What is Game Balance Concepts?

What is this blog?

This is the second summer I’ve decided to run a free online course on the topic of game design. Last summer was a general course that covered all areas on a very general level; you can find it at http://gamedesignconcepts.wordpress.com

This summer, I’m diving deeper into the narrower topic of game balance. The topic was covered in a single lesson last year, but I think it deserves better treatment, so this year I’m looking at balance in depth.

You can view a free intro video here that covers the course topics in more detail. (Update: due to technical difficulties with the courseware site, this was not viewable for a brief period. The issues have been resolved and everyone should now be able to create an account, view the video and download the syllabus. Thanks to everyone for reporting it and for being patient while I worked with supercoolschool.com to resolve this!)

How much does it cost?

Viewing this blog, and all the information that will be posted to it, is 100% free. I’ve even releasing it under Creative Commons, so you could use or reference this material if you are teaching a course or writing a book, as long as I receive attribution.

New this summer, I am also offering a paid version for the low cost of $55 (USD), about what you would expect to pay for a textbook. This paid version includes the extras that people asked for last summer — live broadcast lectures, and personal attention:

  • Live lectures each Monday, Noon EDT. These are scheduled to last about an hour, including Q&A.
  • Posted recordings of the lectures, available online even if you aren’t there for the live version.
  • Additional multimedia content including annotated Powerpoint files and sample Excel worksheets.
  • Direct email response to any of your comments or questions.

Instructions for signing up will be posted soon.

When is the course?

The course is scheduled for ten weeks, beginning Monday, July 5 and ending Wednesday, September 8. You can download a syllabus here.


32 Responses to “What is Game Balance Concepts?”

  1. Robert Says:

    Awesome Ian! Looking forward to this one! I hope I can attend the whole thing this time around. Although there is a chance I may disappear for 2 weeks for a possible job interview :0

  2. Jason Tam Says:

    Last years course was awesome and with all the upgrades you’ve done to this years course, I’m definitely pumped! I’ll try to keep up to date this year =]

  3. Dirk Says:

    I’m very excited to hear this! The first course was such a blast I hoped for another one. And the topic of balancing is downright intriguing. Thank you very much for putting up with us again ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Tim Says:

    Very cool idea, I really enjoyed last years course and am very happy there is a successor to last years course. I can’t download the syllabus though, because you need to sign up at the superschool website, and I get a error, stating the account is full.

    • ai864 Says:

      Tim: thanks for posting. Apparently the courseware site has a default cap on the number of people who can sign up, which I didn’t know about until people started running into problems. I’m working with supercoolschool.com to get this resolved, and hope to have it back up and running by the end of today. I’ll keep this site updated in the mean time.

  5. Greg Says:

    Maybe I just failed the first test, but it’s not entirely clear how to sign up for the full course or how to secure one of the paid spots.

    View Game Balance Concepts and “Request to Join”? This is separate from the intro lecture, so not sure at what level of the structure to sign up.

    Maybe more coffee? Maybe back to sleep? Hmm.

    • Greg Says:

      Ah, I see the payment part is HERE, not on the courseware site. Nevermind.

      See? Coffee.

      • ai864 Says:

        Yup, that’s it. Unfortunately the courseware site does not support any kind of payment acceptance yet. You’d think from the perspective of a viable business model that this would be the FIRST thing they’d get up and running, but apparently not ๐Ÿ™‚
        Incidentally, getting a PayPal button to integrate with a WordPress blog was a lot more trouble than you’d think.

  6. Robert Polzin Says:

    Hey Ian, just noticed the syllabus does not want to link. Keep getting: “The page you were looking for doesn’t exist.”

    • ai864 Says:

      Thanks for letting me know! What happened is, I re-uploaded the syllabus, it changed the URL to download, and I didn’t realize. I’ve updated both the link in the post and on the sidebar, so it should work now. Also, you can just go to gamebalanceconcepts.supercoolschool.com, click on the “Level 0” class, click on “Files” and download it from the list there.

  7. xot Says:

    I’d like to follow your Twitter feed, but the link given in the sidebar is not working.

    • ai864 Says:

      Hmm. Is anyone else having that problem? When I click on it, it works for me. Note that the link isn’t a “feed” so much as a search for “#GDCU” so if there were no relevant tweets when you clicked it, it might have just come up blank. Try again now that someone has tweeted there and let me know if it’s still not working.

