Sploder is nominally a web-based game-making tool, but, actually, it’s more a collection of tools that make different yet somehow all sort of same-ish platform games. I think either different developers made different tools and then one person bundled them together or one developer kept starting and stopping projects and decided to release all of them instead of making one really good tool. They all sort of are meh with inconsistent creation metaphors, inconsistent levels of in-tool help, etc. It’s all sot of haphazard, and it’s hard to recommend Sploder over something like Construct 2 or GameMaker Studio. I basically wrote this in a review for Graphite (not yet published), too.
Back in June/July, before sHMUP bLUFF, I worked on Button Quest, a game using Flowlab with Sandra Danilovic. Part of the challenge was to learn the web-based game maker well enough to review for Graphite.
It’s a web-based game-making tool meant for kids and classrooms. Everything is driven through the web interface and there’s no programming involved. There’s also tons of pre-built sprites with animations and pre-defined behaviors (friendly NPCs, enemy AI, etc.).
The first thing I noticed about Sploder is that when you create a game, you have the option of creating a specific kind of game: a platformer, a puzzler, a top-down shooter, etc., and each of these choices gets you to a particular interface specifically for making that type of game.
And this made me want to try to push Sploder as much as possible, to create games within particular genres that break the genre. For example, what if we (Sandra and I) made a shooter game where the enemy aren’t trying to kill you and instead actually heal you or something?
In trying this out, I discovered that all you do in Sploder is drag and drop art onto a stage. Each object has behavior associated with it that cannot be tweaked. You can’t, for example, change how often and for how much damage a particular enemy ship shoots. You can’t change its speed or anything…
So, I played around with it a bit and came up with the game sHMUP bLUFF, where you are meant NOT to do anything other than watch. But Sploder still has built-in controls, so you could take control of your ship whenever you want. So the game is an exercise in trust… trusting that your wingman is there for you and will protect you. And maybe it’ll succeed and maybe it won’t. And if you take control of your ship, do you break that trust?
And I sort of saw this as a metaphor for living with a loved one who suffers from depression. The player ship is the person who suffers from depression and sometimes just can’t bring themselves to do anything… The wingman is a friend or family member who is trying to protect. (But perhaps this is the wrong metaphor… like often there’s just nothing anyone can do, really… there’s no “fixing” or solving the problems of depression… there’s only coping, so I don’t know how good a metaphor this game is, really, but there you have it… what it can sometimes feel like.)
In other news, Ana and Dennis are still making games regularly!
And in other other news, we got a session accepted at NASAGA on our Game A Week Challenge!
I hear that the International Conference for the Learning Sciences (ICLS) this year actually has a social media planning group and they’re interested in how I did collaborative notes for past conferences. Yay!
If only there was interest when I was actually doing it in years past, but maybe the time has finally come for critical mass?
One of the main issues with taking effective collaborative notes is getting critical mass of people doing it so that all the sessions are covered. For that there really needs to be exposure, but my tactics usually were to just tweet the urls of the google docs (or etherpad back in the day), and it’s pretty surprising how few academics are on twitter, even for the kinds of conferences I go to…
Another equally (if not more) important issue is when the conference doesn’t have good wifi, which is also surprisingly very often… For as long as I’ve had an Android phone, I’ve been able to get around this by tethering my phone and creating an ad-hoc wifi network for anyone to join. Sometimes, though, even cell reception is bad, like in the basement of a hotel… This issue with access is even worse (for me) when the conference is outside the US, since I’m not likely to tether my phone with international data rates.
Besides taking collaborative notes, I would often also set up a backchannel (besides twitter, too), either through IRC or, like with GLS 2013, a private google doc with specific people I want to be more informal with (snarky, commenting on other things in our lives, planning dinners, etc.)… There’s definitely a research study waiting to happen about how conference goers manage their communication. :)
If anyone is interested, here’s some of the collaborative notes from various conferences I’ve been to in the past few years:
Digital Media and Learning
American Educational Research Association
- AERA 2011 gdoc which basically leads to the wiki that Stian created
- the sad, sad AERA 2012 gdoc that isn’t populated at all since the conf was in Vancouver, making doing online notes pretty costly over cell networks, and because it’s AERA, the wifi sucked.
Computer Supported Collaborative Learning
- didn’t bother creating one for CSCL 2011 since it was in Hong Kong
- Computer Supported Collaborative Learning 2013
Games Learning Society
- Games Learning Society 2011
- volunteered for GLS 2012, meaning I had no time to take notes!
- at GLS 2013, I took notes with my Pepperdine students rather than with the conference at large, but I think this year I’ll make us all do open notes.
Check out unfinished failure: On the Difficulty of Being an ANT: The Interactive Version!
Last week and this week, I’ve been sort of stuck in a moment of nonproductivity with regard to the #gameaweek challenge that I’m doing with Ana, Dennis, Melissa, and Greg. Ana is super inspiring and still going strong and even wrote about her experiences in the ProfHacker column for The Chronicle of Higher Ed!
My moment of stuckage can be primarily blamed on two things. First, I’m making a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure game with Inklewriter based on Latour’s dialog found in his book Reassembling the Social. It’s an interlude between chapters in the book and features a professor having a conversation with a student, and it’s called “On the Difficulty of Being an ANT.”
The game I made this week started out as one where you try to keep a student awake in class, but I watched a bunch of cat videos on YouTube last night…
I did it! I finished a set of print-n-play files for the Co-op Space Card Game I’m making!
Co-op Space Card Game.print n play prototype (PDF) FIXED! (There was a printer set up error… print Actual Size on 8.5×11 in. paper)
The art is NOT final. Nor are the rules, really…
And here’s a copy of the syllabus:
This week continued to see some great #gameaweek games from Ana, Dennis, Melissa, and, new to the mix, Greg Koeser. It’s astonishing how much we’re providing commentary for academia. So far we’ve seen my Flappy Bird clone that shows the futility of trying to succeed as an academic, Ana’s work/life balance game that also seems pretty futile last week and now this week her IF game about grief but also about getting tenure, Dennis’s IRB approval game that is yet another sisyphean experience. Melissa created an old-school first-person RPG, similar to the old Wizardrys, except that it’s sort of mashed up with Desktop Dungeon in that you need to explore and kill things in a certain order like a puzzle game. Greg’s entry is a card game! It uses standard decks of cards and features bidding and winning cards using other cards.
I continued to work on the Space 4X Co-op Card Game ^TM.