CSUSA Game Development Studio Prototyping

Sunday – course coordinators, meeting our student host Xavier and creating a schedule for him.

Monday – Guest artists arrive and students arrive, JP did an interview with each student regarding what they wanted to do and made groups, four groups, two of 5 and two of 4. All of them seemed balanced. We introduced the students to their teams.

Tuesday – Clients came in and were assigned to the groups based on what we saw as strengths. Then we were off, there was a short period of explanation regarding the problem and then paper prototyping. The goal was to embed the central system into a board game and then have that as a base for the video game to be developed.

Lifeboat Game. This description is from memory, so it may be imperfect. I should have asked for all of the games to be published, that was a n00b mistake. Anyhow the team was tasked for showing implicit bias.

The game starts with a random selection of Age, Gender and Race for each player. This was meant to be quick and to represent those things that might be perceived and that one may have bias against. Each player is randomly assigned and then is put on a lifeboat.

The central idea of the game is that the government knows that the people are out there and is unable to save them immediately so they start to send food. However being the government or thru budget cuts they send less food each day. Each player has 3 life points to start and when they get to zero, they are dead.

Lets assume there are 5 players. On the first day the government sends 4 food and the group must decide who does not eat, then on the second day 3 food, 2 food and finally 1 food. The decisions are made thru conversation and consensus.

How do you win? Well each person is given a goal, “make sure women and children survive” or “survive with a mate” etc, the possible goals have been listed, shuffled and dealt at random to each person. Notice that there are goals that involve the death of the player.

I do not know how many rounds you play, but that is based on the number of life points, I am sure. Anyhow, the game was played, tested, and refined within the group when they were happy with the rules we had another dev team come in and play.

This is where it got interesting, the team that play-tested it ended up being really affected by it. In the decompression they wanted to know more about the other players (beyond made up role playing) they wanted them to have jobs, like captain, engineer and such. They had a visceral reaction to the arbitrary choice they had to make. This was fascinating to me, they didn’t want to make the decision based on their bias, they wanted to remove some element from it. In the end this group created a very powerful game, when I talked to one of the players they said that they did not enjoy the game and did not like the decision process at all, they were very much affected by it and were starting to get emotional.

This was the first game to elicit tears during summer arts, well to make someone misty. I cannot help but think that the team succeeded in achieving their goal, and am somewhat encouraged that the players didn’t think the obvious information was enough. The team that came up with this game ended up scrapping the prototype.

The other teams did well but it became obvious that the systems were not always integrating, that the core purpose for doing the prototype (which was to aid in development) was not fully understood. In the prototyping cycle, I find myself unable to require the use of the prototype, but maybe there is a need for a prototype. in retrospect this should have been the guidance… if you abandon this prototype, you must come up with another to satisfy the game requirements (and test it to guarantee user experience is what you claim it to be).

Takeaway lesson: It is generally better to go over the purpose and method of a task regardless of how straightforward it seems. Help connect the dots even if you have experts in the audience to help remind everyone why we are doing the thing.

All of our teams produced paper games, the team that had the hardest time with it also ended up having some internal difficulties that came up again later. Prototyping surfaced a lot of information about communication within the teams, at least one team built and was able to use the prototype to inform their game.


Emerging Learning Design 2016 – paper prototyping

I had the distinct honor and pleasure of presenting a workshop on prototyping with Teresa Slobuski at ELD2016.  Paper Prototyping Games for Engaged Investigations and Fun in any Subject was my most recent foray into the conference circuit, and I really enjoyed working with Teresa. It helped that the presentation was an abbreviation of an exercise that I do with my Art/CS 108 class but it was also useful to see how the exercise played out in a different circumstance and with different goals.

“Empower student learning thru game development!” We say in our overview. We ended up having a good crowd including the students who designed the conference game, and we made a bunch of games.


I enjoy practicing these skills partially because I think I need the practice and partially because the results always seem to surprise me. In this case we had five playable prototypes come out of the different groups.


