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Ghi102

An engine to use with teens with no programming knowledge

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Hi, I am organizing a two week daycamp for a group of around 30 teens aged 14-17 due for this summer. In this daycamp, I plan to create a game with them, using their own models and textures. This daycamp has already been done using the Blender Game Engine.

 

The problem right now, is that the Blender Game Engine (and Blender, in general) is fairly hard to use. Most of the two weeks is concentrated on learning the program to make basic models and it leaves little room to actually program the game.

 

So I was wondering, is there an engine or program that can be used to make a 3D game (that is a requirement), that is fairly easy to use, requires no programming knowledge (or very little). The engine or program has to be free, or cost very little. Bonus points if the program has an in-game model builder.

 

I am looking for something that will shorten the time needed to learn the program and make it easy to make games that can also scale and be relatively easy to use by 30 teens with different backgrounds (most with no or little programming language). I don't really want to have to teach Javascript, C# or C++ to the 30 teens, so I need something that has visual scripting or simple drag-and-drop tools.

 

Does a program like that exist?

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If you are looking for something with a visual scripting language, I would take a look at Unreal 4.  Epic just made it free for everyone and it has a visual scripting setup called "blueprints" that does an amazing job.

Edited by ByteTroll

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I started with Maratis 3D(http://forum.maratis3d.org). Uses Lua(Easy to use Language) and the api is simple. Free MIT liscense. My issue was it had fewer features than I liked.

The one I use now is Godot(http://www.godotengine.org/wp/). Steeper learning curve though. Unity has a steep learning curve, but I think they have more support.

Edited by Tutorial Doctor

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Why did you aim to make a 3D computer game with 14-17 year old people in two days? That does not sound like something that was thought through! Is it too late to change plans?

It can be done.

 

Unreal is honestly your best choice for visual set up. But uh... have fun getting the models to work.

There is also game maker. But you need sprites.

And... Unity is very quick to set something up in a few hours. But it requires programming.

 

 

The sad truth is, you can't get out of any evil.

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Let me start by saying that I am speaking from a position of experience in this field. I have written technical training for summer camps, taught for three years a summer camp teaching game design/programming using Game Maker, and currently mentor high school students in using Game Maker to design and build computer games.

 

...

 

 

Now I think about it... Game maker used to have a tutorial on making a game that was a plane scrolling arcade game. Also a platformer.

 

You should be able to find sprites all over the internet. Just remind students that they won't be expecting to make a profit.

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The 3D requirement makes this tricky. Ordinarily I'd suggest something like GameMaker or Scratch, but that's not so great with 3D. Unity and Unreal can do quite a bit of drag and drop stuff, but they pretty quickly run into limitations.

 

Alternately, if I were asked to specifically teach programming, I'd start the students out on Processing and build towards using its 3D facilities. But that doesn't help you much.

 

I did find this article that might be helpful:

http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/182860/suck_at_coding_but_make_games_.php

 

I expect that whatever you end up doing will probably require you to do some prep work to prepare the basic engine and tools setup beforehand.

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Let me start by saying that I am speaking from a position of experience in this field. I have written technical training for summer camps, taught for three years a summer camp teaching game design/programming using Game Maker, and currently mentor high school students in using Game Maker to design and build computer games.

 

I am not sure where other people have been getting two days from since it appears you mentioned that the camp will last for two weeks. Two weeks is a reasonable amount of time for a summer camp program.

 

There are a number of factors to consider when picking technology for a summer camp project. The most obvious question is what sort of computer resources are available? School computer labs are usually fairly substandard. Also IT typically has computer lab computers locked down pretty tightly and fighting the administrations to get the correct software installed can prove difficult. If you are going to use a 3D engine and especially a modern 3D engine then you will need to ensure the computers have modern video cards (on board graphics for something like Unreal Engine 4 probably won't cut it).

 

I originally tried C#/XNA with my middle school students but that proved very difficult. The hardest part was the typing speeds of the students. I was not only trying to teach how to program and how to make a game, but in some cases I was having to teach basic computer skills and typing.

 

Game Maker is a nice choice because you can start the students off with the visual scripting and then move on to the more advanced GML scripting. It allows the students to be productive fast and that keeps them from becoming bored or frustrated.

 

I have avoided trying to have students make a 3D game because of the complexities introduced with regards to the math and the graphics. 2D art assets are far easier to draw and the programming is simpler. I think it might be hard to explain things like quaternions, rotational matrices, and shaders to that age group.

 

I know you said you must make a 3D game but this is just my thoughts on the matter. My main advice is just to make sure you know what the system specs on the machines you will be using are and to test any candidate software on the computer to ensure that it will work.

 

 

Thank you for your answers. I will answer some questions and concerns that were asked.

 

So the reason I need to make a 3D game is for marketing purposes. This summer camp is part of a bigger one that has many other science camps (Biology, Chemistry and many others), but it also has another, smaller, 1 week Computer Summer Camp, aimed at 9-17 years old. That summer camp includes Game Maker (a very brief introduction, with most of the work already done), so it has to be drasticaly different from that one.

 

This summer camp is to introduce students to game making, working as a team, 3D modeling and texturing. An example of a project we did last year (using the Blender Game Engine) is a simple 3D platformer where the player would run to the exit, avoiding some obstacles. It wasn't a great game by any means, but it taught them some basics.

Blender is really menacing, with options to do some extremely complex stuff and the game engine is complex, but it's a bit too confusing for first time users. I am really exploring other options for this year. If I don't really find any, I'll stick with Blender.