  8. xot Says:

    OK, I know what the problem is. It’s a problem I’ve seen with other sites as well. The culprit is the Google Chrome address bar. It automatically converts the URL safe %23 in your link into the literal character hash character #, which is something that Twitter doesn’t like. I don’t think there is anything that can be done.

  9. Miles Says:

    On page two of the course syllabus it states “This is a ten-week course that starts on Monday, June 28 and runs until Wednesday, September 1, 2010”

    Also the HTTP link on page 3 under Upgrade Your Experience is incorrect.

  10. Michael B. Cook Says:

    I took part in last year’s course and truly enjoyed it. Wanting to get the full experience, I made the $55 paypal payment through the paypal link at the top of this page, but I am not sure what is next. After paying, I added a new account on the game balance cool school website. Is that my entry into the expanded content?

    • ai864 Says:

      That’s correct. You should receive an email from me soon (if you haven’t already) just welcoming you to the course, and on or about each Friday (starting with this one) you should receive an invite to the next lecture on supercoolschool.

  11. John Healy Says:

    Hey Ian,

    Really looking forward to the course this year. Not sure how many lectures I’ll manage to make due to work but I’m happy to support this endeavour!



    • ai864 Says:

      Hi John, look forward to seeing you! Hopefully you can make a few live lectures, I tried to schedule it where it would be as convenient as possible for most of the world’s population, but of course I can’t cover every time zone. Worst case, check out the recorded lectures at your leisure, and stay in touch with the course wiki (and with me over email) so that you can stay connected and be part of the discussion.

  12. Mavis Says:

    I might be being really stupid – but if I’m planning on doing the free course – is there anything I need to do? or just come back here on Monday?

    • ai864 Says:

      Not stupid at all, especially since I asked people to formally sign up last time. But you’re correct: for the free course, just check back on this blog each week. I’ll actually be posting here on Wednesdays, not Mondays. (The people who pay get their class a couple of days earlier.) To make it even easier, there’s an “email subscription” link I’ve put in the sidebar, so you can just sign up there and get the new posts delivered right to your email box if you’d like… although I still recommend stopping by the blog to contribute to the discussion in the comments, because last summer we had some really great stuff there.

  13. Kylie Says:

    This looks like it could be a lot of fun. I wonder, though – should I regard the Game Design Concepts course as a prerequisite? Would I be at a disadvantage if I attended this course without having so much as glanced at the previous one?

    Thanks for putting so much time into this endeavour. It’s a fantastic idea!

    • ai864 Says:

      I would say a basic understanding of game design is a prerequisite. If you’re a professional game designer, you should have no problem jumping right in to Game Balance Concepts. If you’re new to game design, I think you’ll probably be better off spending the summer going through Game Design Concepts first, and then coming back to this later (I will keep the blog up indefinitely).

    • Eric Sumner Says:

      I’m about to start working through the Game Design course myself; I’d appreciate having some other people going through it at the same time. If you’re interested, go to http://blog.haleret.com/game-design-concepts-class-of-2010 .

  14. Miles Says:

    I’m going this with a group from work. If I’m not mistaken, I remember that there was some sort of group activities provided last year. If so, are there similar things offered this year?

    I didn’t get to participate last year (but have all the lectures printed off) so I’m excited to get started Monday!

    • ai864 Says:

      Since the focus here is on numbers more than playtesting, I don’t expect there to be as much emphasis on explicit group activities.

      Still, “study groups” are always useful for the discussion they generate, if nothing else. So I would always encourage people to learn in a group if one is available ๐Ÿ™‚

  15. Malorie Shmyr Says:

    I know that I am late for registration, but I have just discovered this class today, and would love to attend!
    May I still?
    Thank you very much,
    Malorie Shmyr

    • ai864 Says:

      As far as the free course goes, you can do this at any time, so feel free. If you want the paid course, signups are open until this Sunday (July 11), so there is still time but you should click that Pay Now button soon!

  16. Dragon Dice Probability | Gary J Anderson Says:

    […] just wrapped up Level 4 (or week 4, for you non-gamers out there) of the Game Balance Concepts course that I’ve been taking. ย This week was all about probability and […]

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