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Advice for kids?


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#1 BrianMRoss   Members   -  Reputation: 113

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 11:05 PM

Hi, I have two 12 year old kids who are really into video games (shocker, I know).  Lately, they have been sketching out game ideas on paper, and seem to be having at least as much fun doing that as playing the games.  I brought up the idea of creating some of their own games, and they are pretty into it.  I found this site and read through the faq, and it seems like learning to program is the best approach for what they're looking to do.  I was hoping you could help point them in a direction? They have not done any programming before, so a very basic place to start would be helpful.  Thank you!



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#2 Servant of the Lord   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 19524

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Posted 21 February 2014 - 11:58 PM

If they are in it just to play around and have fun, programming requires some real effort to be put into it before it starts paying off enjoyment-wise. It's an increasingly important and valuable skill to have though, so if they can stick with it it'll continue to benefit them intellectually whether they decide to pursue game development as a career or not.

 

An easy way for them to have fun and get their toes wet at the same time, would be the free tool GameMaker. It requires use of logic, and requires them to learn how the tool works, and is very flexible without constraining them, has a vibrant community, and actually has a built-in programming language that they can tackle if they find all the features they want aren't available out of the box.

If they like the tool and use it, you can later purchase a relatively inexpensive upgraded version to provide more features - $50 to upgrade to the full version (Ignore the $100 and $800 options, those are not what you're interested in, and are for geared towards commercial developers).

 

I think I even have an extra key for the upgraded version if you want it - I'm not sure if it's still valid, but there's no harm in trying.

 

If they are more interested in RPGs specifically, RPG Maker VX is another option - but is much more limited.

 

Or, if they actually wish to pursue programming, there are dozens of different languages and tools available, almost all of them free. Python is one such option that is slightly easier to approach than some of the other languages, while still being a really powerful tool that professionals use for alot of purposes (though not usually for game development, Python can handle 2D games just fine, and a few commercial 3D games have been written with Python).

Eventually, every programmer learns multiple languages, so the decision of the "first" language should be chosen based off of what's easier to learn so they don't get totally put off too quickly (that's my opinion, anyway - though for myself, I found the most complicated language I could and jumped straight into that).

 

The most important thing for them, if they are learning to program, is to pick a language and stick with it long-term instead of jumping from language to language. Likely, they'd need to start with basics, and mostly just be displaying text onscreen for several months before moving on to 2D graphics.

 

They are most certainly welcome here on these forums to ask questions, and this community is very active, knowledgeable, and quick to respond to anything programming-related.

If you go the GameMaker route, the official GameMaker community would be a better place for their questions as their questions would be more tool-specific rather than general programming questions.


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#3 Shippou   Members   -  Reputation: 1523

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 12:50 AM

Minimal programming engines

Alice

Game Maker

Stencyl

 

RPG / MMO

RPG Maker

XtremeWorlds

 

 If you would like to learn how to program, you could give Python a shot [ Game Programming Book ]


Edited by Shippou, 22 February 2014 - 12:51 AM.

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#4 General Awesome   Members   -  Reputation: 203

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 01:29 AM

Minimal programming engines

Alice

Game Maker

Stencyl

 

RPG / MMO

RPG Maker

XtremeWorlds

 

 If you would like to learn how to program, you could give Python a shot [ Game Programming Book ]

 

I'm actually surprised to see XtremeWorlds listed here. I can't remember if XtremeWorlds is open source; if it isn't, Mirage Source is still a viable alternative, but it will probably take some work to actually get it working.


Edited by General Awesome, 22 February 2014 - 01:29 AM.


#5 BrianMRoss   Members   -  Reputation: 113

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 07:24 AM

Thank you so much for the responses.  I really appreciate it!



#6 DavidGaames   Members   -  Reputation: 146

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 09:06 AM

I could just be biased by my own experience (but who isn't?), but I think that if you want the "lite" version of development, a game-specific language is better than a tool like RPG Maker that tries to do everything for you. I've seen more than my share of budding developers start with Game Maker, and then have no idea what they're doing in a "real" engine once they've outgrown GM's limitations.

 

So I'm all for keeping the language as simple as possible, but not having something so pre-built. The two languages I have experience with are DarkBASIC and Blitz3D. Both of these taught me the fundamentals of game development, and made it easy without completely building something for me, and letting me swap out some art assets. And maybe this isn't as much the case now with the kids and their Calls for Duties, but simply making a character that can run and jump around a few blocks was really satisfying, and it's really easy to get that going, especially in Blitz3D. And it's still structured like a more serious programming language.

 

There's also the option for a text-based game, which would be pretty easy in Python, and they would be learning a real language. Something like a Mad Libs would be a great exercise, starting out with just the console window, and the building a simple GUI (TKinter is built into Python for just that purpose) for it later.

 

I just want to provide some options outside the formula of "what can I put the least time/effort into, and get the most gameplay out of".



#7 dejaime   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 4027

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 09:27 AM

I consider that Kodu Game Lab is usually the best choice for kids...

It is easy enough for anyone to learn and teach them. Make sure to take a look!



#8 gasto   Members   -  Reputation: 261

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 11:53 AM

·Gamemaker

·RPGmaker

·Construct


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#9 ProtectedMode   Members   -  Reputation: 1212

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 12:59 PM

I could just be biased by my own experience (but who isn't?), but I think that if you want the "lite" version of development, a game-specific language is better than a tool like RPG Maker that tries to do everything for you. I've seen more than my share of budding developers start with Game Maker, and then have no idea what they're doing in a "real" engine once they've outgrown GM's limitations.

I started with C++ after having seen enough of GM, and it went pretty well. So I guess this is dependents on the person. Besides handling all basics like positions and such for objects, it doesn't do much by default, except that is gives you a huge game-specific standard library.


Edited by ProtectedMode, 22 February 2014 - 01:01 PM.


#10 sethhope   Members   -  Reputation: 421

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 01:42 PM

If you want to jump in programming right away rather than using a game maker, I started in C++ using allegro 4. Since Allegro 4 is irrelevant, I suggest starting with allegro 5. It's easy to learn and very flexable for programming.

 

Good luck!


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#11 timothyjlaird   Members   -  Reputation: 404

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 01:48 PM

I would recommend Blitz3d...like some of the others did. It's simple...it comes with it's own IDE and uses a bastardized form of BASIC. Has quick return on investment so I suppose it would be a good choice for those with short attention spans (kids). There is a good layer of abstraction between the underlying graphics API (old DirectX) and the language...so at the expense of flexibility you can still achieve some really cool effects and not have to dive into a shader language (HLSL in that case) or linear algebra. After a few simple games he'll realize that Blitz3d does not scale very well at all to more complex projects...and you can get him started on something more powerful like XNA4.



#12 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 21232

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Posted 22 February 2014 - 03:10 PM

Seconding (or thirding or whatever number we are at) using a small game engine for this.

It doesn't sound like your goal is to get them into programming. It sounds like your goal is to give them a game engine to play with. Yes, you can use the game engines to make professional games, but for those who are inclined to make things they can serve as great little toys.

I didn't see GameSalad mentioned, it is another good one.
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