Game Design Principles


For your first milestone towards becoming a successful game designer, you are going to learn the process of designing a game. You will learn about feedback, mechanics, making game rules, and all sorts of other basics. This milestone will be completely pen and paper, so there’s no need to worry about getting Unity set up just yet. Make your way through this lesson, and you will be one step closer to designing your own games.


To complete this milestone, you should be able to demonstrate the following skills:

  • Break down a game into fundamental building blocks
    • Gameplay
    • Goals
    • Actions
    • Rewards
    • Challenges
  • Design a game from scratch
    • Iteratively develop an idea
    • Create artifacts and documents to track progress and ideas
    • Present a game idea to a group
  • Implement a game idea with a team
    • Create a pen and paper prototype of a game you design
    • Use feedback to develop a game idea further
    • Develop a game with design constraints

Generally, this milestone’s objectives aren’t very technical. I highly recommend taking some time and working through parts of this unit. It will set the stage to better game design later on when you get to the Unity sections.

Learning Objectives

While other milestones will map to the common CSTA standards, this milestone will be mapped to CTE standards due to the difference in content.

D2.0– Break down and identify the fundamental building blocks of gameplay: goals, actions, rewards, and challenges
– Research and define “player immersion”
– Explore and explain factors which lead to player immersion in a game
– Prototype a small game using real-world objects, such as dice, cards, balls, pen and paper, etc.
D5.0– Demonstrate an understanding of testing techniques used to evaluate, assess, rate, and review quality of video games
D6.0– Discuss the iterative nature of game and simulation design
– Develop design plans, character sketches, documentation, and storyboards for proposed games
– Create a set of original design documents and build a small game
D10.0– Solicit and accept constructive criticism
– Test and debug a completed game
– Apply listening, speaking, and collaborative communication skills to convey information
D3.0– Create a storyboard describing the essential elements of a game
– Create a design specification document to include interface, delivery choices, rules, navigation, scoring, media, start / end of play, etc.
– Create a game or simulation
– Present a game or simulation
D4.0– Understand strategic outlining in game design
– Use key strategic considerations in game design
– Understand the process of creating and designing player actions
– Create and design the game flow as it relates to story and plot
– Assess common principles and procedures in game flow design
– Describe rule creation elements of player challenge

A fuller, more detailed list of standards can be found here:


All of the content for this section comes from the Riot games team (yes the league of legends people) and their game design camp. Feel free to look through all of it, and do whatever sticks out to you. Practice is important before you attempt the milestone project!

NOTE: The recommended times are most likely too long for our purposes. Stick to the activities you feel are the most important, and skim the others.


Milestone Project

For your demonstration of skills during this milestone, you are expected to make a pen and paper prototype of a game you make with a group. You will have several tasks to complete before you have successfully completed this milestone.

Task 1: Form teams and brainstorm

For your first task, you need to get into groups. It is recommended that you get into the same teams you are going to be using throughout the semester – most likely 3-6 people. Then, as a group, begin brainstorming ideas for a game you are going to prototype. The game should be small enough that you can successfully prototype it in a short amount of time, but complex enough to demonstrate your abilities. To complete task 1, form a group, and come up with at least 5 different themes and ideas for a game.

Task 2: Develop an Idea

For your second task, your group needs to pick an idea, and begin developing a game around it. Your team should begin thinking about mechanics, and what makes your game fun and special. As you develop your idea, keep several things in mind:

  • Several techniques and discussions of mechanics are talked about in the supplied learning materials. Take a look and use them if you get stuck.
  • Keep track of your ideas! It might be beneficial to share a google doc or have a group recorder to keep track of ideas.
  • Think about the 8 kinds of fun. How are you taking advantage of them?

To complete task 2, your group should complete a basic design document for your game. You should also create a 3-5 slide pitch presentation to share your game with others. The pitch presentation is a good way to make sure your idea is short and well thought out. If possible, share your pitch with other groups / the rest of the class to get feedback.

Task 3: Implement your Game

Task 3 is simple – based on the game design and pitch you completed in task 2, implement your game. Use paper, pencils/pens, any objects you can find to implement your game. It doesn’t have to be pretty or easy to use, just make something playable. Potentially make a rules guide if the game is especially complicated.