Sunday, October 31, 2010
Thursday, October 28, 2010
The students have really enjoyed the training phase and many of them go to the library at lunchtime and continually create or update their expressions. We are about to start the written phase of the project and are scheduled to have our VC with Anthony next week. So it will be interesting to see how the students actually move from 'mucking around' with Kahootz to actually creating a game. They will be working in pairs, and the game will be loosely based on our HSIE unit 'Gold!'.
Monday, October 25, 2010
I would recommend this program to Year 5 and above as it is quite complicated to use, sometimes it quit unexpectedly and it was frustrating. No one in our class had ever used Kahootz before so we all learnt how to use the software. We also learnt a lot more about animation and game design as we completed the game. We were so proud of our games. It was a real accomplishment.
Chloe Year 5
Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I decided to take the project on with Rob, our computer wiz. I thought it would be an activity that would help keep them focused in their final term of primary school.
After talking to the students in my class, there was a lot of excitement with the prospect of creating their own game.
For the past few weeks we have been running though the learning phase of Kahootz. We dedicate 2 hours a week to Kahootz. Rob has been leading the lessons and I have been the extra set of hands in the lab. Team teaching allows us to get to each student group in the class.
During these first few weeks we have encountered some difficulties when saving. Students were losing their work – disappearing into server space. With a more time consuming method, we have been able now to save the students work, in their own directory, so they don’t have to use the same computer each time.
Each student keeps a Kahootz journal where they can record their thoughts, their initial ideas and any information that they need to remember, for example, where to find a particular scene or object they like.
We are now getting reading for the planning phase and the “Good Game Design” VC with Anthony.
Hi, I’m Rob, our school’s computer coordinator. It’s a joy to be involved in the Game Design Project. What a fantastic opportunity!
Julie and I are really looking forward to the next phase of the project (not to mention the students!)
Our team teaching approach is working well and after overcoming some technical hitches, the students are almost ready to attack the game design task. Bring it on!
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
My name is Sally and I teach a very mixed ability 5/6 at Greenwich Public School. We recently spent the better part of a day at MacICT "cramming" the first few hours of the project into one day (due to time and technology restraints). The day went really well and the kids were all extremely engaged and were all super keen to get started. However, that was last term and I'm sure they have forgotten most of it, but once we get back into it I'm hoping it will all come rushing back (time will tell!).
I was impressed how most of the kids who picked things up really fast were willing to help their friends and teach each other, that made my job 1000 times easier!
Monday, October 18, 2010
The class is just about to start storyboarding and designing their games after spending the past 7 weeks or so exploring Kahootz. Some students are fairly tentative, many are happily animating and keypointing away and a few are really roaring ahead - one student has already designed a game and it works quite well! Everyone is enjoying Kahootz and a session in the lab is always loud and engaging. Many students are working at a level that exceeds my own but I encourage them to team up and work things through and usually they come up with a solution (excellent higher order thinking here!). Although, Anthony, I am encouraging them to keep a list of questions for you for our first VC!
I'm looking forward to seeing how the students go with the pen and paper work and I'm not really sure whether to make them fully complete this section before they can create in Kahootz or whether to work a scene or section at a time?
Anyway, it's all systems go at West Pymble and we are really enjoying the project so far.
Thursday, October 14, 2010
Kahootz is brand new to our school so it has been a learning experience for everyone. While I think I am up to date with technology I have discovered there is so much more to learn.
The group has finished the training stage of Kahootz and have proved to be very fast learners. Initially the children were blown away by the software and what they could do. Most of the children are very confident in using computers and love exploring the new software.
The theme for our game design project is based on an environmental theme. This links to a previous project, Murder Under the Microscope. The children are currently working on their storyboards, but can't wait to get back on the computers to actually start creating their games.
Sunday, October 3, 2010
This award reflects the combined efforts of the amazing team I work with, particularly my immediate team, Anthony and Simon, and also all my colleagues at MacICT where we have the opportunity to collaborate around ideas, share intelligent conversations, debate and spark off one another. All the projects developed at MacICT are what they are because of the leadership of the Director (and my mentor) Debbie Evans whose leadership at the Centre promotes the process of innovation and creates incentives through giving project teams autonomy, the freedom to strive for mastery and a purpose for what we are doing. While perfection may not be attainable, the culture at MacICT is to chase perfection through repeated iterations of our projects and in chasing perfection, hopefully, we can catch excellence! (Vince Lombardi, American Football Coach)
In addition to this award, two students in my Year 6 class won first and second place in Australia in Kodu Kup, a game design skill competition aimed to recognise students who demonstrate excellence in a diverse range of technical, creative and game play depth and design in the use of Kodu Games Lab. What a fantastic achievement by these two students. I am one very proud teacher!
