugs or is incomplete to a point that is impossible to get a clear idea of the user experience.
C. The game/prototype is functional and complete in all of its parts. Both the technical execution and the concept are sufficient but not outstanding.
B. Good concept and excellent technical execution. Or, vice versa, excellent idea and good technical execution.
A. Outstanding concept and implementation. Seriously, this is reserved to the top 10%.


As a reference here's a list of most of the games and works presented during the course. Some of them will be assigned as homeplay: play at home or during lab time and present it to your classmates in 5 minutes.
The classification is quite arbitrary, most games belong to more than one category.
The focus is on small independent games rather than big-budget AAA title because they are closer to what you can realistically accomplish during this course.

Art mods / hack
Ars doom by Orhan Kipcak (1995)
Museum Meltdown by Tobias Bernstrup & Palle Tornsson (1996)
SimCopter hack by Jacques Servin (1996)
retroYou R/C by retroYou (2000)
nostalG by retroYou (1999)
SOD by Jodi (1999)
Quilted Thought Organ ('QTHOTH') by Julian Oliver (1999)
Untitled Game by Jodi (2001)
Adam Killer by Brody Condon (1999)
QQQ by nullpointer Tom Betts (2002)
Super Mario Clouds by Cory Archangel (2002)
q3apd by Julian Oliver (2002)
911 survivor by Jeff Cole (2003)
F1 Racer Mod by Cory Archangel (2004)
Karma Physics < Elvis by Brody Condon (2004)

New retro / demakes
ROM CHECK FAIL by farbs (2008)
Syobon Action (cat mario) by z-gundam-tanosii (199?)
Spheres of Chaos by Iain McLeod (1992)
Plasma Pong by Steve Taylor (2007)
Psychosomnium by Cactus (2007)
1d Tetris by Ljudmila (2002)
So Long, Oregon. Let's Go Find El Dorado
Progress quest by Eric Fredricksen (2002)
Tuper tario bros by Swing Swing Submarine (2009)
Retrosabotage by anonymous (2008 - 2009)
Upgrade complete (2008)
ASCII portal by Joe Larson (2009)

Game-based art / art themed games
Isometric screenshot by John Haddock (2000)
Various photos by Rosemarie Fiore (2001-2002)
The great game by John Klima (2002)
How to win "super mario bros" by Radical Software Group (2004)
Tokyo arcade warriors - Shibuya by Axel Stockburger (2005)
Distellamap by Ben Fry (2005)
School of Perpetual Training by Stephanie Rothenberg (2007)
Shot by Robert William Overweg (2007)

Velvet Strike by Anne-Marie Schleiner (2002)
Suicide Solution by Brody Condon (2004)
You're dead Yan Duyvendak (2005)
Dead in iraq by Joseph Delappe (2006)
Domestic tension by Wafaa Bilal (2007)
Inverse forensics by John Paul Bichard (2007)

Exit by Magnus Wallin (1997)
Limbo by Magnus Wallin (1999)
Super Mario Sleeping by Miltos Manetas (1997)
Super Mario Movie by Cory Archangel & Paper Rad (2005)

Experimental interfaces
Pongmechanik by Niklas Roy (1998)
PainStation by //////////fur//// (2001)
Furminator by //////////fur//// (2004)
Tekken torture tournament by Eddo Stern (2001)
The Colour Game by Joe McKay (2003)
Sweetpads by France Cadet (2004)
Dance Dance Immolation by Interpretive Arson (2005)
Giant Joystick by Flanagan (2006)
Intimate controllers by JennyLC Chowdhury (2007)
DarkGame by Eddo Stern (2007)
Massage me by Mika Satomi and Hannah Perner-Wilson (2007)
n0tb0t by Walter Langelaar (2007)
LevelHead by Julian Oliver (2008)
What It Is Without the Hand That Wields It by Riley Harmon (2008)
Prepared PlayStation (RSG-THUG2) by Radical Software Group (2005)

Hidden Agenda by Jim Gasperini (1988)
Vigilance 1.0 by Martin Le Chevallier (2000)
The Antiwargame by Josh On/Futurefarmers (2001)
Civilization IV by Eastwood Real Time Strategy Group (2002)
Super Kid Fighter by Carbon Defence League and Critical Art Ensemble (2002)
Metapet by Natalie Bookin (2002)
Escape From Woomera by VVAA (2003)
September 12th by Newsgames (2003)
Disaffected by Persuasive games (2006)
Airport insecurity by Persuasive games (2006)
Harpooned by Conor O’Kane (2008)
Raid Gaza by Raitendo (2008)
Under Siege by Radwan Kasmiya (2004)
Various Molleindustria works (2003-now)

Serious / documentary / advocacy games
Food Force by the United Nations World Food Programme (2005)
Darfur is dying by Mtv & Reebok (2006)
PeaceMaker by ImpactGames (2007)
Climate challenge by Red redemption (2007)
Ayiti: The Cost of Life by GameLab (2007)
Global Conflicts: Palestine by Serious Games Interactive (2007)
Super Columbine Massacre RPG! by Danny Ledonne (2005)
Waco Resurrection by C-Level (2003)
JFK reloaded by Traffic software (2004)
The redistricting game by USC Game Innovation Lab (2007)

Indie games
World of Goo by 2DBoy (2008)
Crayon Physics Deluxe by kloonigames (2009)
Defcon by Introversion software (2007)
Braid by Jonathan Blow (2008)
Everyday Shooter by Jonathan Mak (2007)
FlOw by ThatGameCompany (2006-2007)
FlOwer by ThatGameCompany (2009)
ClOud by ThatGameCompany (2005)
Captain Forever by Farbs (2009)
Fracfight by Cactus (2007)
Mondo Medicals by Cactus (2007)
Warning Forever by Hikware (2005)

Passage by Jason Roher (2007)
Flywrench by messhoff (2007)
Coil by Edmund McMillen (2008)
Aether by Edmund McMillen (2008)
Gravitation - Jason Roher (2008)
Pazzon by Jesse Venbrux (2008)
The Graveyard by Tale of tales (2008)
Fatale by Tale of tales (2009)
The Endless forest by Tale of Tales (2008)
This is infinity by Cactus (2009)
4 Minutes and 33 Seconds of Uniqueness by kloonigames (2009)
I Fell in Love With the Majesty of Colors by Ludus Novus (2008)
Trials by Ludomancy (2008)
Cowboyana by messhof (2008)
Mirror stage by increpare (2009)
Lose / lose by Zach Gage (2009)

Narrative / poetry / story based
Bad day on the midway by The Residents (1995)
Galatea by Emily Short (2000)
Soviet Unterzoegersdorf by Monochrom (2005)
Facade by Michael Mateas and Andrew Stern (2005)
Game, game, game and again game by Jason Nelson (2007)
Night of the Cephalopods! by spookysquid (2008)
Snow by Benjamin Rivers (2008)
Today I Die by Ludomancy (2008)
Samorost by Amanitadesign (2005)
Machinarium by Amanitadesign (2009)
Storyteller by Ludomancy (2008)
Windosill by Patrick Smith (2009)
The Path by Tale of tales (2009)
MS paint adventures by Andrew Hussie (?)
I wish I were the Moon by Ludomancy (2008)
Digital: a love story by Christine Love (2010)
Sleep is death by Jason Roher (2010)
PlayPen by Farbs (2010)
Air pressure by BentoSmile (2010)
Trauma by Krystian Majewski (2010?)