Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Game dev as child's play

I recently read an article where creating a Future Pinball table was used by a troupe of girl scouts as part of a merit badge activity.
After lunch my students led them in a guided design exercise to make virtual pinball machines based on several of the other Girl Scout badge requirements using Future Pinball. During part of this Tobi, Tory, Jessica and I led a Q and A session for the leaders and parents about all things game from careers to college degrees and everything in-between.
Back in high school, when I was taking computer classes (BASIC and COBOL), I asked the teacher how I could learn more about computer animation. He vaguely suggested local colleges, but in truth, he had no idea where to go for that. Today, I'd have a wealth of resources to explore, and I think that's great.

They also mentioned Kodu in this article, and randomly, I just came across a video about Microsoft's Kodu Game Creator. It's a game programming interface designed for kids.

If the embed isn't loading, check it out here.

Very interesting trend, and very neat! Watching the Kodu demo, I couldn't help but be reminded of Spore. Is this the next stage of evolution for that sort of user-generated content concept? I'm thinking it looks like something adults and kids would have fun with.


JoeHonkie said...

There's really so many free resources now for kids to learn this stuff. Microsoft just released a simple programming language called Small Basic that's designed to to simple like basic used to be, and most programming languages like Java/C++/C# have free tools and resources.

I'll have to check Kodu out. I was messing with Popfly (another MS project that;s very similar) for fun, but I found it too limited.

There's also great stuff like Game Maker (which allows you to publish games to which is easy, yet some amazing stuff like Spelunky has been programmed in it. Also the forums over at TIGSource have a ton of helpful info for game maker.

Really what's missing is books and documentation. You can find 100 books that are just huge bricks of code and concept to put you to sleep, but there's only a handful which have interesting projects and teaching methods. I'm liking the Headfirst series from O'Reilly so far.

Ok, that wasn't very organized or sensible, but you touched on a subject I've given a lot of though to recently and I just had a ton of stuff in my brain with no order to it.

Rabscuttle said...

Hey, thanks for all that, you more than doubled the information value of the original post. ;)

I played with the level editor in a game called Startopia, and though it couldn't QUITE do the scenario I wanted to do, it was lots of fun. If only I had the time...

JoeHonkie said...

It interests me because I used to be involved in network administrator training, and I was recently thinking about relearning programming myself, and about computer education for kids. There just haven't been any "introductory" programming languages since people stopped making versions of basic.

I've made a few gag things and test games recently, starting with something I wrote for myself in Small Basic. I think if point & click games are something people want to mess with, Adventure Games Studio (I made someone a gag X-mas game with it) is another really easy to use tool. It only does point & click games, but it's both easy to use and powerful. (There's also the Wintermute and SLUDGE engines, but they are not beginner/kid friendly).

Interesting note for sci-fi book nerds, David Brin wrote an article that encapsulates a lot of the complaints I had about learning programming with modern languages:
(his complaints are only partially valid, with any research he could have found open source stuff like FreeBASIC that works fine on modern computers, but the general complaint is fair)

Sorry if I flood you with stuff on this subject. It's just one I'm very into right now.