Three C’s Design

In a few days I’ll begin teaching a new class. Well, not totally new. I actually started it last year as an experimental course, and this Spring is the last time it runs this way. It’s meant to be a class on advanced game design topics. Students design game mechanics from scratch (including coding them in C#, blueprint, or Unreal C++ as necessary), give design presentations, and engage in game design theory work that goes beyond the basics.

At Purdue CGT we run such courses with a catch-all experimental course number: 390. The “390” just get a number at the end to designate it from all the other 390 classes.

The purpose of this is to be able to try out something new before it has to go through the whole process of being a permanent course. It is really quite helpful- all of my numerous new courses started this way (though I should note that it isn’t required to do this. It is just a good best practice we have).

Anyway, one of the things I’ve realized from my last go at running this class is that I don’t have enough content for it! This wasn’t apparent the first time I ran the class: it was a larger group, and they took longer to get through the same stuff. Last Spring, I only had like four or five students. I got through all my stuff *really* fast. Whoops!

I managed ok: I cooked up some new content and tried my best to use the time to help my students with their class projects. But I knew when the course came up again in Spring 2024 that I would need at least another series of lectures and labs.

Our industry advisory council (really cool people from industry who help shape our curriculum) mentioned something about “Three C’s Game Design” that really stuck with me. If you aren’t familiar with the term, it means “Character, Camera, and Controls.” I felt it would be a really good idea to develop a series of lessons based on this aspect of game design.

Believe it or not, three c’s design wasn’t something widely discussed when I was in school as a game designer, other than very surface deep information. Why? Because back then industry game designers really started out as some kind of level designer, and level designers are enhancing existing game designs and adding to them. They weren’t usually the ones designing the core systems, and those three c’s were considered core game systems. This was typically the realm of some programmer somewhere.

Like so many other things in my craft, this has changed. Once again, the role of the simple level designer has grown to include all kinds of things normally reserved for other folks. And character, camera, and controls are yet another skill we need to include in our bag of tricks.