Doing Your Students’ Assignments

Face down


I’m teaching a class at the University of Malta at the moment called “Prototyping for Game Designers”. In essence it’s a class in which I’m supporting the students in learning how to use GameMaker:Studio to make games with the still-useful book The Game Maker’s Apprentice. So a lot of the more practical stuff is taught in the book and from that perspective I’m mostly there as someone who’s done the assignments before and uses GameMaker and therefore can be helpful.

But of course I’m also interested in questions about what games are and how they can be, so I feel the need to shoe-horn that into the course at the same time. My plan is to do that (so far) by doing the assignments I set for the class myself, and trying to think about what making these assignment games tells me about GameMaker and games more generally.

This week’s assignment was to alter an existing project from the book (called “Evil Clutches”) by only changing its aesthetic properties and numbers. So you could change the sprites, the sounds, the backgrounds, and also the speeds of things or what direction they move in and so on. And the objective was to use those technique to make “a new game”.

Having completed that assignment myself I thought it was really interesting as a process and, I guess unsurprisingly, confirmed a few of the things I’d been interested in illustrating about games. The really big one for me is how (at least in this specific context) changing an image doesn’t just have aesthetic effects (that’s rather obvious) but also hugely functional effects on how the game ends up working. So for instance, the fact that you can include transparency in an image, and that collision detection in GameMaker can take transparency into account means that how you make your sprite transparent and where totally affects gameplay. Lots of transparency might make it much easier to dodge enemy projectiles, for instance, or you could use transparency to make a mouth for things to fly into.

Anyway, this mostly just a post to say “I am teaching this course” and “doing your students’ assignments is a really good way to engage in a course you’re teaching” and “making new games out of old games is a really good exercise.” Good night.

18 November 2013
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