#1 Edited by Mustard (180 posts) -

Hey Giant Bombers,

I don't post here a lot, as I normally don't have a lot to say (or the time to say it)... so please don't ignore this as some newb post, thanks.

So, I have a small request, feel free to ignore, but help if you can.

I was approached by my Highschool English teacher (from 10 years ago) about a month ago, asking me to co-teach his current English class that he is trying some new stuff out with: mostly looking at using games in his classroom. He came to me, cause I'm working on a Masters Degree in Educational Psychology, and I've tended to look at video games lately. But, the majority of my work has been around making video games with tools like Scratch or Kodu in an option or elective class to help students build problem solving skills and even some basic computing science skills. It's a lot of fun and it works really well, I wish I had some of the classes I now teach, when I was in High school or Junior High school.

That said, this teacher wants to put video game building in his class because he read an article that was published by one of my supervising professors that compared the use of Interactive Story Telling Tools (in this case a Video Game tool - NeverWinter Nights) and compare it to students writing stories on paper in the traditional way. If you're interested here is a link to the article: Interactive Story Writing in the Classroom: Using Computer Games (it's getting to be a little dated now, though, I'll warn you). Anyway, long story short, the teacher wants to recreate this, and have his students basically write stories with some sort of game engine during the course of the school term.

Now, I'd love to have the students make games from the ground up, cause I think's it's a lot more valuable, but for the purpose of this class they kind of have to hit the ground running, in a sense, and there can't be a lot of learning curve to learn the engine so much as using it to make interactive stories. Which seems to point to a game that has a modding tool built into it, rather than a game building engine... right?

So, I've been racking my brain, trying to figure out something that will work. The reason that Neverwinter Nights was used in the first place was because of the Aurora Toolset it comes with worked well for building a world quite easily, but then broke down for most kids with zero programming knowledge when you had to start scripting everything. If you read the article, it will make mention of a tool that was created by the Computing Science dept. at our University to bridge the gap. That tool is available still, but it's not really as great as advertised.

My biggest problem, personally, is that a lot of the games that keep coming up in my mind, are part of a genre I am basically unfamiliar with (D&D esque games), because I just don't enjoy that style game that much. I'm willing to try things out, but I don't have time to try out everything... and also don't want to maybe miss something because i've never played it, you know?

So, Giant bombers, I ask your help. Do any of you know of a game or even a game engine that will fill the needs I have? My "wish list" includes (in priority):

  1. Customizable Gameplay - Either by building from scratch or modding existing gameplay.
  2. Easy to Use - For people with little to no programming experience (i understand this is entirely subjective :( )
  3. "Story driven" style gaming - Dialog, characters with names, open level style design).. want to be able to create an interactive story with it.
  4. Simple "coding" style for scripting - very easy if possible
  5. Available now - Steam should be fine, but i'm willing to contact the developer directly for older games if they aren't easy to get.
  6. Decent Looking - ie. Doesn't look like ass... other wise students will check-out as soon as it starts.
  7. Low cost - Would be nice, but we actually do have a decent budget for this, so putting a $40 game on 30 PC's might even be possible
  8. UPDATE: PC only... can't justify buying a bunch of consoles for this.

Thanks a bunch for those who suggest anything.

Happy new year!

#2 Posted by Imsorrymsjackson (866 posts) -

Rapelay.

#3 Posted by Enigma777 (6224 posts) -

LittleBigPlanet 2?

#4 Edited by JacDG (2134 posts) -

The Witcher? Not sure if it fits all of the categories, but it fits some, cheap, looks alright, story driven. Not sure what the Customizable Gameplay means, or how easy it will be to use though.

#5 Posted by Mustard (180 posts) -

@Imsorrymsjackson: Lol... nice.

@Enigma777: Sorry, shoudl have said. PC only. Can't justify buying a whack of PS3's for this

@JacDG: Yeah, this list is in order of priority, unfortunately, if you read why I'm looking for it... you'll see why.

