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Bilbo87

Looking for Suggestions to get my Son started

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I apologize if this is the wrong forum in which to ask this, but I figured beginners have the most recent experience in this area so I'd start here.

 

My son is 13 and, like so many, is very into gaming. He also started to build a few of his own Minecraft maps.  I want to encourage him to do more than just play the games, so I'm thinking of getting him some software / books to get him started.  This will be a Christmas gift

 

So my question: if I'm just looking for something for my 13  year old son to get started, what should I choose? GameMaker stands out as an obvious choice, but I don't know whether to start with the free version or go straight for more.  I also see a number of free programs out there, and I'm thinking I could download one of them and then buy a good book/tutorial to go with it for him.

 

I'm looking for something that is simple enough that he doesn't get frustrated, but can grow at least a little bit with him if he really gets into it.  I see him as more interested in building games than in coding/programming them.

 

Thanks for any thoughts / suggestions. 

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Hi. I can't advice you on game development as I am a beginner myself and I am still learning. I work as a teacher so the only advice I can give you is just start with a free version. A lot of kids have very short attention span and some may not pursue further. Every kid is different. Try out the free version first. Let him play around. Let him explore the software.

 

There's alos something I would like to add. There's many process in game development. There's the visual, creative side and the programming side. On the visual side, I would recommend to start messing around with blender. sculptris and gimp. Blender and sculptris does 3D and gimp is similar to photoshop. Both of which are free. If I am not wrong, Maya offer educational version for students for free. (someone might want to correct me if I am wrong) Check it out. Or even simpler, get him to draw, if he enjoys it!

 

As for the technical, programming side, I will leave it for others with better knowledge to advice you. I believe learning programming language at 13 is not a bad idea.

 

Good luck.

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GameMaker stands out as an obvious choice, but I don't know whether to start with the free version or go straight for more.


Have you talked to him? If he says "nah, I don't want GameMaker," then don't buy
it. If he's clueless, get him the free version for starters. When he's ready for
more, get the paid version.

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The paid version of GM is really only necessary if you need the extra features it provides, which are mostly tools for publishing to other platforms. The free version is sufficiently featured to create complete projects. You can weigh the costs and benefits of upgrading at that point.

 

Game Maker is an easy starting point, but it's also very easy to grow out of. Depending on his level of interest and skill you may want to consider Unity as an alternative.

 

I would recommend sitting down with him and checking out both tools, then maybe buying him a beginning game development book for he one he prefers (Helping him through the first few chapters may be fun.). Generally you don't need to spend money to get started with programming (assuming you already have a computer), but if you want to make a gift of it then a book can be a good starting point. Having a tangible guide can be motivational early on, as it can feel more "authentic" than reading tutorials and articles online.

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Have a look at Scratch, aimed at children, very visual, amazing number of users, and it's all free.

 

Edit: Lego has programmable blocks for controlling motors etc. Afaik they sell robot build boxes. If your son likes technical lego, that could be a direction.

Edited by Alberth

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I have to disagree with several of the comments above, having started myself at about the same age. It's not necessary to dumb things down at age 13, and indeed the "fake" stuff can be discouraging. Let him loose on real tools and see if it sticks or not. Unity is an excellent choice - it's free and easy to start with but used by many professional teams all over the world for a wide variety of games. I'd look into books that are designed to teach Unity programming from scratch. I found this book on Amazon:

https://www.amazon.com/Unity-Proficiency-Foundations-step-step/dp/1518699898/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481437570&sr=8-1&keywords=unity+programming

I haven't read it and am not recommending this one specifically, but something along these lines would be ideal.

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I agree with the above poster, when I was around thirteen I bought myself "Beginning C++ with Game Programming - Beginning C++ Through Game Programming https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1435457420/ref=cm_sw_r_cp_api_hAqtybFR4JEG9" and I also installed CryEngine 3, the book provided a good introduction to C++ while been fairly interesting and when I was bored of it I would watch tutorials on YouTube by 1Richmar which covered programming within cryengine (his how to create an RTS game ones are great).

I have just read the bottom part, if he is more interested in the creative side, maybe he would enjoy something like 3Ds Max and cryengine so he could create some complex levels, there are huge amounts of tutorials for 3Ds Max or Maya on YouTube so he can always find resources and I found it extremely satisfying, there is a great tutorial series by a YouTuber called millenia - https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL925958D31D8D30C7

At that age I found software like scratch boring, it was so restrictive and frustrating, there is so much more you can do in "proper" software even if it is more complicated it's a lot more satisfying.

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Although for now his focus is on building games rather than programming them, he may want to cross over in the future, and programming is still a worthwhile skill with good employment prospects, and my experience is more with programming, so my answer is focussed on that.

I would enquire with his school if they will be taught any programming languages in IT classes. Python or Java would be candidates IIRC. As I replied to another post, Allen Downey's Learn to Think Like a Computer Scientist eBooks (available FREE as PDFs at http://greenteapress.com ) may be useful to one or the other of you. There are Java, Python and C++ versions available.

C++ is the big bad language and may terrify your son, or alternatively intrigue him with raw power: Java would give him the ability to program games on Android phones / tablets, C would let him program iPhone / iPad.(Someone please correct me if I'm wrong)

This free online course may help with the Android game programming - it runs periodically throughout the year: https://www.futurelearn.com/courses/begin-programming

 

I learnt to program at a similar age to your son, so if he has the interest he will be able to pick it up, run with it and thrive. I think this is the point most of the above replies are making.

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Talking from experience of how i started programming, I would suggest anything, that has a long tutorial in his native language (10-15 parts minimaly) and is not difficult to install (even if you install it, difficulties with specific installation may occur). As I rememner, I wasn't initialy very interested in tutorials, but after a few parts, I was realy dragged in and was able to sacrifice most free time to go through the rest. The platform / language you choose does not have to be specificaly focused on game. If publishing the result is not expected, then some game-like projects can be done pretty much in everything.

Now I was talking about programming. But if there is a chance, that he might become more interested more in art, then you might also want to choose platform, on which he can focus strictly on art (for people interested in art, the programing psrt is something like instalation for programmers - necessary boring task you want to get rid of as fast as possible).

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Having experienced something very similar to this when I was about 10 myself, I would recommend getting for him the free version of Game Maker along with a good book to get him started. That was something which I did myself and it turned out to be a very good introduction to game programming.

 

Additionally, you would want to make sure that he gets started using the Drag-n-Drop but later switches to writing code, since, that's what he's going to do after growing up, write code. Game Maker would provide him with a good introduction to programming/coding since GML is very similar to Javascript and hence he won't have much trouble learning other languages later. He would probably need to learn OOP, algorithms, design patterns, etc. later since GML is just a scripting language.

 

After he has had enough of experience (and fun) using Game Maker, created some cool games, etc. he could start with something like C++/SDL/SFML or Python/PyGame to learn the underlying mechanics of game development. Instead, he could even start with Unity or Unreal, etc. now, but getting some low-level experience is always helpful.

 

 

Unity is an excellent choice - it's free and easy to start with but used by many professional teams all over the world for a wide variety of games.

 

Probably not, unless he has prior programming experience. Unity has a steeper learning compared to Game Maker, and the other easy ones. Unity is probably made for professional game development and will be overkill for learning as a beginner. Chances are that he will get frustrated, and may even consider game programming to be very hard. Though he may get through it with some effort, it will take a lot of time for him to get familiar with the environment. Nope, Unity is not a great choice to get started with (at least I don't think it is).

Edited by Tanay Karnik

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