Pretty much all of the groups held to the idea of incorporating a learning theme into the game, with the possible exception of my own group which ended up focusing more on the mechanics. It ended up being an interesting experience regardless because it was pretty easy to see how it was connected to our conversation, and the idea of gathering resources.


This first prototyping part is sometimes hard, and sometimes hard for my students. All of these games were made in the 90 minute workshop, and began surfacing a system. A few of our participants were thinking of using the prototyping strategies for themselves to develop games for students where others were thinking about using the prototyping exercise to help students collaborate and understand systems better.


In the end it was impressive to hear everyone talking about their games and what they did end up getting into them, everyone succeeded and I think everyone had fun. I plan to post the session wrapup info, perhaps as an update to this post.


If you are interested in our resources are here: http://bit.ly/paper-prototype-sjsu

and our slide deck is here: http://bit.ly/paper-prototype-slides-sjsu

Summer Game Development 2017

For the past few weeks I have been architecting a summer intensive class in video game development. This is based on my experience with the Art/CS 108 course, the Global Game Jam, the Game Development Club at SJSU, and conversations with the MIT Game Lab. Please note that everything in this post is tentative including our proposed dates of June 26 –

Please note that until the budget is approved in November this has an odd status in that it is approved pending budget. This will be a post where I outline the goals and thoughts as well as artists who have tentatively consented to be part of the faculty and why I think they are important.

Proposed faculty listed alphabetically: (note that the event is over a year from now, and may change)

Anna Anthropy – Designer and provocateur, Anna continues to make and publish games at the intersection of personal experience and the utmost playability. Anna has worked with me before both as a lecturer and an exhibitor in games shows curated by JP and myself. I am looking forward to the energy and perspective she will bring to the two week intensive course. I know that she will inspire students by her example and her energy.

JP Bruneau – John and I have been curatorial partners on a few shows now, and in addition to being a founding member of the Game Development Club at SJSU he is also a founding member of Ars Virtua. John teaches game design and development at The New School in NYC now and continues to make art and games. John has helped many students thru the game development process and also works with Baby Castles.

Heather Logas – Heather has an MFA in Game Design and has taught at UCSC as well as having worked on major game titles. She currently consults with companies thru games to focus on their core beliefs and competencies. Heather uses games to help business. Heather has a practical approach to design and an ability to communicate that is impressive in addition to her design portfolio.

James Morgan – Artist and educator who teaches at SJSU and advises the Game Development Club at SJSU. Teaches SJSU’s only Game Studies course as well as intro digital media courses in the CADRE Media Lab. James main job will be to make sure everything happens as it is suppose to.

The course will be focused on creating robust game prototypes/ finished games that address issues in STEAM categories. This is to say that the next step is to recruit some faculty across the CSU that have STEM/STEAM based problems that may benefit from a proper game prototype. This process will take place in the fall semester with a short (possible) gathering in the spring to examine techniques and refine problems. The goal will not be to engage in the design or find specific solutions as that will be the teams problem, but to focus on surfacing the systems and background knowledge and keeping the scope small. Educators will learn the basics of prototyping in an attempt to understand the development process.

So what is on my mind now? What is in this for the students? Is it enough to say we’ll make a game with a product owner? What else will drive students to want to take this? How should teams be architected and built? Is there a way to permit some self selection as well as creating balance between programming, art and other tasks? Is there room for mentorship and people new to development?

Where to look for problems? Are there people who are underfunded for development but who have labs / centers / outreach programs that can benefit a team in ways other than pure funding? Will there be interest in continuing the project after the summer development, and how can that be handled? How will IP be handled?

There are lots of good questions here and lots of good people on board. I am excited for this and for the future. This is the soft announcement, so look for more information as time passes, I’m going to try to make it down to CSUMB to sit in on a little of the summer 16 edition of this and see how it plays on the ground. There is so much to be done and so many deadlines ahead. If you are interested in participating as a STEAM faculty or as a student please feel free to contact me directly.

