The Interactive Media and Games Division of the School of Cinematic Arts launched its first ever public online course Jan. 29 as part of its ongoing effort to make game production more accessible. The game design course, titled “Unity + USC Games Unlocked: Design and Publish Your Original Game,” was co-developed with video game company Unity Technologies.
USC and Unity partnered in developing “Unlocked” to teach intermediate game designers of all backgrounds how to make a game from start to finish. The eight-week course is publicly available for purchase online.
“Unity and USC … share a goal, which is democratizing game development, making it something that is available to all kinds of people,” said Margaret Moser, an assistant professor of game development who teaches an in-person course on Unity. “This is meant to be a way in. By offering it to anyone on the internet, our hope is to bring in more diverse people so that anyone who wants to make a game can feel like they can do it.”
Moser worked with Unity to develop curriculum that reflected USC’s standards while also aiming to improve Unity’s user retention.
“Unity came to us with a problem,” Moser said. “A lot of people are very excited to start using Unity, people are very excited about making their own games, they’ll do a few tutorials and feel ready. They set off to make their own games, and then they run into issues making those games.”
According to Moser, the new course offers guidance specifically designed for students to walk away with a small, finished game.
“Most people who get into making games have some super cool game idea that they’ve been sitting on for years … and they just don’t understand how hard it is to make those games,” Moser said. “What we’re trying to do in the course is give people constraints, a kind of walled garden, where they take something that is small, makeable and doable, that they can pull off.”
The online class includes tangible, professional tools for students to produce realistically-sized games and to stay on track with development. Students can expect to spend three to four hours on weekly assignments for eight weeks. The open-ended format offers non-traditional students a place to learn beginning-to-end game design for $79.
While Unity already offers educational content, Interactive Media and Games Division assistant director Sam Roberts said USC brings a unique perspective to the program’s development.
“We don’t want to duplicate the experience of someone going here online,” Roberts said. “But we thought that we could serve [a] gap in the space by developing a new course that also helps students in the same way that our intermediate course does, but in a more open-ended format where they can do their own work.”
According to Unity, the new course also offers a focus on design, beyond technical game creation skills.
“We recognized that many learners have access to introductory Unity education but often lack access to intermediate and advanced instruction in game design and production,” Jessica Lindl, head of global education at Unity Technologies, wrote in an email to the Daily Trojan. “We hope the course raises the bar for online game development courses with project-based assignments in game concepting, design, architecture, project planning and testing.”
USC was one of the first universities to integrate Unity into its coursework, Roberts said. It has used the engine in its curriculum for 10 years.
“We really believe in Unity here,” he said. “It’s one of the things that‘s made such a wide space for independent development and for students who don’t come from strictly computer science backgrounds to develop games, which is a big part of what we do.”