March 31, 2012

Our week at KSAO

½ of TJR spent the week 12 at Kouvola, teaching Windows Phone 7 development at KSAO. The trip was not only a huge success, but also fun and educational for TJR as well, so I thougt I'd write a few more lines about it here.

 We decided early on, before the trip, that making a game is the only proper way to learn to make a game, so we asked the Kouvoleans what kind of game they would want to make. 2D platformer excelled in the voting, and we nodded our heads in agreenment, thinking that we could include pretty much all the essential elements of WP7 game making in the process.

The process of making an example game started about a week before the actual trip, and we went wild with it, this time we could use any crazy idea without worrying about target audiences or plot, as long as it would have all the needed elements and be finished within a week. Thus, Dr. Globdor was born! This is not the last you will hear from him either, but let's focus on Kouvola for now.

We only had five days to teach the whole process, and unlike originally intended, most of the students didn't have any previous experience of working with XNA, only basic programming skills. Needless to say we were a little worried about how things would turn out with such a tight schedule, but the KSAO folks proved to be one of the most motivated groups of people we have even seen!

The students were divided into four groups,  each with a goal to come up with a different theme for their games. After the themes were decided, the programmers in each group were to write the code based on the samples we provided, with the necessary tweaks needed for their own projects. The artists were to create matching graphics, complete with sprite animations. When each day was through, we spend some time commenting the code produced, helping to understand and remember the workings better. We also threw in some game design pointers here and there.

This tactic proved succesful as we managed to convey most of the knowledge we intended, and we were amazed how it all seemed to sink in. Pretty much only two things from the original list of things to teach were left for the follow-up session; particles and publishing. Here are a couple of screenshots from the WIP versions (most of the graphics are placeholders!) of their games, we can't wait to see how they will look like in a couple of weeks when it's time to publish:

What we learned was that it is possible to pour unbelieveable amounts of information when the people receiving it are motivated and interested in the subject. We should've probably honed both our strategy and material some more before the trip, but this time both worked out great.

So thank you KSAO, we hope to see you again! More about Dr. Globdor in the coming week.