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Re: Loki...

"J. Perkins" wrote:

> I'm curious about that -- building a game with your son. I have a 9
> yr old and I'm trying to the same thing. I'm curious how you went
> about it, what he was and wasn't able to do, lessons learned, that
> kind of thing. If you get a chance, I don't want to take time away
> from the next game after all ;)

We started off with him just making suggestions - he became strongly
attracted to the idea of being able to have *anything* he wanted in
the game - but you'll rapidly discover that he'll *vastly* over-estimate
your ability to write things as fast as he can think of them!

Oliver started out doing 3D modelling - we have a copy of 'AC3D' ($40)
which is pretty easy for kids to understand.  He started off building
things that were just piles of cubes and spheres with no texture.  It's
important that your game be able to 'just work' when presented with
*any* 3D data - you won't want to have to explain the kinds of
arbitary restrictions that some games have on geometry - you have to
be able to take *any* file from the 3D modeller and have it just
be there in the game so that your player character can stand on it,
etc.  That places a lot of strain on collision detection - but it's
worth the effort.

Then he learned about texturing and GIMP (although he'd used GIMP
before - it's a little different working at relatively low resolution
for texturing - and learning about transparency and such).

Just that much was enough to get him interested in the math side of
things - doing 3D modelling required learning about angles, scale
factors, grids (which makes graphs and such come easy), similar triangles
...that kind of thing.

I made some aspects of the level design using a simple text file for
configuring things like the coordinate where Tux starts, where the
exit to the level is, where to put the various game objects like herring
and extra lives.  Oliver soon found he had to learn to use a text
editor to change those things.

We took the game to "Family Math Night" - an evening event they do at
the school once a year where they have simple math-based contests for
parents and kids.  We set the game up there and made posters showing
some simple examples of things like "How Tux Jumps" (simple equations
of motion) - we made a special 'race against the clock' level that takes
about a minute to play and had something like 100 children play it with
Tux T-shirt prizes for the best.   We took a bunch of chocolate bars
and designed new wrappers with Tux on it and handed those out - so it
looked like a "proper game" with merchandising!

Now that the teachers know that we do this, we quite often get requests
to do presentations.

Recently, Oliver is learning C programming.  We had done a little 'Logo'
programming - which is easy and has 'instant gratification' value...and
he'd programmed those Lego 'Mindstorms' robots using the 'Not-Quite-C'
language (NQC) that's specially designed for programming those beasts
under Linux...but not anything too sophisticated.

I find this a hard subject to teach.  It soon becomes obvious why 'real'
teachers have training for this kind of thing!

I plan to implement some kind of a 'plugin' system for the next game
so that he can add simple "AI" behaviours into the game - I think that
may help him to learn some more C.

He's gained quite a reputation as being the "Alpha Geek" at school and
sometimes turns in 3D renderings as part of homework assignments.

I was quite amused to hear him talking with one of his friends about
some football game on N64 - "Look - you can see the L.O.D change on
the players when there are too many of them in the field of view".


> You know, racesims have a pretty active free content community,
> particularly GPL and SCGT. Maybe there's something to be learned there.

Hmmm...although TuxKart didn't get any free content added to it by
the community and it's a racing game.

----------------------------- Steve Baker -------------------------------
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URLs : http://www.sjbaker.org
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