Coursera’s Game Design and Development (Part 2)

Note: This is a follow up to my previous post on Coursera’s Game Design and Development Specialization. If you’d like to read the first part, check it out here.

Third Course Impressions: Business of Games and Entrepreneurship

The third course in the Game Design and Development specialization, taught by Professor Casey O’Donnell (from Michigan State University), was particularly informative.

As with previous Coursera courses in this series, the course was spread out over four weeks. Each week focused on introducing specific sub-topics related to business and entrepreneurship. Professor O’Donnell addressed serious topics in an informative and concise manner. The course structure and flow are better than they were in the second course of the specialization (also taught by O’Donnell).

Topics covered include:

  • Various funding models used in the game industry historically and today;
  • A basic introduction to legal issues common in the game industry:
    • Intellectual property
    • Copyright
    • Patents and trade secrets
  • Teamwork and working with people;
  • Project management tools and techniques (with a brief introduction to the SCRUM methodology);
  • The qualities, styles, tasks and foundations of leadership;
  • Pitching yourself, your game idea, and demo your game;
  • Launching a business and choosing the right business partners;
  • Working for hire, communicating and interacting with clients.

Over the course’s four weeks, the assignments were:

  • A SWOT analysis of an existing game franchise to evaluate its Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats (using a provided template document);
  • A production plan document to schedule, budget and determine the key personnel necessary for creating a game of your own design (using a provided template document);
  • A video to present your game idea to other students enrolled in the course (or alternatively a video pitching yourself and your skill set);
  • A competitive analysis document that situates your game versus its competition and the overall market for similar titles.

For the video assignment, I used Movavi Video Suite 15 to record my pitch. I also added snippets of gameplay taken from other game titles to help illustrate my game idea. Surprisingly, the Movavi software was simple and efficient to use, but I ended up purchasing a license to remove the software’s watermark from my video.

Cyborg Games Studio: Opening to my game idea pitch
Opening to my game idea pitch…

Throughout the course, links to external resources and videos were provided to get more in-depth information on some of the topics mentioned above. For instance, there are numerous interesting blog posts published on the Gamasutra website that are worth reading through. Another interesting document shared in the course was VALVE’s handbook for new employees.

Professor O’Connell also recommended the book “The Art of the Start 2.0” by Guy Kawasaki. Additionally, Guy Kawasaki has a number of lectures on YouTube. Also recommended, “The Lean Startup” by Eric Ries – although I have yet to obtain it.

The course’s additional reading has led me to seek out more reading material. A good resource I’ve found for recommendations on entrepreneurship books and websites was Y Combinator’s Startup Library. I’ve since been reading “How to Win Friends & Influence People” by Dale Carnegie.

"The Art of the Start 2.0" by Guy Kawasaki recommended in the Game Design and Development specialization "How to Win Friends & Influence People" by Dale Carnegie recommended in Y Combinator Startup Library "The Lean Startup" by Eric Ries recommended in the Game Design and Development specialization

To be continued…

That’s it for part 2 of 4! Overall, I’d recommend the Business of Games and Entrepreneurship course. It conveys useful and clear information, and the assignments are insightful. There is one more course in the specialization and a capstone project to complete it, so stay tuned for more blog posts!

In the mean time, I am also getting started on Udemy‘s Unreal Engine 4 course and will probably make a post on that once I get the chance.

Coursera’s Game Design and Development (Part 1)

A few months ago, I acquired a few eBooks from the O’Reilly website. This led me to purchase a book recently released titled “Building a Game with Unity and Blender” by Lee Zhi Eng. Reading through Zhi Eng’s book, I look for an online course on game design and development.

Having used the Coursera and Treehouse learning platforms in the past, I signed up to Coursera’s Game Design and Development Specialization. It is composed of five courses focusing on different aspects of game development and design with the last course being a capstone project (more details on the specialization here).

