Course Syllabus

SPRING 2019  | HUNT LIBRARY, STUDIO A  | M-W-F 10:30AM – 12:20PM


ProfessorTom Corbetttcorbett@andrew.cmu.eduHunt 246
PTC 3319


Hunt 246 – Hours TBD or by appointment

Skype: by appointment
Please email me ( to reserve a meeting time.


Are you curious about what it would be like to work in games?  This course will give you first hand experience designing and developing video games.  You will work as a member of a development studio in a fast-paced, deadline driven environment, and by the end of the semester you will have made four games for your portfolio.

(That is what is commonly known as an “elevator pitch”, a brief 15 second description designed to convey enough information to communicate your idea, and to entice and persuade further action from the recipient.  Many successful games begin as simple pitches like that one. See? You’re learning things already.)

This class will cover principles of game design and mechanics, development processes such as rapid prototyping and iterative design, and common methods of project management for creative software development. It will examine business aspects of the industry that impact our designs, including demographics, economic models, budgets, and marketing.  Students will experience these processes first hand as they work in collaborative, cross-disciplinary teams. The class will be organized into “game studios” to tackle design challenges and create new games of their very own. Students on the teams will engage in hands-on development, and serve in the various roles typically found on a development team including artists, programmers, designers, producers and more.

This is a 15 credit course, as it requires a significant amount of outside-of-class work with your team to produce positive results.   Please reserve the appropriate amount of time for your classwork and respect the schedules of your teammates.


  • Understand the core concepts of game design, including rules and mechanics, balance and probability, engagement and flow, emergent story and interactive narratives.
  • Practice development processes of rapid prototyping and iterative design, and production methods such as “agile” development and playtesting.
  • Experience the roles and structure of a game development team as you realize your own games from brainstorming to final delivery.
  • Explore the structure, methods, and economics of the games industry to understand how these affect decision-making and development.
  • Design experiences that allow first-time users to learn and play your games.


The course meets every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday throughout the semester.   These sessions will include lectures, workshops, speakers, open lab sessions, and project presentation and critique sessions.

A typical week in the course will be as follows:

  • Monday:  Topic Lecture or Exercise
  • Wednesday:  Workshop, Guest Lecture, or Lab Session
  • Friday: Team Presentation / Project Review

The order is subject to change to meet schedule demands, but most weeks will follow this pattern.

Students will be graded on their in-class participation, their performance on individual assignments, their performance on their team assignments (process grade), and the quality of the projects delivered for the team assignment (project grade).


No prior experience or pre-requisite course is required for this class.  Students are expected to draw on their own diverse experiences, talents, and skillsets to contribute to the project.  Everybody will have a role and a responsibility in the development of their games.



IDeATe has teamed up with HCI’s OH! Lab to offer playtesting sessions on Wednesday evenings in Hunt Library.   These playtesting sessions are open for teams to present their games to playtesters for feedback. Participation in these playtesting sessions may be required for certain assignments – please refer to the assignment documentation when it is delivered.  


Projects for this class will be developed using the Unity game development engine.  (    It is recommended that all students download and install the application ahead of the first assignment.  The “Personal” edition is free to install and use.

This course will not teach you how to use Unity.  if you have not used the engine before it is highly recommended that you go through the beginner tutorials that Unity offers on their website to familiarize yourself with the software.  


There is no required book for this class, but it is highly recommend that you pick up “The Art of Game Design: A Book of Lenses (2nd edition)” by Jesse Schell.  The book has a companion deck of cards that is not required, but is also highly recommended as they are immensely useful. (The cards are also available as a free app from the Apple Store and Google Play)


Other development resources such as equipment and software are available through IDeATe, University Libraries, and Computing Resources.  Please refer to their sites for more information.


For development in this course, I will assume the role of the “Publisher” and you will assume the role of a member of a game studio.  You should approach our interactions, as well as your interactions with your fellow students, as though this were a real-life work environment.   While this course offers opportunities to experiment with design and take greater risks than you would in the real world, you are still expected to conduct yourself as professional adults at all times, and will be held to such a standard.

  • Attendance is expected for all class sessions.  (Exception: If you are sick, stay home. Don’t infect the rest of us. Please send a note to myself or the TA explaining your absence)
  • Excused absences will be considered on a case-by-case basis.  If you know you will be out of town or have a conflicting appointment, please let me know ahead of time.  It is also your responsibility to communicate this and coordinate with your teammates
  • Repeated unexcused absences may result in a reduction of your final grade.
  • Be on time.  Repeated late arrival will result in a reduction of your participation grade.
  • Be awake, engaged and participatory.
  • Be respectful of our guests, our staff, and your classmates,.
  • Be helpful, honest, and respectful with your teammates.
  • Do your work. Meet your deadlines and deliverables.
  • Use of electronic devices in class is acceptable so long as it pertains to game design and the topic or assignment at hand.
  • Be responsible with your food and beverages, and keep our facilities clean.


