Second homework for GDCU course – Something for Nothing!

Lesson 2 homework was to read an article on Formal Abstract Design Tools (which I will come to later) and chapter 2 of Schreiber and Brathwaite, which included several end of chapter exercises (subsequently were confirmed as not being necessary, but desirable) that were the topic of some discussion on the forum, and concern over USA bias in content. This was acknowledged as something that had only come up because of the course being international in scope, with previous deliveries only be presented in America. It wasn’t something that I particularly noticed as problematic, but mention of the Civil War in one exercise, was an issue for a few. One respondent put it in context, stating it was likely that many US citizens would know as little as non-residents, but it raises interesting issues regarding distance delivery and the internationalisation agenda. It should also be noted that the GDCUwiki is being used by volunteers to translate the main site lessons into Espiranto, Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, Bahasa (Indonesia) and French. All done free, because the course is being done free. An important lesson for all!

On to the chapter 2 exercises: The first was actually just the Lesson 1 15 minute game challenge, but Lesson 2 also required that the game be revisited and revised after play testing. I actually found this process (for which I should thank several generations of my family, who I stole from celebrating my mother’s 70 birthday over the weekend) very enlightning as a few issues I thought would arise didn’t. Anyway, the revised version of the rules and comments on the play testing are in the comments section of this post and on the official course wiki So, Challenge 1 was relatively straight forward.

Exercises 2-4 where to repeat the 15 minute process for a territorial acquisition game, an exploration game, and a game with a “pass over/pick up” mechanic respectively. I’m going to revisit these later, but the “must do” for Lesson 3 has been revealed – I am playing catch up with the course, so lessons 2&3 are being done concurrently, and it seems apparent that quite a few other students are in the same position) as being basically the 5th Challenge from chapter 2, called the “Iron Designer Challenge”, but focussing on World War One instead of the American Civil War (see comments above) with three levels of challenge without using territorial acquisition or destruction of the enemy as the primary mechanic. More on that in a future post.

Getting back to the FADT article. It, like most entries on was well written and informed. Like a few articles, it doesn’t have the peer review that allows generalisations to be made without justification or much evidence. Having said that, it was interesting to see the need to express things more formally than “it was/wasn’t fun!”. Much like the artist’s curse of “I know what I like, and it isn’t…” that is probably at the heart of the same formulaic game clone sequels coming out year in, year out. The deconstruction of Mario 64 was a little generous, but did make the point quite clearly that thought into abstract design principles might have big payoffs down the implementation road. So, a bit rhetorical, but it convinced me. Schreiber and Brathwaite’s “Challenges” book makes use of the concept of “atoms” of game design, which is a similar conceipt, in that they are attempting to provide defined primitives for discussion of games design. This formed the basis of the Lesson 2 discussion as well. I wonder if a similar discussion of pedagogy would be fruitful?


About DoctorMikeReddy

I teach game programming at the University of Wales, Newport
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