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Archive for November, 2012

Flash for Game Development

November 29, 2012 2 comments

One big change I’ve made this session in my Games Development class is that I’m using Adobe Flash as the main development tool, whereas last year I used Blender. I changed for a number of reasons:

  1. there is a government-backed push to get more students to do programming. Making games with Flash requires quite a lot of programming, certainly more-so than Blender.
  2. students are very familiar with games made with Flash as there are thousands already on the web.
  3. there are more tutorials and books available for Adobe Flash than for Blender.
  4. the students use Flash in other parts of their course, so are gaining familiarity with the tool each week.
  5. Flash’s scripting language, Actionscript, is very similar to Javascript and it provides a stepping stone to learning Javascript for websites or apps.
  6. Adobe Flash can be used for making web based games, standalone games & mobile games (Android or iOS).
  7. familiarity – I’ve used Flash for over 10 years and know it better than any other game development tool.

This doesn’t mean that I’m giving up on Blender – it’s a great tool and I still intend to use it in other subjects. Indeed, I may well return to using it for Game Development in the future, and if I didn’t have Flash at college, then I’d still be using Blender.

Some might question my choice of Adobe Flash as there has been a lot of bad press claiming that ‘Flash is dead’. This isn’t the case – the Flash file format SWF is being supported less and less by mobile phones and tablet devices, but Flash can export in many more formats that can be used on a range of devices. Animation in Flash can be exported to Quicktime, GIF, AVI and other formats. Interactive Flash content such as games or apps can be exported to Air for Android, iOS and also to HTML5. So, Adobe Flash the authoring tool is alive and kicking, and still a very viable tool for a lot of digital media work.

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Computer Games: Media Assets

November 26, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s block two at college and we’re moving onto Computer Games: Media Assets for the next 12 weeks.

This is the unit that has the biggest crossover with other parts of the course that my NC level 5 students are doing. Already they’ve made animation and graphics, and had a chance to edit some video and audio, so they arrive at this unit with some of the practical skills.

During the first couple of classes we’ll be analysing some video games – examining the media assets in them and comparing similar games. We’ll be trying to assess if the graphics, sound, animation, etc, in a game can actually make it better. We’ll also be asking if graphics are a major appeal in buying a video game and if any other media assets, such as sound, have as big an impact.

Castle Smasher game

Castle Smasher

One of the first tasks we’ll do is a comparison of two similar games. This involves looking at two ‘Medieval Catapult’ games and comparing the sounds and graphics in each. The students will answer some set questions and then we’ll discuss which game is the best. The two games also have slightly different game mechanics, controls and interfaces, so this will probably come up in the discussion too. If you want to try this task yourself or with your own students then please download the tutorial. Feel free to remix it and share it with others.

Computer Games: Design – update week 12

November 21, 2012 Leave a comment

It’s the end of the first block at Carnegie College, and the last week of Computer Games: Design with my level 5 group.

So far 80% of the class has passed and there are a few students still working this week on a few final assignments (I’m expecting a pass rate of 85 to 90%, but may yet be surprised). This is an improvement on last year.

I’m reflecting on why the pass rate has improved, but I can’t say for certain what was different this year. Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. The students group seems more focused than previous groups. They get on well with each other and do a lot of work in class, rather than taking it home to finish. I can’t offer an explanation for this.
  2. The class seem more interested in computer games. Perhaps the interview process was more selective – directing students to more appropriate courses than in previous years.
  3. I may be getting better at it! It’s the third year of teaching these units. The first year is always hard – new units, assessments, lots of material to produce, lots of uncertainty. The second year is trying to identify and fix the mistakes of the previous year (yes, I make mistakes). In the third year most of the problems have been identified and sorted, so the focus can be on teaching and learning. If only teachers could be given adequate preparation time, maybe we could avoid some of the problems.
  4. More schools and colleges are offering the qualifications and I’ve been involved in lots of discussion about the units and assessment. These discussions have made me change how I teach and assess the subject.
  5. I’m teaching in a better classroom. The classroom is equipped with better computers that don’t crash as often, and have better software. The lighting is better, and although it gets too warm occasionally, there is a window we can open. It is less frustrating for myself and the students to work in this better environment.

Audacity – free audio editing tool

November 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Audacity is a favourite tool of mine for editing audio. It’s free and easy to use, so what more could you ask for?

Audacity can be downloaded from Sourceforge, and you should also get LAME, the free MP3 encoder, to go along with it (this will allow you to work with MP3 files in Audacity). There is also a portable version of Audacity, which is the one I use most often.

Finding LAME is often a hassle, but it can be found on the LAME download page hosted by Buanzo. Scroll down until you find a link beneath the heading For FFMpeg/LAME on Windows:

To get you started with Audacity I’ve made a short tutorial on making a laser sound effect with Audacity. The tutorial asks you to download a free sound effect from soundbible.com, then to apply some effects, trim the audio and save it. You will end up with a nice laser sound effect that could be used in a sci-fi game such as space invaders.

Feel free to download the tutorial, remix it or share it with others!