Course Assignment & Project Timeline – The Adventures of Frank Little (7.1)

PTC330: Game Design
Game Design Assignment Notes
Prepared by Glen Southergill, Ph.D.

Timeline for Functional Prototype for Multimedia Showcase
Concept “Pitch” (2%): Due 9/12/14
Game Design Document (10%): Due 10/31/14
Weekly “Scrum” Meetings (12%): 1% per week (starting 9/1/14)
Game Demonstration (10%): 12/2/14

FORMAL DESCRIPTION (from the syllabus)
Butte’s rich industrial, political, and social history benefits greatly from archival interventions to preserve and promote access to historically significant materials. However, archives also represent spaces of production in which the mediums of history meet the tellers of history. And perhaps most importantly, the archive hosts the archivist who both processes a collection and decides what to keep. Archives thus represent arguments carved in space and medium, governed by logics that could be critiqued, perpetrated, or subverted. In this assignment, you will offer an archival game. Using content and digital representations that bear some form of categorical connection, you will develop a game that could be used for the purposes of critically playing into (or against) the subject category itself. Although you may find it helpful to select a theme of relevance to Montana, Butte, or Montana Tech by virtue of proximity, you are not required to do so. Keep in mind that the archive is never all encompassing or controlling, but potentially very exclusionary and always highly political.

MAJOR DEADLINES (also from syllabus)
Concept “Pitch” (2%): Due 9/12/14
Game Design Document (10%): Due 10/31/14
Weekly “Scrum” Meetings (12%): 1% per week (starting 9/1/14)
Game Demonstration (10%): 12/2/14

So what is it to archive?  The concept enjoys a celebrity status amongst contemporary efforts to approach history empirically. If sought feverishly enough, perhaps the answers to the great mysteries of our shared pasts can be rediscovered in the contents of a dusty box.  Or perhaps that piece of irreplaceable material (the first film made by . . . a recording of . . . ) can stay around for posterity in perpetuity if clutched firmly enough.  The eager researcher may find of priceless value a photograph, a letter, a map of a certain place and time, or a set of meeting minutes confirming the presence of a given subject.   Such value comes less from the thing itself that the contexts and connections intersecting in it, and the narratives or counter-narratives it can produce.

Yet what of those things that become lost?  What of those things that defy efforts to categorize?  What would it be to “archive” a horrible loss, a wonderful and wondrous joy, a horrible tragedy, a true comedy, or a reprehensible injustice?  Can such things be done?  What do we forget?  What do we keep?

Finally the work in question is archival since it not only draws on informal archives but produces them as well, and does so in a way that underscores the nature of all archival materials as found yet constructed, factual yet fictive, public yet private. Further it often arranges these materials according to a quasi-archival logic, a matrix of citation and juxtaposition, and presents them in a quasi-archival architecture, a complex of texts and objects (again, platforms, stations, kiosks …).  Thus Dean speaks of her method as ‘collection,’ Durant of his as ‘combination,’ Hirschhorn of his as ‘ramification’ – and much archival art does appear to ramify like a weed or a ‘rhizome’ (a Deleuzean trope that others employ as well).  Perhaps all archives develop in this way, through mutations of connection and disconnection, a process that this art also services to disclose.  ‘Laboratory, storage, studio space, yes.’ Hirschhorn remarks, ‘I want to use these forms in my work to make spaces for the movement and endlessness of thinking…’ Such is artistic practice in an archival field . . . . the art at issue here does not project a lack of logic or affect.  On the contrary, it assumes anomic fragmentation as a condition not only to represent but to work through, and proposes new orders of affective association, however partial and provisional, to this end, even as it also registers the difficulty, at times the absurdity, of doing so.  (Hal Foster, “An Archival Impulse”)

But the Archive is older than the English county record offices and the municipal and departmental archives of provisional France that are thus evoked.  There is no need to return to the Greek city state nor to the archon and his house cluttered up with municipal documents, in order to solidify and memorialize first monarchical and then state power: the House of Savoy established an archive in Turin in the early eighteenth century; Peter the Great did the same in St. Petersburg in 1720, Maria Theresa in Vienna in 1749.  Princely and civic archives were instituted in Warsaw, Venice and Florence in the 1760s and 1770s; the public record office in 1838.  These are the origins of a prosaic place where the written and fragmentary traces of the past are put in boxes and folders, bound up, stored, cataloged . . . And the Archive is also a place of dreams. (Carolyn Steedman, Dust: The Archive and Cultural History)

Seen in these ways, what is it to archive?  What drives our impulse to archive?

How can a game become archival?  To what archive or effort at archiving can a game respond?   Your group can use these questions as a starting point to begin a concept “pitch.”

Our course concerns itself with game design, not historical accuracy. Minimalism, pop, kitsch, and a host of other movements can influence the ludics, aesthetics, and narratives of a game’s design.

Use your interests or antagonisms (that which you find alluring or that which you find repulsive) to find concepts for development.  You can work with, in, or against the grains of a given category.

Use similar logics to identify productive technologies and genres of game.  Remember that I would rather see you stretch yourself and use the collective knowledge of the group than stick to safe and familiar waters.

You can think of me as filling one of several roles: mediator (in which I endeavor to help your team work together productively) or sounding board (in which you work through your ideas or glitches by explaining them to a third party).  I may also serve as interventionist in which I offer suggestions for the development of your project.  However, in all cases, you and your team retain ownership of and responsibility for the progression of your work.

I become an evaluator only at the Game Design Document and Final Demonstration checkpoints.  When I put on my evaluator hat, I will provide both summative and formative feedback across three domains:

– Originality (I value experimental and inventive ideas that are accessibly explained).
– Class Concepts (The application, uses, or responses to concepts we explore in class together).
– Work Quality/Craftsmanship (I will carefully consider the efforts you make to construct a polished product).

Using these standards, a high quality product (to the syllabus standard of “A”) will be very original with well-articulated intentions, clearly informed by a strong grasp of classroom concept(s), and executed well using the productive tools employed by the group.

As always, be sure to ask me questions as they crop up.  I treat “no news as good news,” but begin to wonder if things remain too quiet for too long!

September 12, 2014 through December 2, 2014

• September 1, 2014 – Begin Weekly Meetings
o After about one month of introduction to game design concepts, we began formulating our idea for The Adventures of Frank Little

• September 12, 2014 – Concept Pitch
o After about six weeks of introduction to game design concepts, we pitched our idea for The Adventures of Frank Little to the class

• September 19, 2014 to November 21, 2014
o Throughout the semester, we held weekly meetings where team leadership rotated. The previous weeks’ progress was demonstrated and the new leader assigned tasks for the coming week.
o Weekly work included:
• Acquiring game resources, such as graphics and sound
• Historical research
• Use of Stencyl software to bring game together
• Production of weekly status reports
• Design and production of promotional and explanatory materials (e.g., posters)

• December 2, 2014
o We demonstrated our final game design and product to the class and outside spectators.