Thursday, September 16, 2010

Buttons, Game Maker and Learning

Today I dug up a small archive of buttons I made for Game Maker in 2009 partly with the intention that the archive could be a potential resource pack for others, especially for educational purposes. Partly for my own use but I've not gotten around to using them yet.

If you find it interesting, you can find the zip archive for download here.

During the summer of 2009 as well as 2010 I worked as a teacher at Balthazar in Skövde where I taught kids how to make use of Game Maker in just a few days. I created a bunch of other assets for this occasion such as background images (simple photos that were darkened and blurred in order to provide interesting colors but nothing that would stick out too much and disturb the foreground of the games). Little did I realize however that the kids really liked doodling away and create their own colorful Paintesque masterpieces, so my backgrounds were only used by me in my demonstrations...

Now, the buttons weren't really made for these courses obviously. We're talking about kids at the age of 11 to 13 who had never sat with Game Maker before; they would probably not be creating their own editors with custom buttons inside Game Maker for... well, years. I made these for a slightly older audience mainly and put them up on some Game Maker forum. I also made an official looking banner for the post and everything! A bit overkill perhaps but it was fun (and I got to do some actual pixeling! I haven't done that since my old drawing app in QBasic!)

Personally though, I'll start moving more or less completely to Unity3D. I like playing around with Game Maker, but the things I do require some additional functionality that Game Maker simply doesn't give, especially 3D and physics. I will not give up Game Maker completely though - if nothing else it is a great educational tool for people who knows little to nothing about game development and/or programming but would like to learn, and I don't know why but I really liked teaching Game Maker both for students at the University and for the kids. Vastly different experiences and crowds which made it all the more interesting.

A funny little thing to note is that the first thing I taught both the university students and the children was to make their own Pong, and it was perfectly suited for both groups but in different ways. The university students  got a grasp of the workings of Game Maker quickly with a familiar game concept touching most parts of the application. The children, while obviously learning like sponges, got to make a simple game together in pairs that they could feel part in making even if only one of the kids happened to do all the actual "creating", as they would both get to play it. Another advantage with Pong when it came to the children was that I sort of guided them into the whole "competitive game" concept from the start. Why, you ask? Because programming computer controlled enemies is a b-tch and opens up a world of problems and an ocean of wasted time, and we only had four days to go from 0 to 100. If they would get stuck trying to make monsters behaving correctly they would know how to at least have fun with only players as actors.

Ah well, enough reminiscing. What I wanted to say was that I like that more and more people, especially kids, start making games and I think Game Maker really is a perfect place to start regardless of age. And I kind of get a kick out of helping people understand how systems work. I personally love when it clicks in my mind and I simply "get" something, and must say I love it when I can cause that effect in others as well.

Does that mean I want to become a full time teacher? Hmm... no, I don't think so. I'm a game developer primarily but I would probably love to teach somehow on the side.

No comments: