CISC 2540 R01 Intro to Video Game Design (Fall 2018)

Class Time: Mon,Thu 4:00-5:15 PM
Classroom: Keating Hall 312 and (for labs) JMH 342
Instructor: Prof. Truong Huy Nguyen (
Office Hours: Thu 2:00-3:30 PM or by appointment via email
Office (Rose Hill): JMH 402C

Course Description

This course fulfills the EP 3 core requirement. It may also be used as an elective for the Computer Science or Computer Information Science major or minor.

This course provides a gentle and fun introduction to the design and production of computer-based video games, for students with no prior programming experience. Students will learn principles of game design, and apply them to create an actual computer game of their own design. Students will also research selected aspects of games and/or the game industry, and write term papers, class essays, as well as give presentations about their interested topics.

Course Objectives

After completion of this course, the student will:

Required Text


The percentages given below are guidelines for both students and instructor; minor changes may be made during the course (students will be informed promptly of any such changes).

    Attendance, participation                                   10%
    A midterm paper (minimum 6 pages, excluding references)     20% (initial draft: 5%) 
    One comprehensive in-class essay session                    10%
    Follow-up paper (minimum 9 pages, excluding references)     15%
    An in-class presentation (10 minutes plus Q&A)              20%
    A game project                                              25% (proposal: 5%, demo 1: 5%, final: 15%)

To map a numerical grade to a letter grade, I use the following mapping (which is the default built into Blackboard). However, in some cases I may curve grades upward.

    A   94-100      C+  77-80
    A-  90-94       C   74-77  
    B+  87-90       C-  70-74  
    B   84-87       D   65-70  
    B-  80-84       F   <65

The class is required to meet during the final exam period. This time will be used for demoing game projects.

Late Submission Policy
Assignments must be completed by the date specified in their respective descriptions and submitted according to the instructions provided by me. There will be a 20% point deduction each day after the due date. Assignment will not be accepted 3 days past the due date, unless under extraordinary circumstances and priorly approved by the instructor.

The term paper, presentation, and game project

The course includes writing assignments as well as presentations and a hands-on game project.

The term paper and class essay

The topic for a term paper may be: a review of the mechanisms, technology, gameplay features and implementation of a commercial video game; exploration of some aspect of the social impact of a game or of some genre of games in general; a study of issues raised by some aspect of the game industry;the evolution of a game series or other topics of interest related to video games. Papers are expected to be of academic quality, based on at least some research and including critical analysis. For instance, a game review should not be based solely on opinion, like those found on IGN, but should relate the good or bad qualities of the game to fundamental principles of game design. Your papers will be graded based on my judgments in five criteria

  1. Originality/Creativity: How original/creative the essay is
  2. Use of Documentation: Support to the arguments being presented and developed from outside sources
  3. Content and Scope (Breadth of coverage):
    • Content: Develop points relating to an issue being argued in separate paragraphs.
    • Scope: Include "enough" outside references and papers (3 to 4 sources at the minimum) to support each element of an argument or point in the content.
  4. Relevancy: whether the issue being elaborated upon is meaningful enough to the industry, the technical advancement or design of a game, the immersion quality of the game, the advancement or stagnation of a current series of a game or a societal issue pertaining to a game genre. Simple summary information relating to a topic discussed would be too simplistic.
  5. Clarity of Writing Style/Logical Progression: How clear and logical the development of ideas is

In order to meet the requirements for an EP course, the mid term paper, in-class essay, and follow-up paper must total at least 15 pages of material that has undergone at least one cycle of revision. The 15 page minimum (which does not count the bibliography or any figures) is divided between the midterm paper (6 pages), in-class essay, and the follow-up essay (9 pages). For the mid term paper, you'll need to submit an initial draft (about two pages long) briefly describing your topic and the thesis you will argue in the mid-term paper, as well as an indication of the research you have done initially; then a final draft containing the complete argument together with citations to sources. For the follow-up essay, you will extend the midterm paper with feedback received from your peers and me.