First Course Impressions: Introduction to Game Development

The first course, Introduction to Game Development, was, as I suspected, there to motivate me to learn more. It’s a basic introduction to Unity 3D and works the students through a number of hands-on exercises to work with the game engine.

During this course, I got to make a few basic systems and game iterations. The first project was a simple 3D system of our Solar System (not to scale) with a mini-map. Clicking on any planet either via the main camera view or via the mini-map would toggle the camera to follow that planet instead of staying centered on the Sun.

Game Design and Development: Solar System
Solar System

The second project was a simple game with a set camera angle that followed a ball on a platform. Using the ball, the player has to collect a number of coins while avoiding the enemy cubes falling out of the sky and onto the platform.

Game Design and Development: Roller Madness
Roller Madness

The third project was a basic shooter in a Tron like setting. The player has a set amount of time to shoot the right boxes to gain points; green boxes give points, white boxes grant additional time, and yellow boxes take away time. There’s a number of boxes already present when a level starts, but most boxes are generated dynamically; much like the coins and enemies were in the previous projects.

Game Design and Development: Box Shooter
Box Shooter

All three projects used mostly prototype and standard Unity assets. Other assets used in the project (such as certain textures and sounds) were provided via Coursera.

Second Course Impressions: Principles of Game Design

The second course, Principles of Game Design, was focused on coming up with a game idea and documenting a number of things to flesh out this game idea. I decided to work on one continuous game idea, titled ACCURSED, throughout this course and submitted the following documents:

  • High Concept Document
  • Story Bible
  • Game Design Document
  • Non-digital Game Mechanic Prototype

ACCURSED is a project I intend to further work on. Therefore, I do not feel inclined to upload the documents listed above at the moment, except for an excerpt of the Story Bible document:

ACCURSED is a futuristic cooperative first person shooter that takes during a space expedition mission to Saturn. Both players are cosmonaut researchers contracted by a private military corporation that operates on one of Saturn’s moons. This PMC is known as CAVAL. The players must ultimately reach the CAVAL headquarters and the established colonies of Saturn on their return journey back from Jupiter.

Each chapter takes place on a satellite of Saturn, starting with Iapetus.

On each satellite, there are stations built specifically to accommodate these long distance journeys. Each station is an opportunity for the players to refuel their ship and stock up on food and other resources. However, re-fueling and recharging the main generators of the ship takes a significant amount of time, usually up to 24 hours.

During this time, the players will have to use their tools and arsenal to survive together, face imminent environmental threats and enemies, and solve puzzles.

This course definitely provides valuable insight into how a game’s story, universe, systems, mechanics and gameplay all come together. It presents a model to follow in order to balance these aspects of the game to create an experience that is ultimately not only fun, but also engaging and exciting.

To be continued…

I’m enrolling in the third course now, and I’m interested to see what I’ll learn (surely a lot). I intend to make a new post to follow up on this one once I’ve completed the third and fourth courses.

A few piped Linux commands and short scripts

Here’s a couple of bash and Perl scripts, and piped Linux commands that I’ve found to be useful. Let me know if you are having trouble with any of these. Your mileage may vary depending on your version of bash and Perl.

Current CPU Usage in percent (bash):

You can get the same info from other tools like htop and mpstat, but they might not be installed by default.

# Linux
top -bn 10 -d 0.01 | grep '^Cpu.s.' | tail -n 1 | awk '{cpu_use = $2 + $4 + $6 ; printf("%.2f\n", cpu_use)}'
# Solaris
top -bn 10 -d 0.01 | grep 'CPU states' | awk -F ' |%' '{cpu_use = $7 + $11 ; printf("%.2f\n", cpu_use)}'

Current RAM Usage in percent (bash):

# Linux
free -m | awk 'FNR == 2 { ratio = $3 / $2 ; ram_use = ratio * 100 ; printf("%.2f\n", ram_use)}'
# Solaris
top -bn 10 -d 0.01 | grep 'Memory' | awk -F \" |G\" '{used = $2 - $6 ; ram_use = (used / $2) * 100 ; printf("%.2f\n", ram_use)}'