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Monday, September 13, 2010
Last episode we dealt very briefly with a fascinating element of Game Design called Player Feedback. I just wanted to delve quickly back into it and maybe flesh out a couple of points before we get into the next topic. So, what is Player Feedback? Player Feedback is incredibly important to any good game, it's how your game speaks to you, how it tells you things, how you know what you're trying to achieve.
Good games are difficult to play. It's at the core of any gaming experience, it's the reward for playing. Things have to be difficult so that when you beat the game you really feel like you've achieved something.
Or you could just pull the stickers off.
I'm free! I mean, I knew where I was the whole time!
How do you tell your player to go this direction rather than that one? How do you make them learn that the red apples are healthy but the green ones are poisonous?
This is where Game Designers use Player Feedback. Computer games are (obviously) highly visual. Think of them like a TV show or a movie. When you're watching a movie, you don't need words to know that that's the evil guy when he comes on screen. No one needs to hold up a huge sign that says "Look! The hero is now being brave!"
Movies prefer to use music and action on the screen to explain what's going on. Words tend to just get in the way. It's more exciting and the audience isn't getting sidetracked with huge blocks of text.
Oh wow! They're just about to start the gun-fight!
And that's Player Feedback, simply: explaining a game without words. It can be very difficult, but it's always important to try to reduce the amount of pure text in your game. We've rushed through a lot today, well done! Don't worry if you're still a little confused, the Teacher- and Student-Handouts go into a lot more detail about Player Feedback, and suggest a few ways you can implement it into your game.
So we'll leave it here for now. Next week we'll be wrapping up our Let's Make a Game series with the fun part: Testing!
Sunday, August 22, 2010
We decided to host one session in the morning for two classes and an afternoon session for the remaining two classes. For a hour and a half, students played each others' games and evaluated the games using a rubric which provided specific feedback to designers in the following areas:
- Spelling and grammar
- Game idea
Anthony and I were amazed at how engaged the students remained for the entire session. Despite a lot of movement and a great crowd of people, we did not see a student who was not either playing a game, evaluating a game, sharing their game with their parents or watching their parents play. It was fantastic to see so many Dads come along to play their child's game and also Debbie Evans, the Director of Macquarie ICT Innovations Centre joined in the fun. What a great time was had by all!
Making my game was a mixture of fun and challenge. I loved working with my friends and sharing ideas with them. Sometimes, while making my game on Kahootz, I found myself in the middle of nowhere-not sure what to do at all! I thought and thought, and finally ended up finding my way back home.
Presenting at the conference was a bit nerve-racking at first, but as I practiced and finally came to the stage of presenting in front people, I found it really fun. I am really thankful that I was chosen, and received the opportunity to do something as cool as that. I didn't think that just making a game on a computer program would take me to where I am now.
Overall, I absolutely loved everything about Kahootz; the designing, making and presenting. If I had the opportunity to, I would do it all again!
Thursday, August 19, 2010
Friday, August 13, 2010
I gained plenty of experience with ICT whilst being the computer RFF teacher. I came across Kahootz through another Macquarie ICT course. I thought it would be a great way for stage 3 students to enhance their movie making skills. For the past 10 years stage 3 students at Gladesville Public School have been working on developing their movie making skills – planning, storyboarding, filming, editing clips & sound using the i-movie program. With these skills stage 3 students have created their own video clips that have incorporated – special effects, titles and animation (stop-motion & computer generated using Powerpoint) Kahootz seemed to be another extension, particularly with its 3D worlds and gaming options.
When stage 3 students were told that they were going to create their own video games they were really excited. There are currently 4 stage 3 classes but I am limiting the program with the two year 6 classes until I become more familiar with it. Year 6 have an hour and a half lesson every week with me, which will enable them to really get into the program. For the first 3 weeks I allowed them to explore and create simple animations. However, during this time we were going through several technical problems running the program with our Mac computers and being on our network. Students could not save, the program was crashing and some of the functions worked for some students and not for others. This was getting very frustrating not just for me but for the students, especially when they could not save. Luckily there was a solution – Get the students off the network and let them work on the computer hard drive, which meant they had to stay on that computer all the time. This seemed to solve all the problems we were having. The students got their enthusiasm back for the program.