Games and Stats from Rockage SJ

Screenshot 2015-02-26 18.05.47

The data is not glamorous, and at times not complete, but I am reasonably confident that these represent actual plays and actual play times. The team on site was very good about resetting games that were abandoned and getting the cabinets back to the launcher. So here is my initial analysis:

Totals: Across the four cabinets that our games were on, there were 1246 plays for 4104 minutes. This comes out to 68.4 hours of play in a 23 hour event.  The breakdown per cabinet is equally as exciting (all data is linked at the bottom of this post).

The top five played games were Prismic Shift, Bako Ikimashou, Spellcraft, LaserCat y LaserDog and Recyclegame. Prismic Shift had nearly 10 hours of play by itself and Bako Ikimashou ended up having the longest average game play at nearly 8 minutes.

Spellcraft, LaserCat and Recycle were all brand new on the cabinet with Spellcraft and Recycle having been developed by club teams in Fall 2014 and LaserCat being from Global Game Jam 2015.

I was going to make a clever graphic visualization, but I don’t think I care enough.  If anyone comes up with one I’ll put it here:


Raw Data is here: http://ruby-yacht.github.io/rockagesj2015/index.html

and an initial swipe at processing it is here: http://ruby-yacht.github.io/rockagesj2015/data/stats-cabs-rockage-2015.htm

Analysis is all mine and I will try to post data along with any assumptions. None of this would be possible without our new game launcher by Henry Tran.

Most of the analysis is done by hand here, which is something I want to iron out a little for the future, and also to shift from a running total to include actual data along the way as I think it will make it easier to work with and more meaningful.

WoW More RockageSJ Stuff

My first post about Rockage SJ focuses on what got us to the show, our arcade cabinets and our games. This post is about some of the great things that happened to happen at the show.

DSCF7116Friday at 5:45 we did a Game Development Panel! JP Bruneau handled the tech and the slides and our panelists included student developers from both Global Game Jam and the Game Dev Club. On stage were Byron Custodio, Kristina Lum, Chris Lindsay, Chris Victa, Angelica Cabanlit, Andrew Puentes, Neal Salud and Kristi Loo. JP and I talked about the various initiatives to include more gaming in SJSU curriculum as well as the tried and true paths thru CS or Animation. We also mentioned the various interest in studying games and learning, and how the library has enthusiastically adopted the club as we got too big for the Art building.  Angelica talked a little about the club and how we welcome anyone who wants to make games and how you don’t need any knowledge to start.  Angelica is a communications major and has little experience with art or programming but found that she could produce, voice act among other things that make a video game a reality.

Byron and Kristina demo’d their Global Game Jam game 4 Sides which is a horror game that relies on dark light and attention to the screen.  The audience (well some of the audience) did jump at the first scare.  The premise of the game is that you are in a square room with a flashlight and monsters are coming at you from all sides.  You need to scare them back before they get you.

Angelica’s team demo’d Laser Cat y Laser Dog. This adorable coop game is set in some far off future place where Laser Cat and Laser Dog have to clear the living room of invasive robots and vacuum cleaners to proceed thru the house. This team did a great job during GGJ but added a bunch of levels (a total of 10!) for Rockage. “What do we do meow?” asks Laser Cat.

Both of these games are available on the Global Game Jam site and will be making appearances on the arcade cabinets as we continue to do shows this spring.