System Usage (perl):

my $linuxCPUpct = "top -bn 10 -d 0.01 | grep '^Cpu.s.' | tail -n 1" ;  # CPU usage
my $linuxRAMpct = "free -m | grep 'Mem:'" ;  	# RAM usage
my $linuxROOTpct = "df -hl / | grep '/'" ;  	# / disk usage
my $linuxHOMEpct = "df -hl /home | grep 'home'" ;  # /home disk usage

my $cpu_res = "" ; my $ram_res = "" ; my $root_res = "" ; my $home_res = "" ;

my @CPU_parse = split ( ',', `$linuxCPUpct` ) ;
my @RAM_parse = split ( ' ', `$linuxRAMpct` );
my $linuxROOT = (`$linuxROOTpct` =~ /(\d+)%/img)[0] ;
my $linuxHOME = (`$linuxHOMEpct` =~ /(\d+)%/img)[0] ;

$ram_res = sprintf("%.2f", $RAM_parse[2] / $RAM_parse[1] * 100.0 ) ;
$cpu_res = sprintf("%.2f", substr($CPU_parse[3], 0, -3)) ;
$root_res = sprintf("%.2f", $linuxROOT) ;
$home_res = sprintf("%.2f", $linuxHOME) ;

print ("CPU Usage: $cpu_res\n") ;
print ("RAM Usage: $ram_res\n") ;
print ("/ Usage: $root_res\n") ;
print ("/home Usage: $home_res\n") ;

Reset Password expiry script (bash):

Perhaps not the best idea security wise, but it’s handy when you’re lazy.

pwd_age=$(grep "username:" /etc/shadow | cut -d: -f 3)
echo $pwd_age;
now=$(( $(date +%s) / 3600 / 24 ))
echo $now;
age_at_expiry_date=$(( $now + 90 - $pwd_age))
echo $age_at_expiry_date;
chage username -M $age_at_expiry_date

Multi-Ping script (bash):

Self-explanatory. Pass the IPs as arguments to mping.

# mping: Multiple ping
# Script to ping multiple units. Each unit is pinged 4 times.


for args
        ping -c 4 ${arrArgs[$i]}
        echo -e "\n"

And a few words of wisdom…


Wipe your HDD, flash Linux from USB and partition Windows (Free tools)

Every once in a while, after doing a clean install of Windows, I find the need to partition one of my drives and install Linux. Occasionally, I’ve had to “nuke” my drive, because Windows simply wouldn’t boot.

While that sounds all fine and not that complicated to do, there’s a couple of handy tools I’ve used time and time again to do all this. Partitioning Windows active drives is a bit of a pain, too. Here are a few free tools that might help you out.


Nuke your HDD from USB: DBan
Direct Download:
From the site’s homepage:

DBAN is free erasure software designed for the home user. It automatically deletes the contents of any hard disk that it can detect. This method prevents identity theft before recycling a computer. DBAN is also a commonly used solution to remove viruses and spyware from Microsoft Windows installations.

From what I’ve read, DBan has been around for a few years. It was recently acquired by a paid competitor, but DBan itself is still free.
You’ll have to install it to a flash drive and then boot via USB from your BIOS.

Create a bootable Linux USB Drive (from Windows): LiLi USB Creator
Direct download:
LiLi stands for Linux Live. This is a Windows tool that will install any .iso file with a Linux kernel onto your USB drive.
I’ve found it to be the easiest to use, although there are many alternatives.

Partitioning Windows (from Windows): MiniTool Partition Wizard Free

Direct download:
I’ve used EaseUs Partition Master (free edition) in the past, and I’ve found it to be a little too bulky to my liking. More recently, I tried this software alternative, and it worked flawlessly. Just install and the rest is pretty straightforward.