Advanced Game Project


USC School of Cinema-Television, CTIN 491a


Instructors: Tracy Fullerton + specialization mentors


Contact Info:

Tracy Fullerton


(310) 985.1167



Course Description: This two-semester advanced project class challenges students to use what they have learned in previous classes to design and execute a large-scale, innovative game project.  The class introduces professional-level concepts in game design and development, such as competition for project greenlight, specialized team-building, advanced ideation, visual design and technical implementation, effective use of marketing & focus groups, advanced project planning and management, budgeting, actualization, usability, quality assurance and project polish and distribution.  During the first semester, projects will go through an extensive prototyping and design process, moving into production only when core game mechanics are solid.  The final milestone for this semester is a polished “playable level” demonstrating the key features and play mechanics.  During the second semester, level design, usability, “professionalization” and distribution of the project will be the focus of the class.


This course is analogous to the School of Cinema-Television’s advanced project course CTPR 480 and requires the same high level of commitment from all participants.  The end product of the 491ab cycle is intended to be a complete, polished advanced game project that is innovative in both its aesthetic and technical aspects.  To this end, the teams will draw on teaching and student resources from a number of areas of areas of the University, with the goal of integrating team members from various disciplines into a tightly-knit collaborative group.  In addition to the core faculty, each specialization area (described below) will work with a professional mentor from the game industry throughout the process.


491 is a studio class and a large part of the class content will focus on critique and problem-solving for individual projects.  While the class will include lectures on design and development topics, many class days will be devoted to working on and critiquing team projects.  As such, it is imperative that students treat the development of their projects professionally and bring requested milestones to class on time, ready to present.  Students will be expected to participate actively in all critique sessions, giving and receiving feedback of the highest quality.


Throughout the class, students are encouraged to take risks and to look beyond the examples of existing game genres to try new and different design ideas.  At the same time, the team is expected to fully complete an innovative advanced game, and so must take into account the timeline of the course and the resources available to complete the project.  Teams may enlist the help of outside musicians and/or voice-over actors; however, all the artwork, animation and game programming must be original.  Teams may not use copyrighted material in their project unless the material has been legally cleared for use. (See Student Production Office for assistance with this process.)


Meeting Information:

Full crew & faculty meeting:  Wednesdays 1:30-3:20PM

Specialization & mentor meetings:  Mondays 6:30-8:20PM


Pre-requisites: Instructor approval


Project Selection & Enrollment Process:  Enrolling in this class is a competitive process, much like the current 480 project selection process.  The selection process for green lighting game concepts to be produced will begin during the previous semester with a call for pitches.  These pitches may be created as part of a pre-production class, or by advanced students working on their own.  In order to be eligible to pitch a game project for this class, students must have crewed in one of the specializations previously or they must have extensive production experience and the permission of the 491 faculty.  The management of these large teams is a serious responsibility and the selection process for games will take into account not only the quality of the game concept, but also the leadership and production skills of the team leader.  Selections will be made by the class faculty and outside mentors and announced in time for the crewing process to take place.


Once game selections have been announced, team leaders need to recruit and interview eligible crew members and gain commitments for all the specialization areas.  A game that is not fully crewed will be dropped from the class.  In order to be eligible for crew positions, students need to demonstrate to the team leader both ability and experience in an area of expertise.  Currently those areas are:  production management, game design, visual design, game programming and audio.  While not required, students are strongly advised to take the following courses before crewing on a 491 project:  CTIN 488, CTIN 483, CTIN 489, CTIN 484. 






Participation & Teamwork


Design Process:


       Ideation & Prototyping




       Documentation & Management


Playable Level Production:


       Creative implementation


       Technical implementation






Course content (summarized by class meeting)


491a Schedule:






Course Overview, Expectations & Schedule, Finalization of teams

·         Review & critique of student project concepts





·         Team work on digital prototypes



Prototyping, continued


·         Team work on digital prototypes


Prototyping, continued


·         Team work on digital prototypes


Prototyping, continued


·         Preparation for playability tests


Playtesting of core mechanics


·         Students must find playtesters, organize and conduct their own formal playtests

·         Students must document and analyze results



Playtesting and revisions


·         Integrate playability feedback into digital prototypes



Documentation & Project Planning


·         Team will prepare design and technical plans for their playable levels.



Documentation & Project Planning


·         Team will prepare design and technical plans for their playable levels.



Production of Playable Levels


·         Teams will prepare schedules and planning documents



Production of Playable Levels


·         Visual design critiques



Production of Playable Levels

·         Technical design critiques



Production of Playable Levels


·         Integration of assets



Guest Speaker / Industry Critique


·         Presentation and critique of playable levels

·         Teams develop plans for second semester productions



Guest Speaker / Industry Critique


·         Presentation and critique of playable levels

·         Teams develop plans for second semester productions



Delivery of Playable Levels

·         Final playable levels due

·         Plans for second semester production due



Note for students with disabilities:

Any student requesting academic accommodations based on a disability is required to register with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure the letter is delivered to us as early in the semester as possible. DSP is located in STU 301, and is open 8:30am5:00pm Monday through Friday. The phone number for DSP is (213) 740-0776.


Academic Integrity:

The School of Cinema-Television expects the highest standards of academic excellence and ethical performance from USC students.  It is particularly important that you are aware of and avoid plagiarism, cheating on exams, submitting a paper to more than one instructor, or submitting a paper authored by anyone other than yourself.  Violations of this policy will result in a failing grade band be reported to the Office of Student Judicial Affairs.  If you have any doubts or questions about these policies, consult “SCAMPUS” and/or confer with the instructor.