When Anthony came from ICT, he showed the students the more difficult steps (using variables) and he showed them how to storyboard. At this stage the year 6 students became extremely motivated. Back in class, learning about Gold as their HSIE topic students began the process of storyboarding with their teacher Ben Grant (did the Kahootz course as well) who also initiated this process with the other year 6 class. Currently, we are at storyboarding stage and are highly motivated to get started.
Hi my name is Ben Grant and I’m the Grade Six teacher here at Gladesville Public School. I have experience in being Computer Coordinator on a temporary basis at a previous school. I also studied ICT as my minor study at University. I am quite comfortable using and teaching ICT in the classroom and school environment.
I came across Kahootz through Maria (see above) and attended the one-day introduction course at MACICT with Anthony and Cathie. I found the course extremely useful and the program very easy to navigate and work. Maria was very interested in running the program with two Stage 3 classes. I was happy to support her from the classroom supporting the students in planning & storyboarding. The kids are really excited about the program and are enjoying the planning and storyboarding process thus far.
We are studying ‘Gold’ during this term and have asked the kids to base their game loosely around gold as a theme. All game-plans are unique and the students really get the chance to be creative as well as become competent users of technology in a fun environment.
Both the students and teachers are very excited about the ongoing project and are looking forward to a very worthwhile and successful program.
Monday, August 9, 2010
It's been so long that I'll forgive you if you've forgotten what's been happening. Previous episodes of Let's Make a Game! can be found here (part 1), here (part 2) and here (part 3).
Part 3 left off with a really brief discussion of game genres. I've spent a lot of time discussing genres in the distant past, so I won't repeat myself here. The fact of the matter is that although it's very difficult to pigeonhole games into one or another particular genre, it's very important to have a working understanding of each genre to know where your particular game draws its inspirations.
linked to on our blog. It's tough, but a good game requires an excellent atmosphere and great storytelling. And as the video suggests, games need more than just words alone to tell a story. You can use the gameplay, the mechanics of how the player plays the game, to tell a story just as well (or perhaps better) than words alone could.
Let's fall back to our game examples. We are creating two levels that represent exciting events in the book The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.
Our first level finds Lucy struggling to make her way back to the lamp post and out of Narnia. When designing the level, we spent a lot of time writing notes about how the world might feel, what the player might see. We also drew pictures of how we might make the trees appear threatening, and certainly we've got an idea of how the lamp post might look like to a lost and frightened little girl.
What's with all the trees looking the same? Fake!
But making a realistic world isn't enough. This is a forest, it needs living creatures in it to seem real. And best of all we can add creatures in specific ways to remind the player that this is not just any forest, this is a scary forest that we don't want to hang around in for too long.
We will need to add in a range of animals with simple keypoints to make it look like they are scurrying around on the forest floor. We might also need some animal noises - owls hooting and strange growling noises. Lastly what's more scary than darkness? If you add just a little bit of fog, perhaps dark like shadows or even white like a snow storm, you can raise your player's sense of excitement and fear. If you can't see what's up ahead you're going to be a little bit more cautious about exploring.
There's just one final thing to keep in mind: How does Lucy move around the world? Let's think back to what Lucy is feeling, and ask ourselves how we can encourage the player to feel the same way. She's scared, she's alone, she's lost. She doesn't want to spend a lot of time here in this unfamiliar place.
How about limiting Lucy's speed? What if she moved at a slow walking pace through this scary forest? This gives the player more time to absorb the atmosphere and more time to worry that there's something hidden that could jump out and grab them. Simply because she doesn't want to stay there is a great reason to make her stay there longer.
How else could you use gameplay mechanics such as object keypoints or object swatches to make the player empathise with Lucy?
I think we'll wrap it up here for now. There's definitely a lot more to be said about making a world feel believable even if they things the player is doing is absolutely unbelievable. Next time we'll be looking at Player Feedback, the little hints that your game drops from time to time to keep up the tension and build the story. But until next time, thanks for stopping by! It's good to be back.
Sunday, August 8, 2010
How many people do you know that play computer games in some form or another? I would think that probably everyone you know plays games of some kind. Why do we do it? What do we gain from it? The overwhelming response I hear you say “Because it is fun.” Games have always been a part of my life since opening the wrapping of a Christmas present years ago to find an Atari 2600 gaming console. I can even remember a time before that when I would run over to my neighbour’s house to play Pong on a TV they had that had the game built into it. I remember them looking at me oddly when I arrived at their house at 9am on a Saturday asking to play Pong. Fortunately for them Atari where only months from releasing the console in Australia and they could go back to watching the Today Show or whatever it was that they were watching. It was with similar excitement I remember being asked to join the Game Design team at MacICT to work with Cathie and Anthony. I was over the moon. “Would you like to come and work with us and teach children and teachers how to use Game Design software?” they asked. “Are you kidding,” I felt like I had won the Gamer’s Lottery or something “sign me up!” I said. Well, here I am excited about having this awesome opportunity to work with amazingly talented people and being able to contribute what I know about games and teaching.
