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Wed, Apr. 26th, 2006, 10:55 pm
Class Playtest #1

I’m running this game design class, and I’ve been making my students push really hard on the design front.  Over the course of the semester, they’ve had to design four playable games, including the one they’re working on now which is the final project for the class.  While I gave them some guidelines for the earlier games, their only assignment for this one was, “Make a fun game that in some way relates to education.”  (Though I did encourage them to move away from content-oriented, classroom-based learning!)

At this point, my students have split into seven groups and have had about two weeks to work on their games, so I organized an intensive play-test session tonight.  (There’s another one on Sunday, for those of you in the New York area who want to come!)  We all met up at my lab, I invited a couple of outside play-testers, we ordered pizza and beer, and we played the games of the two groups who came about four or five times.  The games both had serious problems, as expected in unfinished games, but both were trying to do really ambitious things and my students got a lot of useful feedback from the play-test.  I’m really looking forward to seeing the final versions!

I don’t want to post too much information about the games, since this is my students’ work, but I’ll mention brief summaries of both since I thought they were very cool.  One is a race game, in which manually controlling the car is quite hard to do - so you have to train an AI to drive in a way that’s compatible with your racing style.  Yes, my student built a prototype in Java.  It’s very impressive.  The other one is a sort-of role-playing game that provides pre-created character archetypes and uses magazine advertisements as a resolution mechanic.  It was created to get people to practice media literacy, but what’s neat about it is that it’s fun all by itself, even if you have no idea what media literacy is.

I can’t wait until Sunday, when the other five groups are play-testing.  My students kick so much ass.

A couple of my students have asked me to run a game design/game research practicum next semester.  I’m kind of hoping the department lets me do it, even if I’m also (chronically) short on time.