There were several objectives we wished to achieve during the day. Primarily we wanted to show the group that game making can be for everyone, no matter your background or situation. We also aimed to introduce some of the core game development principles and procedures without the need for any prior knowledge.
The day started with a short registration, including the group receiving Guerilla Tea T-shirts, making each of them honorary members of Guerilla Tea for the day…
This was followed by an awesome introductory ‘warm-up’ game coordinated by the NDCS staff, involving quick reactions.
We then ran through what the day would involve with short introductory talks from ourselves and Abertay. Alex gave a light hearted introduction to what code is, what it does within game development, and how our favourite games are underpinned by maths. Matt introduced visual design in games and the role that artwork and artists can have in game development. The talks culminated in a great inspirational speech from Abertay Lecturer Ryan Locke about why we love games and how that love can translate to game-making and one day game development as a career, and the routes made possible through courses at Abertay University.
From here, we split the group into the children interested in programming and those more keen on the art side, then put together the coders and artists into small teams of three or four.
Before jumping into anything technical, we began the day’s development with an initial design session for all the teams. During the prior week, we had put together the bare bones of a top-down endless runner game, and the design section essentially involved each team filling out a worksheet allowing them to come up with themes for the various parts of the game. They had a chance to choose the setting, the type of player character, the enemies and a selection of power-ups (we had pre-defined the functionality).
This workshop was actually run in a slightly different fashion to our previous workshop. Naturally during the course of a day, there was only the time to create a single type of game – the top down endless runner – but we wanted each team to give it their own flavour and theme, so by the end of the day we’d end up with a series of games, rather than one single product. We’ve found both approaches work very well.
By the end of the design session there were a lot of different themes for the game, involving various settings and some creative ideas for characters and enemies.
The day was then divided into two development sessions separated by a lunch break.
With a creative vision established for each team, during session one the programmers moved to a separate room to work with PCs, while the artists remained to begin creating the art assets for the games on paper. The programmers essentially got a very basic introduction to Unity, involving the layout, prefabs, transforms and the creation of game objects. Towards the end of the session they started on some basic code. The artists worked on creating line drawings for each game asset, ticking off each item on a list as they progressed.
Ryan and Matt used the lunch break to scan in and crop all the images.
After lunch we began session two. The artists moved through to the computer room, where they began working with Adobe Illustrator to add colour and some more detail to the assets. Session two for the coders involved writing the bulk of the code for the game; essentially the slightly more complex areas which made the whole game come to life. The result was a top down infinite runner involving three lanes of movement. Players move a player character from lane to lane, avoiding obstacles coming down the lanes, while trying to collect power-up items such as extra lives. The player’s score is recorded as the distance travelled which is displayed on the game over screen.
Guerilla Tea along with the excellent staff from the NDCS overlooked and helped with both sessions, and by the end of the day, each team had a working game, complete with unique themes and their own artwork. The day finished with a short evaluation session, and the group got a chance to showcase their creations.
The Day’s Creations
We have compiled all the games created during the workshop into a single mobile application for both iOS and Android. There is also a web version.
To run the workshop smoothly we created various documents and worksheets to keep things on track and moving forward. These may be of interest, particularly if anyone is thinking of running a similar event at some point in the future. Find the documentation at the link below:
The main take-away for running a workshop with any group of young people is to put in the hours of preparation before the day itself. You absolutely must pre-design and build the skeleton of a game of your choice, with the caveat being it must be incredibly simple. Think endless runner, space invaders clone, breakout game, etc but in all honestly the endless runner has worked well for us. During the workshop you essentially re-build the game step-by-step from a code side. For art, drawing on paper and scanning in the images proved to be the best solution for ourselves, and was the most fun in general for the group taking part. We did however include the basics of Adobe Illustrator to colour the scanned images which also worked very well.
All in all, the day was a great success and everyone taking part thoroughly enjoyed a taster of game development. A huge thanks from Guerilla Tea to the National Deaf Children’s Society, and to Abertay University for hosting the event.