A little about my background, I have been a primary and secondary teacher in the Department of Education and Training for 15 years, working in many roles. I have always worked with technology seeking out the latest gadgets and making use of them in my teaching. I have been a computer coordinator in two schools for a total of 10 years and understand only too well the challenges and benefits that technology brings to a school. I am an avid gamer and have played thousands of games, modded/designed games and been part of online gaming communities for as long as there has been online games.
The gaming industry was last reported to be a $US 7 Billion industry, far larger than that of movies or television or any other entertainment based industry. That reason alone is enough to be teaching children game design but it offers a whole lot more. Game design is rich with learning experiences dominating the higher order thinking skills. Children are creating, analysing, deconstructing, organising, using technical and metalanguage, designing, it is 2 dimensional, 3 dimensional it asks questions and answers questions, promotes critical dialogue ....... and it goes on. In my opinion I feel game design is starting to become the medium for a new wave of creativity. Who knows what could become of children that understand how to make games, they could become the new Mark Zuckerberg “Facebook”, Bill Gates “Microsoft”, Sergey Brin or Lawrence Page “Google”. All of them had to learn how to write code and computer program.
I hope to offer my experiences to the Kodu Game Design Project and help out in any other area if I am needed. Kodu looks exciting, and believe me kids are going to love it. I will try and keep you up to date with what is happening with our project from my end and would love to hear about anything you might be doing in the area of gaming.
Saturday, August 7, 2010
- When writing for video games, you are writing for an interactive medium, and this medium is fundamentally different to all other mass media to date.
- No-one wants to read huge blocks of text in a video game.
- In 1 hour of game play, there may be 10 minutes of dialogue compare to 20 minutes of dialogue in a 1 hour high action TV show.
- Games can't tell their story through disconnected segments of gameplay strung together by cut scenes.
- Games need to tell their story through gameplay. Narrative should drip from every texture and be integrated in every facet of the world. It should come through in the menus and the interface and in every loading scene. But, most importantly of all, it should come through in the mechanics of the game. The mechanics should teach us about the story and reinforce the plot line.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
We've been a little busy lately here at Game Design headquarters. Thanks to all the participants who made the trip out to us here at Macquarie Uni last Friday and spent a day learning Kahootz as part of our Game Design Teacher Training Day.
We're proud to announce that our 15-week project, along with our Teacher Training Day, are now both registered on MyPL, offering teachers over twenty hours of professional learning.
As we now wrap things up at Cromer PS, I'd like to also thank all the teachers and students who graciously offered their time and made some incredible games. Over the next few weeks I'll endeavour to get a couple of great games posted up here for other schools starting out with Kahootz.
I'll leave it here for now, short and sweet, and next week we're back with our noses to the grind stone to round up Part 4 of our "Let's Make a Game!" series. In Part 4 we'll examine the art of populating a digital world that fits naturally with the narrative of your game. If you're new here and you've missed out the first few posts, or even if you'd just like to go back over it again, you can find Part 1 here, Part 2 here and Part 3 here.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
It was a fantastic opportunity to spread the word about some of the great things we are achieving at MacICT and also a great learning experience. Over the two days, we got the chance to sit in on several workshops including cutting-edge Web2.0 tools and advanced techniques for engaging a variety of students.
We were very lucky to also hear notable thinkers such as Jason Clarke and Adrian Bertolini share their thoughts on incredible topics such as superior team-building and the importance of design. Obviously these were incredibly important with regard to the value we in Game Design attach to the planning and design stages.
We met some great people, had a lot of fun and we showcased students designing and playing their games to a live audience. All in all it was an amazing experience and on behalf of Cathie and myself we'd like to thank our corporate sponsor Panasonic, our incredible teacher Judy Farr and our two fantastic students Angelica and Indigo.
Thanks guys! We couldn't have done it without you.
Monday, July 12, 2010
"Engagement of the children in the game design project was powerful. They looked forward to our sessions eagerly, each week. I had many requests for lunch sessions in the classroom and computer library passes were in high demand so that the children could continue to build a polished game. In terms of the Quality Teaching Model, it certainly met the criteria for effective learning to take place."
