CSC 495 Course Syllabus

CSC 495 – Computational Visual Narrative

Section 008

Spring 2020

3 Credit Hours

Course Description

This is a project-based course for storytellers, artists, and designers. Within this course, we will gain a
familiarity with the repertoire and practice of individuals involved in the design and development of digital-
interactive experiences. In the process, you will gain an understanding of the underlying concepts,
techniques and technologies of computational and digital systems, software development and its role and
potential in narrative practice.
We will develop skills to be able to conceptualize these engagements and the complex technical
platforms that support them. You will be introduced to the idea of digital interfaces and affordances and
be able to diagrammatically describe the components and narrative dynamics of digital interactive
artifacts, speculatively propose new projects, and work with collaborators (designers, computer scientists,
and domain experts) to build interactive digital experiences.
Generally, the goals are as follows —
+ understand the affordances of digital systems and interfaces
+ practice with diagrammatic representation of complex systems
+ learn to develop scenarios and storyboards, create low-fidelity prototypes, and iterate on those
prototypes to create a design proposal for an interactive digital artifact.
+ work on interdisciplinary teams to develop a series of projects centered on digital-humanities-based
storytelling, interactive media artmaking, computational cinematics or computer game development.
This semester, individuals and project teams will focus on developing interactive projects mostly in the
Unity software development environment and game engine. You will use this general-purpose “toolkit” to
build a range of interactive and/or animated experiences with specific narrative and conceptual goals.
Teams of designers, software engineers, artists, and others, will work cooperatively to design and develop
digital applications and narrative engagements which explore storytelling in an engaging and novel
manner. This could be a playful interactive game, an immersive visualization, an animated sequence, or
any number of other potential interventions. The interface and display environment could be anything
from a mobile phone, touch screen, and computer display, to VR/AR headsets, to a custom interface such
as a museum physical installation or immersive projection-mapped environment.

Learning Outcomes

  • Describe and apply the vocabulary of narrative features
  • Critique multi-modal media artifacts in terms of their narrative structure, communicative power, and aesthetic expression
  • Develop data structures and algorithms for representing narrative information
  • Develop effective narrative visualizations for storytelling
  • Create graphical visual stories using modern game engines
  • work on interdisciplinary teams to develop a series of projects centered on digital-humanities-based storytelling, interactive media artmaking, computational cinematics or computer game development.

Course Structure

The course will be largely run as a working studio course. Lectures will involve a combination of tutorials on visual design, programming on game engines, and project critiques. Check the schedule of activities provided on the course page at the beginning of the semester.


Arnav Jhala (ahjhala) – Instructor

Web Page:

Phone: 8313324680

Office Location: Venture 4, 402

Office Hours: Via Google Calendar

Course Meetings


Days: MW

Time: 1:30 – 2:45

Campus: Centennial

Location: Venture 4, 4th Floor, Games and Visual Narrative Classroom

This meeting is required.

Course Materials







Requisites and Restrictions







General Education Program (GEP) Information

GEP Category

This course does not fulfill a General Education Program category.

GEP Co-requisites

This course does not fulfill a General Education Program co-requisite.


This course will not require students to provide their own transportation. Non-scheduled class time for field trips or out-of-class activities is NOT required for this class.

Safety & Risk Assumptions



Grade Components

Component Weight Details
Mini-Project 1 15% Pachinko/Pinball game
Mini-Project 2 15% Machinima movie
Final Project: Speculative Past/Speculative Future 50% Draft proposal — Storyboard, Concept, Text (5%)

Final proposal (5%)

3 Milestones (5% each)

Final project including executable/code/demo/presentation/final design/reflection (25%)

Participation 10% Attendance/Engagement/in-class Discussion
Tutorials/Workshops 10% Assigned Unity tutorials and participation in programming workshops

Letter Grades

This Course uses the Following (Non-Standard) Letter Grading Scale:

A <
A- <
B+ <
B <
B- <
C+ <
C <
C- <
D+ <
D <
D- <
F <

Requirements for Credit-Only (S/U) Grading

In order to receive a grade of S, students are required to take all exams and quizzes, complete all assignments, and earn a grade of C- or better. Conversion from letter grading to credit only (S/U) grading is subject to university deadlines. Refer to the Registration and Records calendar for deadlines related to grading. For more details refer to

Requirements for Auditors (AU)

Information about and requirements for auditing a course can be found at

Policies on Incomplete Grades

If an extended deadline is not authorized by the instructor or department, an unfinished incomplete grade will automatically change to an F after either (a) the end of the next regular semester in which the student is enrolled (not including summer sessions), or (b) the end of 12 months if the student is not enrolled, whichever is shorter. Incompletes that change to F will count as an attempted course on transcripts. The burden of fulfilling an incomplete grade is the responsibility of the student. The university policy on incomplete grades is located at

Late Assignments

No late assignments will be accepted unless they are for officially university excused absence with proper supporting documentation. This includes team participation.

Attendance Policy

For complete attendance and excused absence policies, please see

Attendance Policy

Attendance will contribute toward participation grade.

Absences Policy

Only absences with prior instructor approval or with appropriate documentation in case of authorized university absence.

Makeup Work Policy

None. Due to a big portion of class grade depending on teamwork there will not be any make ups for missed work.

Additional Excuses Policy


Academic Integrity

Academic Integrity

Students are required to comply with the university policy on academic integrity found in the Code of Student Conduct found at


Academic Honesty

See for a detailed explanation of academic honesty.


Honor Pledge

Your signature on any test or assignment indicates “I have neither given nor received unauthorized aid on this test or assignment.”

Electronically-Hosted Course Components

Students may be required to disclose personally identifiable information to other students in the course, via electronic tools like email or web-postings, where relevant to the course. Examples include online discussions of class topics, and posting of student coursework. All students are expected to respect the privacy of each other by not sharing or using such information outside the course.

Electronically-hosted Components: Communication between students within teams and with the teaching staff will be through email and via Slack.

Accommodations for Disabilities

Reasonable accommodations will be made for students with verifiable disabilities. In order to take advantage of available accommodations, students must register with the Disability Resource Office at Holmes Hall, Suite 304, Campus Box 7509, 919-515-7653. For more information on NC State’s policy on working with students with disabilities, please see the Academic Accommodations for Students with Disabilities Regulation (REG02.20.01) (

Non-Discrimination Policy

NC State provides equal opportunity and affirmative action efforts, and prohibits all forms of unlawful discrimination, harassment, and retaliation (“Prohibited Conduct”) that are based upon a person’s race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, gender identity, genetic information, sexual orientation, or veteran status (individually and collectively, “Protected Status”). Additional information as to each Protected Status is included in NCSU REG 04.25.02 (Discrimination, Harassment and Retaliation Complaint Procedure). NC State’s policies and regulations covering discrimination, harassment, and retaliation may be accessed at or Any person who feels that he or she has been the subject of prohibited discrimination, harassment, or retaliation should contact the Office for Equal Opportunity (OEO) at 919-515-3148.

Course Schedule

NOTE: The course schedule is subject to change.

Practicum MW 1:30 – 2:45 — Schedule on course website — 01/06/2020 – 04/24/2020

Detailed schedule is available through the course website: