Game Design Challenge Accepted

Last week in Code Club students began the design phase of their individual Scratch project. I planned the session to go the same as Key Steps in Game Design did: guest speaker, game design document, short Scratch project. Things didn’t go quite the way I planned…

Guest Speaker: We had the same parent volunteer come and give the same talk about planning & time management. I was worried the ones who had heard it before wouldn’t pay attention, but each returning Code Club member has experienced the pain of running out of time and dealing with unfinished, buggy projects. So they listened.

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Game Design Document:  GDD Spring2015 This is the document where the students write out the plans and goals for their project, draw out their ideas for Sprites & Stages, define game flow & control elements, and set a schedule for achieving their goal.

gameplay

Game goals defined in the GDD

technical

Example of the Sprite and Stage design from the GDD of a new coder

Scratch Project: When I had finished going over the GDD, instead of wanting to work on a Code Club project, they all started to work on their game design and got down to planning. No one was interested in a project handout.  They had their own project to think about and that could not wait.  I was most impressed.

It is helpful, for me and the coders, to have been through this process once before. What made the difference, I think, from last time, is that this time I had examples of how a GDD turns into a completed project. I showed them a couple of different GDDs from the Fall -actual student work-  and then brought up the game it turned into from our Showcase#1 -more actual student work.

One student finished the GDD, with a bit of help from me, and had time to start working on the Sprites. Already!

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Sprite designs for new project

Two separate groups of three asked if they could work together.  My rule is these are individual or pair projects.  I turned one group down because I know them and one student would be doing all the work while the other two would have all the ideas. I have given a qualified ‘okay’ to the other trio on the condition that the jobs of each member are specified in the game document and divided evenly. I know them as well, and they might be able to manage. It is always interesting to watch team dynamics with students.  Another duo started out together but by the end of the hour had already decided to work independently.  Best to figure that out in the beginning.

By the end of Code Club I had a few finished GDDs ready for the design review this week. Some look pretty interesting and of reasonable scope. I’m not as nervous about their projects as last time.  The students have had less time to plan, but I’ve seen some of the planning they’ve done and I know what they are capable of.  I can’t wait to see what they’ve come up with!

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Pong with Flair

This week in Code Club we worked on a Scratch game project that was simple in design but could be creatively enhanced quite easily.  We used Simon Haughton’s Pong game directions.  That’s right, the old Pong game.  Of course, these 10 year olds had never heard of Pong.

When considering what project to try this week I took a look at the new Code Club Scratch projects that have just become available.  I have no doubt my students would love them all, especially Dodgeball.  I’m considering that for next time.

After their struggles with Paint Box, though,  I wanted to introduce a simpler project and Pong fit the bill.  My high school volunteers were excited about it, too.  One said he had written a Pong game before.

I started our code club meeting by talking about the independent project that is coming up. I want them to start thinking about what game or animation they want to design.  My goal, I explained, was to introduce a variety of projects to them so they could get an idea of what was possible to make using Scratch. They could even take a project they have already started and enhance it to make it their own.

With that in mind we started Pong.

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a new coders’ Pong game

I also put the original 2-person Pong game on screen and a break-out style game to give them ideas of where this kind of game could go.  It didn’t take them long to code their game so there was plenty of time for their creativity to come out.

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A code club girl’s take on Pong

Some students added extra objects on the screen to interact with and get or lose points.  Others spent extra time with the background and sounds.

There was even time at the end to look at or work on previous projects and think about their independent project that is coming up.  I saw one student adding more to his ChatBot project, another looking online at last sessions’ Showcase #1 projects.

A couple of students have asked if they could work in groups of three for the individual project.  I have my reservations about this.  Pair programming is hard enough. Some groups worked well together last time, others…. I have to come to a decision about this soon.