Project parameters and deliverables will be distributed at the beginning of each assignment.  If you have questions about the assignment or deadlines, please ask.

Project deliverables (for both interim and final submissions) must be submitted by the deadline.  Typically, this deadline will be Thursdays at 11:59pm.  Late projects will assume a penalty or may not be accepted at all.

“LAST KNOWN GOOD” POLICY:   Deliverables are expected to function during our weekly reviews.  Submitting or displaying broken or unplayable builds may result in a penalty or incomplete grade.  It is recommended that your team adopt and adhere to a process to regularly back-up your work during development.  A cornerstone of a solid back-up strategy is having a “last known good” policy in place, where a successful and playable build of your game is saved as a snapshot, independent of your ongoing development.  Using this policy ensures that you still have something to show in class in the event of something going catastrophically wrong with your current build (which happens way more often than you think).

Students are expected to turn in their own work.  Don’t cheat or plagiarize. Please review CMU’s policy on Academic Integrity.   Materials created by someone else (code, photographs, music, etc) must include proper permission and/or attribution.  Use of code libraries must be approved on a case-by-case basis.

Teams maintain ownership of the intellectual property of their creations for this class.   It is a good practice for teams to agree upon their own IP policy and sign a written version of the agreement, just in case.  CMU retains a nonexclusive royalty-free license to use projects created for this class for academic, demonstration, and research purposes.


Students in this course will be graded individually for participation and individual assignments, and as a group for team assignments.  Team assignments will receive a project grade that reflects the quality of the final product, and a process grade that reflects the quality of effort, organization, and teamwork put forth by the team.   All team members will receive the same project grades. Process grades will be determined through a combination of instructor observation and peer evaluation.  

Grading Breakdown:

  • 20% Individual Assignments and Participation
  • 30% Team Projects 1-3
  • 50% Final Team Project

Grades for this course are assigned based on the following table:

97% A+ Excellent

Exceeds expectations

92% A
90% A-
87% B+ Good

Meets expectations

82% B
80% B-
77% C+ Satisfactory

Meets requirements, but not expectations

72% C
70% C-
67% D+ Unsatisfactory

Below requirements and expectations

65% D



Most IDeATe facilities are located in Hunt Library. Lending, Physical Computing Lab, Media Lab, the laser cutters, 3D printers, woodshop, and CNC router are on the lower level. Some of the equipment requires special training which you will receive either in the class that requires it or in a micro course. If you are unsure of how to operate any of the equipment or are unsure how to use the equipment safely and effectively, please send email to


Report all fires and emergencies immediately to University Police at 412-268-2323.

  • Emergency response: University Police — 412-268-2323
  • Building maintenance: Facilities Management & Campus Services — 412-268-2910
  • IDeATe-related inquiries —


Once you are enrolled in an IDeATe course, you will have access to IDeATe Lending. You will maintain your access through the rest of your time at Carnegie Mellon. You must present your CMU ID each time you borrow an item. You will also be able to purchase a limited number of consumable items (such as plywood and acrylic) for projects. Please visit for more detailed information on available resources, to review the IDeATe Lending Borrower Policy, and to find hours of operation.


If you are enrolled in an IDeATe class at least a week before the start of the course, you will have access to IDeATe Lending and (if applicable) have keycard access to the classroom door on the first day of class. If you add a course during the Add Period, you may need to wait a few business days to receive access while the lists are updated. If you add a course after the last day of the Add Period, email with your name, Andrew ID, and course number so we can add you to our systems.


If you have questions or need advice about IDeATe minors or courses, please get in touch with Kelly Delaney, the Assistant Director of IDeATe. Her office is in Hunt 246 and her email is


Take care of yourself.  Do your best to maintain a healthy lifestyle this semester by eating well, exercising, avoiding drugs and alcohol, getting enough sleep and taking some time to relax. This will help you achieve your goals and cope with stress.

All of us benefit from support during times of struggle. You are not alone. There are many helpful resources available on campus and an important part of the college experience is learning how to ask for help. Asking for support sooner rather than later is often helpful.

If you or anyone you know experiences any academic stress, difficult life events, or feelings like anxiety or depression, we strongly encourage you to seek support. Counseling and Psychological Services (CaPS) is here to help: call 412-268-2922 and visit their website at Consider reaching out to a friend, faculty or family member you trust for help getting connected to the support that can help.

If you or someone you know is feeling suicidal or in danger of self-harm, call someone immediately, day or night:

  • CaPS: 412-268-2922
  • Re:solve Crisis Network: 888-796-8226

If the situation is life threatening, call the police:

  • On campus: CMU Police: 412-268-2323
  • Off campus: 911