It has been about a year since the last post in this forum so I’m feeling an update is about due, lest any wandering teachers who come across this looking to do something with the game think it has been abandoned !
Although when talking to Niv about this he was clear that he didnt see it as a forum that would see much traffic, he was keen that such a place existed that teachers could find if they came to the Vault. Also, I suppose it is fair to say that it has been a year unlike any other so there is maybe an excuse if any were needed.
So, what has been happening?
Well, as far as Matthew ( the PT computing I was working with) and I’s games design class is concerned very little. When lockdown came to Scotland last March it was about three weeks too soon ( that sounds like understatement )! Our class’ final projects were proceeding well and they were all capable of and on their way to creating a module with at least three areas. However, overnight the school was closed and that was that. We managed to have a look at the unfinished projects in the absence of the kids and gathered the following thoughts -
It was disappointing to see that the games were virtually unplayable. Although some had completed the areas and most of the conversations, there had been no time to look at bugs etc. With even another week or two the situation would have been much brighter.
There was a lot of good stuff. Various pupils had used their own resources ( shields, decals, sounds, voiced conversations, even a couple of new models - one a great looking ballista) so that was pleasing.
One of the groups who had achieved the most had done so by working as a team with each doing a different area and exporting as erf into the final project. It seemed to have worked although we couldn’t check with the pupils concerned.
More importantly what did we learn from the project? Well, Matthew and I had lunch in the garden one day over the summer holidays and we discussed the course. He began by saying that he reckoned it had been a big success, both in amount covered and in the enjoyment the kids had taken in the project. That was good to hear.
There were various other positives but being Scottish and Calvinist by nature we soon moved onto what we could have done better which is probably more use to anyone thinking of starting a project like this.
Firstly, Niv kindly offered us free educational copies of the game for our project but we didn’t really push this. I suppose we thought the kids would jump at the chance but this was at the start of the course and they didn’t really know what it would be like. It also let us see the inequality in terms of hardware and internet connections the pupils in the class had. That made setting homework impossible. That has since been emphasised by @BlackRider with his project where his school machines only barely coped with the game itself. I think if we did this again we would try to ensure they all had adequate hardware. The Scottish Government has promised to improve things for every pupil in this respect so it may have improved over lockdown.
The second thing we took from this was that the final project took a long time. The kids had at least four weeks as it was, to tackle their final projects and with the other three that were taken away from them by the pandemic that would’ve been 7 weeks in total. A lot of time to take out of a course. In hindsight we felt that we could have had a narrower remit for the final project and maybe started them thinking about it once they had seen what the toolset could do so they could work on it throughout the year.
Over the summer we agreed to see if anything was possible in August when the schools returned with the new games class. I offered to help remotely as I wasn’t going in in person being unvaccinated and Matthew suggested Microsoft Teams and sharing my screen was a possibility. To cut a long story slightly shorter, we tried this and it worked to an extent although it was weird. I shared my screen with Matthew’s laptop which was attached to the whiteboard and we managed, slowly, over a few weeks to introduce them to the toolset and build an area or two with transitions but not much more before we were locked down again.
Since then we agreed that Matthew was having enough work coping with staff self isolating, class changing in front of him etc. so we decided to put NWN on the back burner till things improved. And they haven’t really so far . . .
However, I very quickly got a bee in my bonnet ( Scottish expression meaning to become obsessed?) about how we could have done the final project better and in particular managed to get the final project done in less time. At that point I was occasionally childminding my 7/8 yr old granddaughter Ruby who was getting into stories about wizards etc. It occurred to me that maybe what the kids needed was a much narrower focus plus something that wasn’t entirely new to them. What if we had set them the task to either remake an existing children’s story or else give us a plan for a new one which we could ensure only had a few areas ? I started checking to see if there was much in the way of childrens’ story modules on the Vault and found very little. I had a look at a very old module on the Vault, Jack and the Beanstock, and reckoned that would be a decent task for them. Simple story/ they know it already/ we could stack up the resources they would need.
It would all have ended well if I had stopped there but I then reckoned that we didnt want to be too prescriptive so what if we offered them the chance to make up their own childrens’ story. Could we still keep it manageable? As fate would have it, Ruby saw me playing with the toolset one day when she came over for a meal and asked me what it was. I showed her briefly, she was entranced by how easy it was to create a 3D world ( not her words !), did I have any dragons, could we have a little girl saved by a pink dragon . . … and we were off down a rabbit hole !
But a useful rabbit hole I think. It gave me some ideas , got me building ( which is always good for a teacher to be able to show you can do what you ask the kids to ) and ended up with a module, a short story and a granddaughter who is now writing some ideas for the sequel she wants to help me build.
More of that later and some thoughts about what I’ve learned on the way and how it might change our course - if we even get the chance to resume our lives.