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The Perks of being a Retired Person ! (7)

"We are due to finalise plans for next session in the week after next and I'll have an update then".

 
 
 
I wrote that over five weeks ago and actually thought it would happen. The world of schools is a strange one in many ways. As a teacher it's full on ALL the time until you get to Exam Leave round about the start of May and then the sun comes out, the seniors get leave for their exams and the oldest ones never come back from that, timetables move on yet the new year groups don't arrive till august and staff at last get time to grab their breath and prepare properly for the next session.  Except it never, ever happens that way . . . . and I should know that by now.
 
 
 
So, Matthew, the PT I'm working with to try to use NWN in his Computing Dept. has been frazzled. Through no fault of his own he's having trouble even remembering what day it is never mind when he's meeting me. Our planning meeting didn't happen and has been put off till the summer holidays so we can find time to sit down and actually talk about what we're gonna do and who with. He's coming up to mine's for a lengthy lunch and we'll sort it then. He's also had no time to progress his knowledge of Blender by following @Barbarian's tutorial which we're planning to use with the kids. In the realm of sod's law, apparently there is a new version of Blender imminent and it will completely changed the UI, leading us to discuss with Barbarian the idea of him doing even more work by retaking the screenshots for the tutorial.
 
 
 
There was a time when all this would have worried me but I find myself completely calm about it at the moment. And there has been an up side. Matthew and I decided that we would use the two or three weeks we had left before the summer holidays to introduce two of his new classes to NWN in some shape or form. He asked if I could come in and lead the introduction of the game with his new S4 Games Design class ( about 18 of them around 14/15) and the senior Games Design class (aged 15/16, fewer - about 6 atm but this will change with exam results). We decided to make use of the luxury we have in that I already know the Toolset pretty well, Matthew is learning but probably not confident enough to lead its introduction and two in class is better than one. so, I've been in to both classes in the last week and details are below.
 
We decided that we wanted both classes to experience playing the game as well as building so we chose the following:
 
1. A short  introductory module I created to show gameplay basics, combat, area transitions, puzzles, the importance of a story and, in passing,  the importance of approaching the game with the eyes of a builder. Being an ex Engligh teacher I'm really keen that we pick up on the narrative possibilities this game offers through the use of things like dialogue over PC's head to provide backstory, building up charcter of NPCs, use of books to further the narrative as well as contain puzzles/clues, just anything that gets the kids away from the keyspamming approach to games.   I have to say this went better than expected and the kids were fully engaged. Still amazes me how quickly some of them get on the builder's wavelength and suss out what he has  ( or rather I've) done.  In both classes about half managed to finish the module in a single period which is about 40 minutes, allowing us to move on.
 
2. Intro to the Toolset.  Matthew and I talked about this and the need to get something finished in limited class time to allow them to get a buzz from the building. We have a short tutorial called Returning the Book I created which is basically two areas a few enemies ( one single, one encounter) and using Plot Wizard which impresses me more and more as I use it for more complicated plots. however, we agreed it would take more time than we had to complete it before the holidays .
 
3.  Lockstep.  For the reason above we decided that I would lead both classes through a simple build with area transitions, v simple conversation and a quick retrieval of a spellbook for Cedric the mage. This we did and its fair to say both Matthew and I got a buzz as the kids tilted their toolset for the first time and saw the 3D possibilities, then later when they tested their first transitions. They were MUCH better than I expected at following what I was doing quickly. I'm aware that having two in the class helped a lot and that is something not many schools would have and I'm gonna bang the drum again and say that if we want schools to take up this great toolset they will need help from this community.  Volunteering to show your local  Computing Dept. the ins and outs would be snapped up, I reckon.  I'm going to give a shout out to Yeneko's mods to the UI here. His "Larger and more readable fonts with UI adjustments" made a huge difference to the clarity and readability of my module on the board.
 
So, not ideal but we now have two classes fired up and keen to build. I'm going back in again this week where we are going to cover combat, weather plus skyboxes and then allow them free time to develop areas with a bit of eye candy. Any absentees from last week can use the short tutorial ( plus video) we created to catch up.
 
 
 
Matthew and I talked a little about our planning meeting in the summer. Before then he needs to get back to Blender and improve his working knowledge of the Toolset. At the moment it's great seeing him build along with the kids and learning with them but he'll need to feel confident leading. This way has taken the weight off the need for him to pick it up so quickly and as a result I think he's keener to use the game more. Before then, I have some things to finish, such as Barbarian's Snowman tutorial where my usefulness is best described as on the chocolate fireguard scale, but also I need to find an easier alternative for some of the less able kids as one of the requirements of their course is to create something and import it into a game. I have asked Tarot here on the Vault if we can turn the simple floor decals help that he gave me in the forums into a tutorial and he has agreed so I've started doing that.  As this avoids using Blender entirely I think a few of the kids would be more suited to this. 
 
Other issues we need to discuss at our planning meeting are how much scripting we want to bring in ( I'm aware how big a part this plays in most building so its more how and where to bring it in) and the whole aspect of multiplayer. Niv, when we discussed this briefly with him was quite keen that MP should be a part of any interaction with the game as it is one of the most useful parts. I can see the idea of kids playing each other's modules co-operatively could be a lot of fun and useful as well as leading them to want to take part in playing the game after leaving the class.
 
 
 
Which, brings me finally to the problems which still need to be solved.
 
 
 
1. MP. Problem we have is likely to be our network and its restrictions  but Niv has again kindly offered us help in setting that up. I'm guessing I'll need to get online and play some MP games so I can see whats going on. Atm, I haven't a clue about this aspect.
 
2. Space on pupils's directories. We got a blow when we discovered the low maximum amounts that can be allocated to individual pupils on the school network. With building plus Blender thats gonna become a huge issue.
 
3. Kids playing the game and building at home. If we do this right they're gonna get fired up and want to put in more time than we have in class. How do we support that? We have mentioned that the game is on sale just now so that may be as much as we can do.
 
4.  How much we can let the classes see, explore and be part of this community ( or indeed how much the community would want youngsters around)? In a school setting we obviously have to think about these things. For my part the game in class, wanting to build, natural place to be part of being the Vault, publishing first rough stuff, leading to sophisticated builder, an enjoyable pastime, AND/OR creating a folio of work to add to CV if they want to go into college then the games industry is a very sensible route but we'll have to think more about that. 
 
 
 
So, hopefully an enjoyable week next with the kids getting time to be creative. And then early in July we'll sit down and make some decisions about  exactly what the course will look like and what materials we will use. 
 
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