Two and a half years later

A few weeks ago, CJ mentioned that Katherine wanted to get into programming, specifically programming video games.  That was a very pleasant surprise.  Katherine had gravitated toward the electrical and structural tasks on the stratoballoon project, but really didn’t seem all that interested in the software ones.  Fast forward two and a half years and she wants to program.  I’ll take it!

What little game development I’ve done was many years ago, so I poked around the internets for a bit and came across a piece of software called GameMaker : Studio from YoYo Games.  It was free for us novices, looked simple to use, and it had been around for a while (which hopefully meant it was stable and had at least a decent community around it, both of which turned out to be true).

Over the last week, then, Katherine and I have been working on her first game.  You move your character around – Ssundee of Minecraft and YouTube fame – and collect blocks of cobblestone (also from Minecraft).

Kat Game

A very simple game, but we had to work out each little piece.

First, we built in the movements for Ssundee – left, right, up, and down.  That was fairly easy, but we quickly discovered that you could walk Ssundee right of the board.  Our next task, then, was to add some logic that prevents you from moving too far in any direction.

Next we wanted the cobblestone to appear at random places around the board, so we have a loop for that, placing the blocks at random (X,Y) coordinates.

Then we wanted Ssundee to pick up the blocks when he ran over them.  For that, we had to detect when Ssundee “collided” with a block, and turned it invisible when that happened.

Finally we added a “popping” sound when Ssundee ran over a block, similar to the sound effect that you hear in Minecraft when you pick something up.  Fun fact: Katherine was not only the creative director and set designer on this, she was also the foley artist, voicing the “pop” effect.

A very simple game (and one we’re not done with yet), but it was enough to get Katherine’s programming feet wet.  When we get it a little further along, we may end up posting it as a playable download.  There are a lot of things we could do with this game yet.  Katherine is thinking that we need a villain to chase Ssundee around the board, and possibly a score board.  I think the randomization logic needs a new seed each time the game starts up (as it is, the blocks are “randomly” placed in the same spots every time). 

Overall, though, it warms the geeky cockles of my heart just to see her interested in software development.

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