The presentation

Your presentation topic should be the same as the topic of your midterm paper. The presentations will be scheduled in the last few weeks of class. The oral presentation should be at most 10 minutes long, followed by a few minutes of question and answer. Presentations will be evaluated for qualities of effectiveness, clarity, organization, and engagingness. One class day will also be devoted to a review of good presentation techniques.

The game project

All game projects must be implemented using GameMaker, versions 8.1 Lite, or Studio, the latter two of which are available in the instructional lab JMH 342. This is a very easy-to-use game creation system that requires no prior programming experience. GameMaker 8.1 Lite is available for free download from BlackBoard.

The free version is sufficient to create games that will get full credit for this course. If you desire, you can upgrade to the licensed version, which has some extra features, for $40. The licensed version is also installed on the computers in the instructional lab JMH 342.

Your game project is due at the time set for the final exam period. That period will be used for game demos and will be held in the instructional lab JMH 342. You will have about 5 minutes to demo your game and perhaps some playtesting by your classmates. In practice, this has been found to be plenty of time, if you come well prepared.

When presenting your game, bring your game in executable form, i.e., ".exe", and not GameMaker form (.gm81, .gmk, .gmx) to class. The executable can be created by selecting "Create Executable" from File menu in the GameMaker main interface. You can bring it on a flash drive or use an online service such as Dropbox. (Be aware that game files are often too large for email.) If you use an online service, please arrive early so that you can put it onto the podium PC's desktop ahead of time. Note that if you cannot export your game as an executable, you will need to bring your own laptop with GameMaker installed to present your game.

You will need to submit your complete game codes (i.e., game asset files and GameMaker files) to Blackboard later that day. To help me keep track of all the game projects, please name your GameMaker file something containing your own name. For example, Jane Smith's game titled "Weird Waldo" might be named smith-weird-waldo.gm81.

Your game should include a help screen (F1 and/or a start page) that gives a complete description of the game controls. It can also provide some back story or narrative if that helps. The help screen should also provide acknowledgments for any assets (sprites, sounds, etc.) that are not your own creations or part of the GameMaker resources. The acknowledgments need not be detailed: for instance, a statement like "all sprites and sounds were found at" would suffice.

Assets do not need to be of professional quality. A homemade look is just fine.

There is no requirement for how many levels your game should contain. It is perfectly OK to have a well designed and executed game with only one level. You are expected to put an appropriate amount of work into the project, but there are no extra points for elaborateness.

The evaluation on demo day will rate your game based on the following factors: originality of concept, challenge, feedback system, storytelling or theme, and fun. In addition, I may take into account other factors such as adequacy of effort, completeness (e.g., whether you include a good help system or not), and correct and clean implementation.

I will be looking more for an original, balanced, and fun game than for fancy effects, polished graphics, or laboriously built environments.

Academic Honesty

Academic integrity is very important to the mission of the university. Plagiarism or failure to properly cite sources will result in an F on the assignment and may result in an F for the course. You are responsible for and expected to follow the Fordham College at Rose Hill policy regarding matters of academic integrity.

Legal note: Under the doctrine of Fair Use, it is permissible for you to use copyrighted materials in your game project. For example, you could use a Mickey Mouse sprite for one of the characters. You must, of course, properly acknowledge such use of others' creations, e.g. in the credits on the help screen. It would not be OK under copyright law to take a game containing such materials commercial. Furthermore, rights to all intellectual property produced by students for class assignments belong to the University. If you have a great idea for a game project that you plan to try to market, I recommend you save your idea until after the course is over, and use a different idea for your project.

Disability Accommodation

If you are a student with a documented disability and require academic accommodations, please register with the Office of Disability Services for Students (ODS) in order to request academic accommodations for your courses. Please contact the main ODS number at 718-817-0655 to arrange services. Accommodations are not retroactive, so you need to register with ODS prior to receiving your accommodations. Please see me after class or during office hours if you have questions or would like to submit your academic accommodation letter to me if you have previously registered for accommodations.

Course Schedule