We have been putting on several courses throughout Halton funded by Halton Youth Provision, including a seven week set of Video Game Design sessions at The Studio Widnes for young people aged 10 to 16 years.
During this project our participants were tasked with creating their own video games on a variety of platforms. The process involved creating hero sprites, enemies and in-depth level design while introducing game building and coding elements.
We started our seven week course using the Bloxels app. In Bloxels users can quickly get the building blocks of a level in place and design hero characters to drop straight into the action. This session was very much about getting the participants hands-on with the app so that we could go through some more advanced moves later in the course.
Participants continued to develop their levels in Bloxels, this time adding decoration to the building blocks and more animation to their hero. We introduced the idea of a difficulty gradient to the games; video games tend to get more difficult as the game progresses, so there is little point adding your toughest section right at the beginning of the level!
More Bloxels this week, with participants now adding enemies to their levels. Would they jump, fly or even shoot fireballs? Those decisions and more were with the makers, but again we stressed the importance of the difficulty gradient. Game designers never waste their biggest, meanest boss on level one; the first enemy a player faces on Super Mario is famously a weak little Goomba!
This week we were also joined by a late starter, who worked extra hard to catch up with the rest of the group.
This week marked the group’s final Bloxels session, which meant final tweaks to level design, the last few enemies added in and some fancy additions; including unlockable doors and trigger points to make custom changes to music and weather conditions. If you thought fighting the last boss was tough, try beating it in the rain with a mean soundtrack blaring!
Then it was time to publish all the games to the Bloxels server, so that they can be played by anyone around the world, before we had lots of fun testing out all the games we’d made.
This week we started using Makecode Arcade, which differs from Bloxels’ block-based level design by introducing elements of coding. The participants first got their heads around creating top-down maze games, in which the player has to beat the clock to find the exit to a pesky labyrinth. We started by designing our first level and getting the basic code, which enabled a player to get from their start point to an end point at the opposite side of the maze against a ticking clock, in place.
In this session we took our mazes to the next level – literally! The participants added new stages to their maps by changing the previous end points to teleporters, which zapped the heroes from the first maps to brand new ones. They also added collectibles, such as coins or gems, to their games to give the player an extra incentive to explore every nook and cranny of the levels (while paying close attention to that clock!).
Our final session involved every participant getting three maze levels, replete with collectibles, unique decoration and character design, completed. Then they were invited to add enemies, who were drawn towards the player, hunting them down through the winding tunnels of the maze. Last of all it was time to export the games for everyone in the world to enjoy and for unlimited opportunities for participants to tinker away at their games at home.
As our last session fell less than a fortnight before Christmas we also invited participants to come dressed in Christmas jumpers, with many taking the opportunity with both hands, as you can see below!
Given the challenging times everyone has faced due to the Covid 19 pandemic; including instances of illness and social isolation, we agreed with our funders to centre our Halton Youth Provision projects in 2021 around health and wellbeing.
During this Video Game Design course our staff encouraged our young people to talk openly about their physical and mental health and regularly checked up on how our participants were feeling, through both informal verbal checks and written feedback.
Overall our seven week Video Game Design project was a resounding success; lots of new friendships were made and many young people signed straight up to do more activities with us. Thanks so much to Halton Borough Council for funding our youth provision in our local community this year.
Check our Coming Up page to find out what we are next doing near you!