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Teaching Very Basic Game Dev. - Best Program to Use?


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#1 Prof G   Members   -  Reputation: 129

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 10:14 AM

Hello Fellow game dev'ers!

 

I've been tasked with teaching some younger folks (middle-school to junior high age) basic game development this summer.  I'm not used to teaching at this age level, so I thought I'd solicit some advice from this very knowledgeable community.  

 

I really want to shy away from teaching a programming language.  I'd rather teach programming concepts through some kind of visual point-and-click program that is also be used to build games.  We have a bit of a budget so the program doesn't necessarily have to be free/open source. What pieces of software like this exist?  

 

We have about 4 days and a few hours each day with evenings to work on projects.  Obviously the kids won't be able to obtain an in-depth knowledge of anything really in this short time, they just need to be able to present some kind of "final product" at the end of the 4 days.

 

Thanks for your suggestions!

Kevin


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#2 Morphex   Members   -  Reputation: 298

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 10:21 AM

Hum, the best thing that comes to my mind is actually game maker , you can create pretty complex things with the event system, and it could be use to teach a few programming techniques and concepts, loops and other stuff like that.

 

I think pretty much every single program that has a event system would probably do the trick, you just have to prepare yourself well to be able to teach it correctly and in a fun way :).

 

Also, GM has one plus of being able to code in  Cish like syntax, so you might be able to jump from events to the Game Maker Language if things go amazingly well :)

 

 

Best of luck 


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#3 EsmsFan   Members   -  Reputation: 402

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 11:10 AM

While Gamemaker deserves a nod, I would like to propose Scratch. It has its own site dedicated for educators - http://scratched.media.mit.edu/


Edited by EsmsFan, 08 January 2013 - 11:11 AM.


#4 Iftahh   Members   -  Reputation: 115

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 11:20 AM

I highly recommend https://www.khanacademy.org/cs



#5 Yrjö P.   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 1412

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 12:20 PM

I'd rather teach programming concepts through some kind of visual point-and-click program
What programming concepts do you want to teach them?

Edited by Stroppy Katamari, 08 January 2013 - 12:20 PM.


#6 snugsound   Members   -  Reputation: 181

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 02:12 PM

I'd rather teach programming concepts through some kind of visual point-and-click


This reads to me like "flowcharting". What middle-school kid doesn't love flowcharting? happy.png

But seriously, maybe a combination of designing game logic via flow charts (separate from the engine), and then implementing it in a basic scripting language (with some help from teacher)?


Edited by snugsound, 08 January 2013 - 02:12 PM.


#7 Prof G   Members   -  Reputation: 129

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 02:51 PM

Thanks for the feedback everyone.  I really like what I see over at http://scratched.media.mit.edu/ so I'm leaning towards this solution with Game Maker as a backup.  

 

I'd like to show them some basic programming concepts like logic statements, looping structures, and basic object oriented stuff relating to methods & attributes.  What I want to get away from is throwing a language like C at them and then having to spend 2 hours finding a missing semicolon.  Granted, this can be a very real part of the process, but I think our time would be best spent working with a more "visual" code creation tool like Game Maker or Scratch.


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#8 swiftcoder   Senior Moderators   -  Reputation: 9603

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 03:48 PM

What I want to get away from is throwing a language like C at them and then having to spend 2 hours finding a missing semicolon.

QFE.

 

I taught introductory web programming (HTML, CSS and Javascript/PHP) in university for a couple of semesters. 'Hunt the semicolon' described about half of our classroom time. Anything that can make the environment more forgiving of trivial mistakes is a win.


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#9 Karsten_   Members   -  Reputation: 1459

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 06:35 PM

I would suggest teaching them using whatever language / platform they can easily get set up and running on their home computers so they can start practising / having fun at home.

 

Java or (dare I say it...) Visual Basic 6 which comes with Microsoft Office is a great one for teaching.

 

Then when they are ready for a language that they can learn and use for life... ween them slowly onto C++. ;)


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#10 Serapth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5180

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 09:40 PM

Young ( under 12 ): Scratch or Squeek

 

Older: Lua



#11 jbadams   Senior Staff   -  Reputation: 17247

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 09:44 PM

You could also consider Construct 2.  It's very quick and to get a basic game up and running using built in "behaviours", and programming is done through a visual "event" system.  It's similar to Game Maker, but I think the interface is a bit nicer.

 

Scratch is a good option though. smile.png



#12 kburkhart84   Members   -  Reputation: 1567

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Posted 08 January 2013 - 10:16 PM

I too recommend GameMaker.  It has the drag&drop things that can do some work, and even can handle loops, variables, etc..  But then it also has GML, which is a scripting language with similarities to C/C++/Java/Javascript/Delphi/Basic.  It doesn't require semi-colons except for a very few cases, and is fully capable of about any 2d game play, though there are limits, which are mostly performance based.  Of course, for your class, I seriously doubt you would run into those limits, as most "serious" developers don't.

 

I could also mention that there are a couple of books, namely the Game Maker's Apprentice and the Game Maker's Companion, which include what you are looking for in the class.  Not only does the software itself get taught, but general game creation concepts are also taught, including game design, and in the second book, a detailed part about stylistic art.  The first book also has some things about balancing multiplayer games, just to give you an idea of the game design topics that are not software bound.

 

Another good thing about GameMaker(I sound like I work for YoyoGames, but I don't) is the relatively new export options.  GM Studio, which you may not want to use in your class, can export to mobile platforms and HTML5/Javascript code.  Considering how iOS and Android are the "hip" things these days, it may make your class somewhat more intersting to the kids knowing that if they come up with something nice(and some cash either saved are as a gift) they could make games for these devices.





#13 EsmsFan   Members   -  Reputation: 402

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:01 AM

You could also consider Construct 2.  It's very quick and to get a basic game up and running using built in "behaviours", and programming is done through a visual "event" system.  It's similar to Game Maker, but I think the interface is a bit nicer.

 

Scratch is a good option though. smile.png

 

Construct2 would be my second choice after Scratch, with GameMaker a close third.



#14 Serapth   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 5180

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 09:02 AM

You could also consider Construct 2.  It's very quick and to get a basic game up and running using built in "behaviours", and programming is done through a visual "event" system.  It's similar to Game Maker, but I think the interface is a bit nicer.

 

Scratch is a good option though. smile.png

Does Construct 2 let you drop down to the code level?  It's ultimately an HTML5 code generator, no?

 

I think this is the key to any visual builder style programming, you need to be able to look behind the curtain, so to speak.



#15 kburkhart84   Members   -  Reputation: 1567

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Posted 09 January 2013 - 07:07 PM

The first Constuct Program(Construct Classic) had it where you could go down to python code as parts of the event sheet, but the new one does not appear to do that.  Supposedly, all of the coding was to be done in the event sheet, but there was code in the actions/behaviors, which takes care of the need for code.

 

GameMaker on the other hand, besides the event system with drag&drop "coding" you can also use GML, which is actual typed code, which seems like it could be better for the class.  If you really want just concepts, then Construct2 may do it, but if you want any coding, it likely won't.  Also, Scratch isn't typed code either, though the blocks somewhat resemble what could be some kind of scripting.








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