Prior to doing their final Game Production projects, students at the Los Angeles Film School take a course called Concepting and Preprodution. The first half of this course involves each student creating a PowerPoint presentation for pitching a game concept of his or her choice. The students then all pitch their concepts to a Greenlight Committee consisting of faculty and other members of the school staff, who afterwards deliberate in private and select one or more projects for the students to develop as their Final Project.
Once informed of the Greenlight Committee’s decision, the students then break into development teams and spend the last half of the course creating a game design document, technical design document, asset document, and schedule for the development work to be done in their following courses, Game Production 1 & 2.
After serving on several Greenlight Committees, I found that many students did not provide the members with the information necessary to truly understand the game being propose, while others spent far too much time on story or other details that really did not impact the Committee’s decision. So I decided to create the following template for the students to use, and it seems to have worked out well.
The first slide presents the game’s title and key art, as well as the student’s name. While this slide is displayed, students introduce themselves and the game they are pitching. This gives the students an opportunity to grab the Committe’s attention before launching into the details of their game.
Students say their elevator pitches while displaying an overview of the game’s essential aspects: it’s genre, theme (setting), play value (what makes it fun to play), a well-known game that’s similar, what features will make the student’s game different from the competition, and what game engine will be used to develop the game. This overview provides the Committee with a high-level understanding of the game, providing context for when the student begins discussing the details.
Students describe the game’s goals, core mechanics the player uses to achieve those goals, and the obstacles that determine the difficulty of performing the mechanics’ actions successfully. Students are also encouraged to include a diagram that illustrates how the mechanics work in relation to the game objects.
Students describe the resources used to “fuel” the mechanics, along with any other ways those resources are produced and consumed. Finally, the students explain the different ways the game concludes through a win, loss and/or a draw so that the Greenlight Committee understands the player’s goals.
Students explain the control scheme for the player’s use of keyboard, controller, mouse or other input device; the camera perspective used; and where game state information is displayed on the screen. Their PowerPoint should include a wireframe or other mock-up of the game screen and highlight the elements being discussed.
If the game has any semblance of a story, students give a short synopsis of its narrative in terms of its protagonist, antagonists, backstory, complication, and resolution, as well as the number of levels in the game. Because some students create overly-elaborate stories for their games, we limit the overall presentation to 8 minutes and begin to give warnings about going over the time limit at about this time in the presentation.
Students have the option to play samples of their choice of music for the game, including its main theme, low-key music (such as for an exploration mode), and intense music (such as during a combat mode). The music is embedded into the slide and played by clicking on a Speaker icon.
Students name who they would like to have on their team and the roles to which each would be assigned. Our rules are is that the Project Manager, Lead Audio, and Marketing person must have at least one other role, and that the Lead Programmer cannot have any other role. This prevents students from being assigned too much responsibility or too little.
Finally, students are required to explain at least three risks that might cause their project to be unsuccessful and what steps they can take to mitigate those risks. The one risk they are not permitted to list is “No enough time”, since they are required to pitch concepts of an appropriate scope to be done in the two months they have to produce the game.
This final slide informs the Committee that the presentation is done and invites them to ask the students follow-up questions.
As I wrote above, this template seems to have worked well for our student’s Greenlight Presentations, and perhaps it would work well for you when you need to pitch a small-scale game project.
Summer days can be terribly hot where I live in Los Angeles, so how about a race in the snow to cool off? This typically torrid July, I’m teaching a class in Game Mechanics at The Los Angeles Film School. To facilitate my students’ understanding of and experimentation with game mechanics, I have them create analog games instead of digital ones, as analog games are quicker to make and balance. Each class day, I give them the choice of two player goals to build a game design upon.
Last week, as follow up to a lecture about Progression Mechanics, I tasked my students with creating a game based on player goals of either Gaining Competence in a skill, or Racing against the other players. Games with a Gain Competence goals must also have New or Improved Abilities, Tools, and Controllers as game elements; those based on Race must have Power-Ups and Chargers. The students teams almost always choose Race, which tells me that I need to find a more attractive alternative.
Anyway, one of our best students, Jennifer Chamorro, was absent the day I had student teams work in class on this assignment, and so I asked her to do it alone as homework. Well, what she brought into class impressed me more than what any of the teams of other students had done, and so for this week’s blog post, with Jenn’s permission, I wanted to share her game design with you.
