Video Games and Learning to Code

My son has loved video games for over a decade. In the last few years, he has tried out various coding and game design software in an effort to get his ideas onto the screen. He tried two of Youth Digital’s online classes, one for 2-D platforming and one for Minecraft modding. He worked his way through part of a book on using GameMaker (YoYoGames uses this software) and successfully created several games. He spent a little bit of time tinkering with C# and a little bit of time revisiting Scratch (MIT’s online coding program).

The latest program to catch his eye is an app called Hopscotch on the iPad. It was created by the same folks as Scratch and is very similar in design. It has one major difference though, and that is the lack of ability to draw and use your own sprites. Hopscotch uses emojis for all of the in-game items. At first I thought this would bother my son. After seeing him create a game, I now think it was freeing. The program recognizes all of the emojis, so the coding is simpler that the coding in Scratch was as far as collisions, creating solid objects, etc.

He worked out a fairly sophisticated boss battle over a few days, including power-ups and transformations, special enemies that come after you as you take away hit points from the boss, and all of the movement and firing controls.

Here are a few shots of the game editor screen. Each emoji on the screen can be tapped, opening up the coding rules for that object.

At the beginning of the game, any items you don’t want seen need to be set to invisible. They only appear as a result of actions within the game.

  

Each character or item has several rules associated with it.
  

Inside each rule is the code for what will happen. In the rule below, when the character bumps into the donut, he becomes invisible and then a snake emoji becomes visible in that same position.

  

When a bomb bumps into your character, you hear a sound effect and he disappears.
  

Your character also then turns into a poop emoji.
  

   

Here are a few screen shots of the game in action.

The boss spins around and drops bombs at you which open up temporary holes in the ground that you need to avoid lest you fall to your death. You control your character via the touch control in the lower left.
If your character gets to a donut, he transforms into a dragon that can then shoot lightning bolts at the boss and is immune to its attacks for a few seconds. The green star button in the bottom right controls your shooting.


As the boss gets hit, the game makes a sound and he loses hit points represented by the hearts. Certain color hearts cause new enemies to appear. The purple hearts cause a tornado to come after you. If it hits you, you are flung up into the air. Often this means being flung into the boss and instant death. Sometimes you can get lucky and not die.

The blue heart causes an Easter Island Head statue to appear. It charges back and forth across the screen.  If you manage to hit the boss again before it kills you, it disappears. If it hits you, you die.

When you die, you turn into the poop emoji.

It is a very hard game for me to play as you only get one life. He has managed to beat it several times. I am not that surprised after seeing all of the Mario Maker stages he has created and beat on the Nintendo wii u.

Working on this game has sparked his interest in working with Scratch and with YoYo Games again. He has started work on a customized background for a new game.

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