We had originally planned to have a table with arcades set up around it, but when we got there our table was on one side and the plan was to put the cabinets on the other.  As it turns out this worked amazingly well, except we had not planned to be out in the open as a vendor. Thankfully our friends came thru with a little distraction.  Danny Geisler brought out the Teeny-Tiny arcade cabinet with a brand new game on it. This thing was super fun, and the game really tight for such limited hardware.
DSCF7188Girls Make Games were amazing neighbors and I managed to play the prototype for the Hole story. I have to say I love the humor, the art and the story and am eagerly waiting for the release.  We were also able to host Super-Duper Garrett Cooper and Black Ice on Saturday. So many cool things to play and such deals he offered for people on site ($5 for a key).  Ben Prunty also stopped by and we talked about having a music jam session with Game Dev.
DSCF7176Tiny cabinet vs big cabinets in the background! I have to say that I also love the lips on Funk’d up in the background…DSCF7133

Okay, one last comment on learning, because that is what I do. Our developers had an amazing series of days.  Cameron Sands looks on while someone plays his team‘s brand new Recycle Game. For us Rockage and the arcade cabinet are an extension of the game lab, and though the lessons can be hard they are genuine. Cam’s team got most of the game functioning during the club meetings in Fall 2015, then demoed early this spring. The game is so beautiful it would have been a shame to not showcase it so they updated for the cabinets.  There were of course issues and team member Mitchell ended up recoding the timing in my office the day of move-out because it ran differently (read broken) on the PC vs the Mac. Finally there was watching and working with folks as they figured out how to play on the cabinets. It is amazing to see someone playing your game, better yet really enjoying it and figuring out what needs to be updated to make it easier.DSCF7155Oh yah, and there was music: MegaRan kicked butt on stage, and the stage layout was off the hook amazing with one stage out in the open on the second floor so we got some great musical infusion.  Still waiting on the Ghosts n Goblins marathon video (ahem).DSCF7143DSCF7211

Finally the Thermals played! It was sweet seeing them in such an intimate space and they totally rocked.  But guess what, they also made a video game which you can play: http://www.theswordbymyside.com/

Now to start getting ready for the next show…


CADRE and Game Dev at Futur en Seine 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 12.26.47

The CADRE is going to exhibit at Futur en Seine 2014, so if you are in the Paris area from June 12-15 please stop in and talk to G. Craig Hobbs. It will also be a chance to play some games from SJSU.

The following games will be on site:



Developed in 48 hours as part of the Global Game Jam this platforming cooperative game embraces the theme “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” The game is fun and a fundamentally cooperative two player game.  This one also plays really well on the arcade cabinet.  Designed by Gavin Higham, Henry Tran, Vincent Brubaker-Gianakos, Will Clark. Jan 2014

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 12.40.16

Clashing Code

This well polished fighting game has some beautiful quirks to it and plays well with a controller or on an arcade cabinet.  This game was completed for the Fall 2013 fighting game challenge at the Game Development Club at SJSU. Designed by Glenn Pham, John Pham, Kristi Loo, Travis Tran, Daniel Wilson and Chris Lindsay.


Furry Beatdown

Created in the spring of 2014 for the CS 185C course taught by JP Bruneau at SJSU this game is a beautiful little 2.5 D sidescroller and was very popular when debuted at Maker Faire 2014. Designed by Andrew Puentes, Amber Wong, Byron Custodio, Erikson Bautista.


Prismic Shift

The latest version of a very satisfying Shmup (shoot-em up) with a different approach to ship control. The player always faces the anchor point which lets them move and turn at the same time. You have a limited number of bullets (which do not effect other players in co-op) and when you run out of bullets you detonate your ship with a very satisfying cascading explosion that, if played right, will get you a bonus ship.  Be careful though explosions can effect other players in coop. Designed by Aru Azumaya.


Taking Candy From A Baby

A really charming point and click for one player that was also developed for Global Game Jam 14. In this game you run an animal posse trying to solve a mystery. Each of your cohort has a different view of the world and can see different clues as you move along Scooby-style to bring justice to the hotel guests.  Designed by Andrew Puentes, Harish Kothandapani, Kristi Loo, Robert Quinn, Ricky Oliver, Angelica Cabanlit, and Antonio Jimenez.

Last and certainly not least is the arcade launcher software written by Matt Hoffman. This little unity program has been very helpful through Makerfaire and SubZero in addition to the day to day goings on of the Game Dev Club. I shall be sad when it goes away.