Play Time: 15-25 minutes
Players: 2- 4
Set-Up: Place the game board in the center for all players to have access to the race track. Each player chooses their snow dog (pawn) color and place all snow dogs on the START space. Players must also gather their same colored special ability cap and place it near them, facing upside-down. Have each player roll the dice for play order, taking turns in the clockwise direction from the player who won the roll. Begin the race after the order of play has be determined.
Objective: It is a race to be crowned the best snow dog of north! Be the first player to race your snow dog around the cold snowy board and reach the “WINNER” finish line on top of “Mount Chilly”. Players all begin the race on the “START” space, going in the clockwise direction as pointed out by the larger arrows around the game board. Movement of the snow dog pawns are directed by two six-sided dice.
- Players must move in the clockwise direction and cannot move backwards except if they land on the Backtrack space.
- A snow dog can jump over any other snow dogs during its move. However, two snow dogs cannot occupy the same square; a snow dog that lands on a square occupied by another player’s snow dog “bumps” that snow dog back to START or the MEDIC A snow dog can either be bumped to START or MEDIC depending on which location is the closest from behind them and NOT in front of them.
- If a player lands on the START space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs. This space is also used for bumped players to land on.
- If a player lands on the MEDIC space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs. This space is also used for bumped players to land on and for players to charge “” their Special Ability Cap.
- If a player lands on the Speed space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs and adds an extra space to their dice roll on their next turn.
- If a player lands on the REST space, then the player can rest without being bumped by any snow dogs. This space is also used for players to charge “” their Special Ability Cap.
- If a player lands on the dot of a Speed Arrow space “ “, then the player can ride the arrow onto the next space where the tip of the arrow ends. If there are any other players on top of the Speed Arrow, then the player who rides the Speed Arrow can plow through any player who is on the spaces of the Speed Arrow, bumping them back to a START or MEDIC
- If a player lands on the Icy Floor space “”, then the player will lose a turn for slipping and losing control.
- If a player lands on the Backtrack space “”, then the player must roll one red six-sided die to see how many spaces they must go backwards. If this player lands on the same space as another snow dog, then the player who rolled the Backtrack die will be bumped back to the START or the MEDIC Any player who backtracks for any reason, will be the player who gets bumped.
- If a player lands on the Speed Die space “”, then the player can roll one blue six-sided die and move an extra set of spaces for speed.
- If a player lands on a Speed Space (numbered space) “”, then the player can move the amount of spaces that was given by the space.
- If a player lands on a Pawprint space “” “”, then the player has found another route and must place their snow dog on the next Pawprint like its color, using this as a shortcut or a backtrack.
- If a player lands on a Switch space “”, then the player must switch places with any player on the map.
- If a player lands on a Jump Arrow space “”, then the player must move up to the next and final tier of the map or must drop back down to the first tier. If players pass these arrows, then they must continue to race around the track until they land on a Jump Arrow.
- When a player reaches the WINNER space, then the player has reached the finish line and has won the race (game).
Special Ability Cap
A player can use this cap ONLY when it is charged by either landing on a MEDIC or REST space. When the cap is charged, the player MUST flip their cap over to signify that their Special Ability Cap is charged. When the cap is charged, the player can ONLY use it once until it can get charged again. The cap must be flipped back over when the Special Ability Cap has been used. To use the Special Ability Cap, the player MUST announce that they will use their Special Ability Cap at the beginning of their turn and tell the other players the ability of their choice before rolling the dice. The player using their Special Ability Cap, has the option to choose between three different abilities that they can choose from. The player can use ONLY ONE ability from the following options:
- Gain Speed: Add one blue die to the player’s dice roll and have a total of three dice. This helps the player’s snow dog, run faster.
- Decrease Speed: Add one red die to the player’s dice roll, having a total of three dice. The red die will subtract from the player’s white dice, helping the player decrease their speed.
- Attack: Announce which player will be attacked, then roll a red die to see how many spaces that player must move back. Afterwards, roll the two-white dice to move forward.
- Use the Special Ability Cap (if charged)
- Roll the two-white dice to identify how many spaces will the player’s snow dog move
- Move snow dog numbered of spaces rolled
- Perform any action given by the action spaces on the board
Everyone had great fun playing this game in class, and if you decide to recreate her board and played it too, we’d like to know what your play experience was like.
Until next week, stay cool.