"This style of literacy gave all of my children a new way to express themselves. It provided some of my children, who have great difficulty with conventional literacy, an opportunity to create very effective games. We were very proud of their achievements and they were very proud of their success."
"Literacy skills featured as the children articulated their thinking in the design process. They had to look at the complications in the story and decide on three main events to include in their game. Within this process the children were developing their higher order thinking skills and problem solving skills as they wrote their ideas; converted these ideas into a storyboard; developed a script that they might use and decided upon the written and visual guidance that the player might need to play their game successfully. Communication skills also featured as the children collaborated with their classmates at all stages of the game project. The children were continually improving their games as they observed others and had friends play their games to give them feedback."
"Through this game design project my class has been immersed in digital literacy and as a consequence their skills across many curriculum areas have increased." Judy Farr
Thursday, July 8, 2010
At MacICT we have been exploring multi-touch surfaces and, at the Conference, the students will be collaborating on a game design storyboard using a multi-touch IWB.
Both students created games based on the book, Rowan of Rin which they had studied in class. I asked the students to reflect on:
- How they turned one of their 'exciting events' into a game level?
- What they learnt from designing and building their own game?
- What did you find challenging?
- What do you think about designing and building games at school?
“When I was designing my game, I had it all planned out in my head and I knew what I was doing. When I was making the game though, I changed practically every single scene and made it even better. I learnt a lot more about Kahootz as we had lessons on it, designed the game and built it. I knew about Kahootz before we had the lessons but I still learnt a lot of things I didn’t know before, like variables and actions.”
“I found variables and actions a little challenging. Variables and actions are what you use to tell your game how to work. These were challenging because they were new to me. I also found it hard to think of different types of challenges.”
“I think that designing and building Kahootz games at school is really fun and puzzling. I think it was really good for my learning on the computer and revision on Kahootz. I definitely think it is something we should go on with in the future.”
“On the way up the mountain, the team faces 7 challenges. I took 3 of those challenges and changed them into levels of my game. For example, the forest of spiders was one of my levels and I made sure that the level could be as much the same as the book as possible, but it’s just impossible to make it exactly the same as the book, so I changed some of the items to give a new feeling to people who have read the book, and also because some of the items I needed were not there.”
“When building my game, I learnt that you need support for you to strive for something better, and for getting ideas from your friends. I found that a lot of my game I thought up of after dwelling on my friends’ ideas so that my game would be different from theirs but with a touch of their good ideas.”
“All I found challenging during the design process was making my game in the time limit we were given.”
“I thought that the designing and building process was really fun because I got to work with my friends and I got to really use my brain power. Overall I’d be happy to do this again.”
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
As soon as we jump on the computer, a game designer has to start by thinking like a game player. What other games have you played before? How did they show you where you were in the world, what you could jump on or interact with. How did they show you something was an enemy or a friend?
Fig 1. First-Person Perspective
This is only the start of the building process, and there's a lot more that I'd like to go into. But for the moment I think we'll leave it there. The very first step when it comes to turning an exciting event into a game is to find the right software to build it in. Some professional game designers even go as far as to create their own game-making software.
Next week we're going to start building and populating our game worlds, and we'll talk about some of the decisions that need to be made about how enemies look and how we explain to the player the rules of our game. See you all next week.
Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Following on from last week, we'll continue to make our game around The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Last week we found two exciting events:
Lucy, lost in Narnia, hunting for the lamppost to get her home
Edmund, captured by the White Witch, escaping back to his friends.
In game terms, these two exciting events are going to become two levels in our overall game. Both events provide great opportunities to excite the reader and challenge the player, and we can use them to start drawing out the transformation that takes place from book to game. Let's dive in!Lucy and the Forest of Narnia
Last week I spoke briefly about the key difference between a book and a game. Basically, all the action in a book happens to someone else. You're just reading about them. In a game, you are right in the thick of the action. Your decisions have meaningful effects on the game, you are in control.
We've got to make the player feel like Lucy does when she is lost in the forest. We have to start thinking about what emotions we want our player to experience, what we can do to add an element of danger or maybe even fear. This is not meant to be a nice, friendly level.
Right now, we're still working with pen and paper. Start by drawing up a few pictures of the scary forest. What do we know? We know it's full of snow, that there's a couple of forest creatures such as Mr Tumnus and his friend the beaver and there's a lamppost that serves as Lucy's goal. Make sure you include these in your drawings. You should be imagining what the player might do and how they might feel, hunting through a forest for the elusive lamppost.
