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End of the phoney war ! New session (9)

At the end of the last blog entry we were gearing up for the "proper" course this year ( having skilfully given ourselves a head start by introducing them to the toolset in some detail at the end of last). Matthew and I had decided on the running order and, for anyone interested in learning from our mistakes I've given that running order below. It is of course very rough and as you will hear later in this blog entry prone to disruption / change !



Running Order for S4




27 - First meeting with class (20). Returning the Book tutorial with extension  work improving conversations/ characterisation using Plot Wizard.   TBF ( to be finished) today.





3 - First look at improving conversations in Plot Wizard  then onto conversation editor to further  improve conversations. Other aspects of CE such as animations, sounds, adding 3rd person etc. Will include simple scripts to be picked up later in year. TBF today.


10 - I can’t make this date. We’re down for floor decals tutorial. Matthew to handle !   smiley      TBF today.


17 - Free play to use what they have learned. TBF today.


24 - Begin Fern tutorial (incl. CE)






15 - Continue Fern ( I’m on holiday till 16th)


22 - Continue Fern


29 - Continue Fern






5 - Start Custom shields ( those with knowledge of Blender can miss out and  move onto start of Snowman tutorial )


12 - Finish Tarot's Custom shields tutorial and peer review of shields in games.


19 - Catch up periods on shields or other work for absentees and slow movers.   TBF today.


26 - Extra features day plus choice of simple tutorials from list.  (Scripts for dialogue above PC head, tutorials such as adding henchmen, sudden attack from nowhere, hidden/secret doors plus simple additions for less able or willing ( horses, sitting PCetc.)





3 - Finish extra tutorials.               TBF today.


10 - Multiplayer game for whole class? Still to choose module. Make one up? 


17 - Finish Multiplayer game.       TBF today







7 - Blender snowman  ( how many of class attempting this still to be decided by efforts on previous custom objects) 


14 - Blender snowman


21 - Blender snowman


28 - Blender snowman         TBF today





4 - Brief for own module.  Emphasis on storyline/character building. Cover possibilities of environmental, historical and other possible themes.  Pupil rough notes on their ideas for module by next week. Examine technical possibilities for teaming up?


11 - Building


18 - Building


25 - Building





3 - Building


10 - Building


17 - Building


24 - Peer review of modules ( using MP ?)


31 - finish write up of Games Design assessments ( already begun after each stage).       TBF today





21 - Review of course by pupils.


28 - Spare week to round off.




During exam leave Matthew and I to evaluate course, decide whether or not to continue into next year/add other classes.



I think detailing every week's progress is a bit over the top so I'll be aiming to update this around every two weeks as work continues, the aim being to encourage others to follow in our footsteps with the release of EE, the new module Moonsea and a general resurgence in interest. I've said before that I got into this as I haven't seen anything better for encouraging kids to build their own games and that is still the case. For me, its difficult to see what the learning curve has between say Scratch and Unreal or Unity, both of which I find very difficult if not impossible. Even the weakest of our class has already made a 3D landscape with two areas, transition from one to the other, added a conversation, improved it, added combat and reviewed their work. 



Anyway, week 1.


I confess, having had more than 30 years as a teacher that going back into the classroom to continue something begun before the holidays fills me with trepidation but I needn't have worried. The class was engaged, keen to get back into the toolset and my biggest problem was now that they thought they knew what they were doing and were running away from me. I'd forgotten that "trying to keep all the tentacles of the octopus down at once" feeling. 


We began with recapping what we had done ( 2 areas plus transitions) then moved onto creating a wizard ( Cuthbert) who had had his spellbook stolen. Cue, fetch and Retrieve plot . . . I carefully took them through the stages of Plot Wizard, which I still maintain is a great way to get folk building stories when they know nothing. It went better than I thought and took virtually no time ,even allowing them to make up their own conversations. Matthew and I decided at the very start of this that we wanted stories at the heart of any modules they built so I gave them some rules about their conversations. We had a short talk before starting them about why characters matter in stories ( makes you care about what happens, hope they get what's coming to them etc.) and how you build stories in the English class or maybe more relevantly how professional authors build them. I went back over how I'd approached it in my English classes - that is that an author can build characters through


1. what the character says

2. what he does

3. what others say about him 

4. through anything the author chooses to tell us about him  ( eg. he was a small man but very quick tempered . . )


I was at once disappointed that none of them had heard about this in the dept. but happy that they picked up the idea quickly. I didn't have to resort to the old music hall approach of sending a kid out and getting him to come in 4 times while I said the same thing in the four different ways. Anyway, most of them chose to go with a bumbling old wizard and a rather brash PC ( to allow them to insult Cuthbert with immunity I suspect) but that was a start. 


Once they had complete Plot Wizard and tested that it worked - it did - they went back through it editing the plot nodes personalising the generic bits ( plot giver into Cuthbert, item into spellbook etc.) and onto improving the conversations. This was where we hit our first problems as they took what I said to heart and started changing everything !  They changed the wording in the plot nodes, the names of the characters, the object in the chest, even the character tags etc. ) resulting in the game being confused and a couple of them having to redo their Plot Wizard. 


However, the lesson had gone well and they had a few laughs looking at each others' work and the various insults thrown at poor Cuthbert. They left saying that had been easy and indeed several were finished and back improving their areas well before the end.  Success



Week 2


You'd think at my time of life I would have learned . . .  I went in for week two, metaphorically whistling a happy tune and arrived to find SCHOOL PHOTOS FOR S4 DAY !!! Apparently Matthew had only found out earlier that day through email that it was happening and it meant that every 20 minutes a different group would leave then come back. There was no way I was going through the whole of Conversation Editor in those circumstances so we . . . busked, in time honoured teaching tradition. 


First I got them to open their own conversation in CE and showed them what the various buttons were for - they enjoyed the animation and play sounds here. They mucked about changing text colour and the like and I got them to add just a reply to one of the conversation nodes then save it and check it out. Once we got into the second period, however, there were some who had been to photos and done everything so I just sat at the computer and showed them lots of little things I thought we might have missed on our run through the toolset last year. These were picked only as they occurred to me and in no order were


how to get a road to create its own footbridge by dragging it across a stream ( they liked this for some reason),


creating a waterfall basically the same way,


adding a horse and riding it around ( I know, I was needing a show stopper and boy, that was it). They ended up having horse races but by the end they were fed up as they couldn't get rid of their horse which kept following them around smiley        I couldn't help them either as I'd never looked at that. 


So, no way could we say that things were going according to plan at the end of that day. We are now almost a week behind ( we only do this for a double period, in the other two periods Matthew takes them for non NwN related parts of the course, at least partly as we don't want to sicken them of the game). That means that our carefully planned running order now suffers its first blow as I'll have to take the double next week to really look at how conversations are structured, introduce them to variables and nFirstTimeTalked etc. and get them to construct a new character with a new conversation, using "Text appears when . . ", "Actions taken" etc. . I'm going to change our simple Cuthbert story to add another wizard then introduce them to the power of scripting by using something I found on the Beamdog forums about teleporting a PC . I tried it for myself using Script Generator, it worked and looks great so our story is now that we can't find the mine entrance we need to recover the spellbook but this wizard can teleport us inside but we'll have to persuade her to do so. 


Hopefully, there'll be no more ruinous disruptions or I'll be needing that teleport spell myself . . . 




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