 

The computers are university computers, so they are not that weak either. I would have problems convincing IT to install UE4 or any really big engine. What I would really need is a 3D Game Maker. I'm not sure if a software like that exists.

 

Also, I agree that 2 weeks is rushed, but I cannot really do longer since this is part of a bigger camp.

 

I will checkout Processing, it looks interesting. Also, FPS Maker looks good, but since this is part of a bigger camp that includes kids and teens aged 7-17, guns and most realistic weapons are out of the question. I could do with cartoony weapon that shoots carrots and a huge Lollypop as a melee weapon, but, it's going to be limited. Playmaker looks good too, I'm not sure how big Unity is though. Like I said, I would have a hard time convincing IT to install it, if it is quite big.

Edited by Ghi102

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I wish I lived nearby, I would surely volunteer. I am working on a curriculum myself for game programming. Right now I have it at 2 hours for the programming side. I think 1 week is good enough time if the curriculum is focused and clear. 

 

I am using a program called MagicaVoxel that makes 3D voxel models. This makes the modeling phase simple, so that you can get to the programming side sooner.

 

Sounds like a neat camp. 

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Built using the open-source PlayCanvas Engine our developer tools will blow you away.

A full level editor running in your browser, connected in real-time to every other PlayCanvas user.

Jam with your friends, collaborate with your colleages or just build a masterpiece on your own.

PlayCanvas is a free HTML5 game engine.

It apparently does not require any installation, has a in-browser editor with collaborative features.

I say that would be the perfect fit for a 2 week code jam for teens. smile.png

 

Of course, entering "html5 game engine" into the Google search box gives you more options, like Quintus, Phaser, Panda.js and Crafty..

 

 

That engine looks really good! I actually never have considered making a game using HTML5. I'll definetely check that one out!

 

I wish I lived nearby, I would surely volunteer. I am working on a curriculum myself for game programming. Right now I have it at 2 hours for the programming side. I think 1 week is good enough time if the curriculum is focused and clear. 

 

I am using a program called MagicaVoxel that makes 3D voxel models. This makes the modeling phase simple, so that you can get to the programming side sooner.

 

Sounds like a neat camp. 

 

Thanks for the answer. I'll take a look at MagicaVoxel. 3D modelling did take a huge chunk of time out of the two weeks, minimizing that would really help.

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Why would you organize something like this without planning? A bunch of teenagers with no prior experience making a game? Not a very good idea. It'll be even harder if they're bad at typing.

You should extend the camp by as much as you can. Even then, the game will probably suck. You should use Unreal Engine 4, it has a visual game programming system called Blueprints.

Edited by Ovicior

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If you took some time to actually read what Ghi102 has told us you would know that he is well prepared, has done a gig like this before and really does not want to install anything big - that would totally rule out Unreal4.

The HTML5 engine that I linked to has a visual IDE in browser which is multi-user so collaborative game making works with that "out of the box".

Also, Ghi102 has already said that the game would probably suck, but it is part of a bigger 'camp'..

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In case you want to just motivate the teens by having game done in trivial time and work, you may waste their time with game maker.

 

If education is the goal, than pick open source engine with active comunity, what would be the Ogre , if Irrlicht is active, consider it too.

 

They may get hooked very much after first tool or modified demo still.

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In case you want to just motivate the teens by having game done in trivial time and work, you may waste their time with game maker.

 

If education is the goal, than pick open source engine with active comunity, what would be the Ogre , if Irrlicht is active, consider it too.

 

They may get hooked very much after first tool or modified demo still.

 

Game Maker isn't 3D though. Well it can play 3D games, but it wouldn't be that great. Irrlicht looks nice, I'll check it out. But for now, PlayCanvas looks like the most promising thing.

 

Thank you to everybody who answered.

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Whatever you choose, like Unreal or Unity, given that they are so young I would create a base project than will form the foundation for them to add their models and other content. For the more adventurous/skilled participants you can encourage them to enhance features of the base that you have prepared to make the overall game feel more like their own.

 

You certainly do not want them to start from a blank sheet - I'm guessing you want it to be a fun challenge.

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Have you considered splitting game design and modeling/texturing into two diffrent camps? Both can very easily have two weeks worth of content. Having pre made assets for game design(or simply have the two courses cooperate, but with each class of students focusing on an intended discipline) will make life alot easier in terms of getting something done. Having to focus on content creation when also learning about building games can be very overwhelming imo.

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I think the general argument in favour of UE4 Is pretty well founded. It's a good engine, and the Blueprints system seems to be meshing well with non-programmers.

I would encourage investing some initial time in familiarising the participants with the fundamentals of programming (in this case, visual programming) in order to enabe them to embrace the mindset that is required to problem-solve with programming tools.

 

In the interests of being open, there is also the Blender Game Engine. It has a some-what restrictive visual programming tool called "Logic Bricks". It has a quasi-nodal interface, with the restriction that there are three columns for sensors, controllers and actuators, and each may only trigger left to right. Essentially it's a source - evaluation - action system.

It is possible to run Python as a controller if more advanced evaluation is required (or use an Expression controller which allows basic boolean operators and property (attribute) comparisons).

 

The biggest benefit of the engine is that it is embedded inside of Blender, a 3D modelling, animation, rendering, simulation, compositing ... program, which means it is very quick to import models, textures and other materials into the game, and no code nor export pipeline is required.

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