But hang on, the book doesn't tell us much about the forest other than to say simply that Lucy was lost in it. Why are we making up so many extra details? Here is where we start to make the exciting event into a game. The book has other ways of letting us know that Lucy is a little scared. It's not much fun if the game started with a sign that said, "You are scared." We have to expand on what we know to find other ways to make the player feel like Lucy does when she is lost in the forest, and we do this by making the forest seem scary.
Edmund and the Castle of the White Witch
In Edmund's level we can maybe have a change of tone. It would be easy, and understandable, to make the castle seem just as scary as the forest, but remember that Edmund is a bit braver than Lucy. Edmund might think the whole escape is a bit of an adventure. There's so many more interesting things to look at inside castles, so many things to play with and knock over. In other words, we can make the escape feel a little less stressful and a little more fun.
Again, we're going to jot down a few drawings of the castle. What do castles often have? Suits of armour, candelabras, roaring fireplaces, amazing art across the walls. But also keep in mind that this is the White Witch's castle and she's a cruel, nasty person. She might have decorated in a similarly cruel and nasty style.
What's happening to Edmund? Maybe he's being chased by castle guards. Maybe, as he's running, he can knock over the suits of armour and bring down the hanging portraits. That's going to hinder the guards chasing him, for at least a couple of seconds. Maybe then he can buy himself enough time to escape.
We better leave it there for this week. We've now got some ideas, and we've drawn up a couple of pictures of how each level might look to the player. We're getting a pretty good understanding of what the player will have to do in each level, what they're looking for and what's trying to stop them reaching their goal.
Next week, it's time to grab a computer and start building our levels in Kahootz. Looking forward to seeing you all then.
Monday, June 28, 2010
5C have been creating games based on the novel we are studying this term "The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe". The fantasy element of the story has had students creating interesting worlds which accurately reflect the descriptions of the book. There are wardrobes, upturned beaver's houses, witches castles and not the mention the roaring Aslan.
A common problem I have noticed students facing is that they know how to play their game, and they assume it is quite clear what a player needs to do without detailed instruction. However, when I have played alot of their games, instructions have been forgotten or at the most minimal level. Once a student faced this problem while playing another students game, they understood the importance of clear goals and instructions.
Asthetics also seems to be the primary concern of most students, wanting their scenes to look as close to Narnia as possible. This is a problem, as most students spend their valuable ICT time on the way their worlds and characters look and not how their game actually works.
However, once these issues have been pointed out, students are quick to rectify their problems and have created some great games!
Can't wait for the parents to come in and see their Little Tech Kids in action!
Saturday, June 26, 2010
My students have all responded extremely well to the Game Design Project. They were enthusiastic, excited and interested at all times. Thursday has now become their favourite school day because of the Game Design Project. They have all loved using Kahootz.
I have been really impressed with my students' games. They are based on 'The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe' which we studied in Term 1. It has been great to see the students really thinking about their spelling as they were putting instructions into their games. This project really helped my class work together. They were all more than happy to help anyone having trouble with animation or swatches, or show someone how to make something explode!
As a teacher involved in this project, I have learnt how capable my students are when it comes to technology and how much they enjoy it. Technology really keeps students interested and this project has been a great tool for teaching literacy, problem solving and working with others.
To improve this experience for the students I would like to have had more time allocated for the project. It all went so quickly and unfortunately with different things coming up, we didn't always get the full amount of time needed each week.
Overall we have loved being involved in the Game Design Project and 5M are very proud of their games!
Thank you to Cathie and Anthony for a very worthwhile experience. We wish the project was continuing in Term 3!
Friday, June 25, 2010
Overall, the students in 5A have responded very well. They have all managed to produce some very appropriate and cleverly designed games and have all been very keen to work on and finish their games. Many of the students have given up lunchtimes to work on their projects in the classroom.
We've only lost the keel a couple of times in that a couple of children have found it somewhat stressful. I think that's due to the time frame and speed at which they had to accommodate the 'new language' of Kahootz.
On the other hand, one parent said that 'Kahootz' is her son's favourite time of the week!
Both of the children who have been chosen to present their Kahootz expressions at the ICT Conference in the school holidays have been more than happy to write speeches and prepare for their presentations.
For myself, I have learned to overcome my initial trepidation and am keen for my kids to teach(re-teach) me, during my lunchhours, to create an 'expression'. I'm now keen to master this foreign language!
A suggestion I have for the future, is to slow down the teaching/learning time to enable all students, of varying abilities(and ages!!), to feel confident about their skill acquisition and subsequent ability to design their own game. Minimise stress, maximise participation!
