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Mod yourself into Game Development

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This coming week, my game design club will (finally) start working on Digital Games.

Last week we made paper concepts.  Most of us have ZERO Game engine experience, this is going to be thrilling!!!
I've decided to bring everyone into a 2D engine called Defold, which outputs Cross-platform (Mostly HTML5) games with LUA Scripting and joint animations.

That's great Timm, but who's going to answer their questions?
They are, of course!  I have never used Defold, but in the Game Dev industry, they will

  • routinely have to self-teach to keep up
  • Rely on teammates to solve problems that nobody really knows the answer to
  • Rarely if ever start a game from square zero, they'll always build on others' work.

To that end, rather than making a game from zero (/*programmers NEVER start at square one*/), we are going to mod a public platformer template.  

Hopefully, we can divide into some kind of logical teams based on specialty and ability.  Good groups are small enough to enable everyone's input, but big enough to explode productivity.

My Experience:

Modding is better than square zero for learning game development:

  • THOUGHT PROCESS:  Since every large company has their own proprietary engine, learning how to learn an unfamiliar engine is invaluable
  • WORKFLOW: Game Companies will teach you by letting you dive into existing code, which is exactly what modders do
  • SPECIALIZATION: You can focus on your specialty (programming, art, music, level design) instead of trying to juggle ALL OF THEM so that you can get a job in ONE OF THEM.
  • SCALE: You get experience in a HUGE PROJECT that you may never fully understand rather than a tiny demo 
  • RESULTS: You can make something awesome (though not quite as accessible) in a shorter time since most of the heavy lifting is done
  • PLAYERS: You already have a huge player base and a known target audience if you mod a popular game.  this looks great on a resume
  • FEEDBACK: If you do have lots of players, you have lots of complaints.  Learn to deal with it, noobs.

Today, I got to see an eight-year old open his VERY FIRST Raspberry Pi.  I taught him to install NOOBS and use it, and he's really excited to change the world (For one, he won't be bored at home anymore).
I showed him the built-in python games and how to edit their code (to make yourself faster, bigger, etc.).   
Even though I can code faster than I can make bad jokes, I would never have been able to make a game with him... but just editing a couple lines of code in an existing game brought about some super-fun results. 

So basically, I showed him how to mod as a gateway* into programming :)

 

*Not a Gateway 2000, he's too young for those

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Modding is a great way to start the game development process. Instead of spending a year or two learning how to program, you get to jump in and tinker with stuff seeing immediate (and fun) feedback for your efforts. It's a ton easier to stay motivated than writing "guess a number" games. 

For those that show interest in programming, I'd guide them towards more code oriented modding (scripting) and also Khan Academy to learn a programming language. It's a great resource.

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