I feel the project has been very worthwhile as it has added a new dimension to my students' learning and a new medium for problem solving and creative expression ie curriculum enrichment. Many thanks to Cathie and Anthony, (the lighthouses!), for their constant guidance and creation of the project. ...Glad to have been invited aboard!
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
To give you a little bit of background information on my students, last year, in Year 5, they were involved in the MacICT Game Design project with Kahootz. My students built games related to many aspects of the curriculum including:
- literature, particularly the book Rowan of Rin by Emily Rodda
A few of my students created the Prezi below for our class blog about using Kodu to design games.
We also set up a wall in wallwisher where the students reflected on what they had learnt on their journey into game design and some of the challenges they faced.
Next term, some students will go onto designing games in Kodu or Kahootz as part of a rich task related to our Science unit on sustainability, 'Cool Kids for a Cool Climate'.
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
It's full of delicious ideas!
Or maybe your idea is simply to improve on something that you've already seen. Far from plagiarising, this is actually a fairly common fact of game design. Everyone can make games about soldiers and guns, but what if you were a firefighter and your gun was a firehose? Innovating and building upon existing ideas can be just as valid and important as (and often easier than) coming up with something completely new. The trick is to emphasise what makes this game unique, not what makes it just like everything else.
Remember when Lucy gets lost in snow-covered Narnia and has to find her way back to the street lamp that serves as the signpost back to the wardrobe? Or how about when Edward has to escape from the White Witch after she tricked him into coming back to her castle with the promises of power and turkish delight?
It's full of delicious power!
Once we've found a couple of cool story ideas you've got to stop and ask yourself a question. "It was exciting when I was reading about this, but how would it feel if this was really happening to me?" This is the key distinction between a book and a game. In a book, the reader is rarely a character in the book, rather they are a detached observer. In a game, the player is the star. They are front and centre when things go well and when disaster strikes.
When the player feels scared it's because there's scary things in front of them. When they feel victorious it's because they've struggled and succeeded against difficult puzzles and obstacles. Emotions are very personal for the player. How would you feel if you were lost in Narnia hunting for the lamppost? How would you feel if you had been tricked and kidnapped by the evil White Witch?
You want your player to feel exactly like that.
Monday, June 14, 2010
"And then Ron and Hermione just got married, what a crock."
This week we'll be intriguing and enticing, we'll be talking about games that hook the player in to their world. These are the games that succeed in bringing a world to life.
Capturing your player and drawing them into your world isn't an easy thing to teach. Many people already spend a great deal of their time trying to work out how to teach others how to write a good story. I'm not going to throw my hat into that ring just yet.
quick metaphors to the left and an irony uppercut.
What I can do is tell you why a good narrative is a pre-requisite for a great game and an excellent teaching tool. A good story makes your game memorable, dramatic and interesting without being repetitive and there's never the lack of momentum that haunts lesser games. Games with great stories never run out of steam.
But be careful! A great story alone will not save a game if the game doesn't know how to tell that story. There's been a number of games with great stories, and depending on who you ask this either made them fantastic or fantastically boring. Personally, I love a good story, and for that reason I've excused many games such as Alan Wake, Max Payne and Half-Life 2 when gameplay gets in the way of a good story.
And of course we can't talk about stories in games without looking at my personal favourite: the Metal Gear franchise, and particularly Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty.
If you want moments where you're not sure if you're playing a game at all, all brilliantly written into an immersive story, I highly recommend Metal Gear Solid. If you want to come back next week we'll have another piping hot blog post. Next week's focus we're going to sneak a peek inside a real game designer as they work. Thanks for stopping by, see you all again next week.
Thursday, June 10, 2010
I am not actively teaching Kahootz in the computer lab as we have a relieving computer teacher, but all the planning is being done in the classroom and the kids are loving the experience.
We have some fantastic game ideas under way and some of the children are now at the stage of putting some scenes together. All of Stage 3 are participating in the program and the teachers and students are starting to see some progress.
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Specifically, this week we'll be examining a technique called the 'paradigm shift'. It happens when the rules of your game are suddenly and massively changed. The world is reformed around new rules, everything old is new again, and your player basically has to relearn how to play your game. It's easiest to think of a paradigm shift as the twist ending in a movie.
Fig 1: Nintendo employees still celebrating release of
Super Mario Bros, 25 years on.
For this reason, the paradigm shift is a rare occurence. There should be at the utmost one per game, and there has to be a good narrative reason for the rules as they once were to come crashing down on the player. But when done right, a paradigm shift breathes new life into a game right before the end, where it's often most needed.
Fig 2: Before the paradigm shift
So who does it right? Alien vs Predator and Rune get the idea of pumping up the player right before the end (sorry, spoilers), but the best example of a paradigm shift lies in the final chapter of BioShock. I'm not going to give away the ending but suffice to say that towards the end the game, and your role in it, is turned on its head. Suddenly enemies are friends and your own survival is no longer the only focus.
Rather than just arming the player with some mega-cannons for a spectacular final boss fight, BioShock basically throws a whole new way to play at the player right before the end, resulting in one of the most stressful and most enjoyable levels I've ever played. The paradigm shift turns BioShock from a basic yet dramatically beautiful shooter into something great.
Next week we'll be continuing this theme: looking at how games can intrigue and entice the player. Once again, thanks for dropping by, looking forward to seeing you next week.
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
2. Bugs, Glitches and Typos
The game starts. A man named 'Sir Charles the Nite' appears, instructing you to "hant down teh Goulden Mask fo Power". You hop on your trusty steed and head into the dark forest, where you encounter horrible Blood Spiders who aren't so horrible when they just stand there like that or bump into each other. You can just walk right past them! You find the Golden Mask of Power and return it Sir Charles, who takes it gladly then asks you to 'hant' it down again.
High-profile sinners: Zero Wing, Max Payne
Why it happens:
Making a whole game takes a lot of time and effort and it's a nightmare working with a deadline looming and your publisher screaming for a finished product. It's amazing that through all this a game gets made at all, so you can forgive the little typos that manage to sneak their way in here and there, right? Of course, it's not only games that fall victim to this. I've submitted many a uni essay, last minute, without bothering to check for typos in the important things, like the heading.
How to avoid it:
When it comes to avoiding spelling errors, bugs and glitches, the simplest and least helpful response is don't make them in the first place. But not only is that impossible, it ignores the important role of testing your game. Sure, you might be the only person designing or building your game, but you shouldn't ever be the only one testing it. Grab your friends, your parents, your neighbours. Show your game to everyone who will sit still in front of a computer screen long enough. Make them play your game again and again, until they're dead bored with it, and then make them play it again. This isn't about showing off, this is about ironing out the bugs and getting everything absolutely right. And to be honest, it's exactly what professional Video Game Testers get to look forward to every single day.
1. Hogging all the fun
You turn a corner in this dank cave. The sound of dripping water echoes unseen from deep within. Tiny yellow eyes watch your every move from the shadows. You push on, unafraid, towards the mysterious green glow that pulses and hums in the dark. You take one step, then another, and another. And then you might as well put the controller down and make a cup of tea because the next fifteen minutes are going to be dedicated to one long cutscene. Don't get me wrong, this is one incredible cut scene. There's explosions and magic whizzing through the air, and there's a dragon! But the question remains - if this is so cool, why can't we be playing this?
High-profile sinners: Bayonetta, Devil May Cry, Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots
Why it happens:
What is a game if it's not letting you have any fun? It's not a game anymore, it's a movie that stops running if you stop moving your thumbs. Suddenly your player feels a bit like a mouse on a wheel, running round in circles, disconnected from the game. As a side note, these obtrusive cut scenes at their worst dump the player right into the middle of some huge boss fight and expect you to sit through the whole overblown, dramatic fifteen minutes again when you lose - which you will, again and again.
How to avoid it:
Less is more when it comes to cut scenes. There should always be an initial cut scene to quickly introduce the main characters and show off the world. After that cut scenes are handy to show emotional interactions between the heroes and the villains, and that's it. Anything more exciting should be gameplay. It's more engaging and more rewarding and your player will end up caring more about the story when it is shown (through gameplay) and not told (forced down their throat by awkward cut scenes).
And there we have it, the top 10 most common mistakes made by Game Designers. I hope you've enjoyed it, and maybe even learnt something. Next week we'll be looking at how to turn a good game into a great one. Looking forward to seeing you all again next week.
Saturday, May 29, 2010
The students were asked to identify three exciting events in the books that could be turned into a level in a game. They were then asked to identify a challenge or obstacle that the player would have to overcome, what was happening in the scene when they came across the obstacle/challenge, and what would the player have to do to get past the obstacle. This was all part of the design document students filled out in preparation for building their games. Most of the students are now currently completing storyboards for their games.
It was exciting to see the conversations that occured between students when discussing ideas for their games. It was also interesting to see the level of synthesis that was required for students to turn events from a book into a game idea. This generated some very creative ideas!