#6 Posted by TheSeductiveMoose (3629 posts) -

Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim (in January, provided that the construction set actually comes out then). The construction set is pretty easy to use (though somewhat unstable), and the coding required shouldn't be too hard provided that you have a guide or some sort of tutorial available.

#7 Edited by chilibean_3 (1789 posts) -

It's been a long time since I've given it a look but would RPG Maker work for your needs? Isn't that supposed to a simple way to make a game? And RPGs are often defined by their story and characters.

Edit: Looks like they've been updating them and even have a more action game building program if you wanted to go that route. RPG Maker XP seems like a decent deal for a simple game maker.

#8 Edited by Mustard (180 posts) -

@TheSeductiveMoose: I was thinking about Elderscrolls... it seems like a natural fit. It's a little on the more complicated than i'd like side of things... but my only real issue is that a lot of it requires a pretty solid grasp on how the game works in general, from what I gather. ie. Factions and what not.

Many of the students in this class may never have played anything like this... let alone understand the concepts that are basic knowledge for people who enjoy the series.

This is currently the front-runner, though, thanks.

#9 Posted by Moncole (666 posts) -

Dungeons of Dredmor. Cheap, it has mod support, but it's not story focused and it's a roguelike RPG so it has customizable gameplay. (if that's what you mean)

#10 Posted by JasonR86 (9994 posts) -

@Mustard:

As was mentioned, Little Big Planet 1 or 2 would work. Minecraft might work (you might have to be creative when it comes to story though). Maybe the old RPG maker games for the PS2 (I've never played them though so I don't know for sure).

#11 Posted by stubbleman (308 posts) -

Well if your looking for something that's easiest to use and is narrative focused, I would suggest using any one of the several visual novel engines, Renpy being one of them. The advantage here comes from the super rudimentary structure of pictures and text boxes. It already has all of that figured out for you, so all you have to do is put the backgrounds in and then pictures of the characters and then write out the dialogue and it takes care of all the presentation. That way the kids don't have to be artists, they can just use pictures they found online if they need to, and they can focus on telling stories rather than spending all their time learning how to manipulate the engine.

#12 Posted by Mustard (180 posts) -

@somnambulist: Hmmm Ren'Py looks interesting at first glance... i'll have to look at that more.

@JasonR86: RPG Maker... I remember hearing about those. Looks like they've come a ways now too. I will definitely look into this some more, too.

Thanks guys, keep 'em coming. You are all great.

#13 Posted by TheSeductiveMoose (3629 posts) -

@Mustard: The actual construction tools are incredibly easy, it's the coding that can get a little complicated (though it's still fairly simple).

Since it's possible to create entirely new worldspaces; the lore and shit like that from the games can be ignored.

Stuff like factions and behaviors are also pretty straightforward (e.g. factions decides who the NPCs should attack and who they should be friendly towards).

#14 Posted by Mustard (180 posts) -

@TheSeductiveMoose: hmmm, that sound a little better when it's described like that. Perhaps I'll give it a closer look. Really as long as the students can create characters, and have dialog between them, then maybe some action that indicated progression of some sort of story that they create... it would work well.

#15 Posted by MildMolasses (3188 posts) -

@Imsorrymsjackson said:

Rapelay.

First thing I thought of

#16 Posted by CornBREDX (6345 posts) -

Do they have mod tools for Portal 2 yet? That's probably a good one. 
Maybe to risque for a high school class but Amnesia the Dark Descent is pretty decent and has mod tools. 
Most anything by Valve generally has mod tools, SDK and whatnot 
 
Or if you don't mind consoles there's little big planet which is basically a game created to mod 
 
Just the first few things that came to my head, sorry if I'm repeating someone. I dont know if this helps or not, seems like a complicated idea. I like the idea though, wish I had that stuff when I was in school. All i had was a basic class haha

#17 Posted by crusader8463 (14744 posts) -

What about getting them to design a D&D campaign? Planning out the dungeons, story beats and what not can be some effort.

#18 Posted by Renahzor (1026 posts) -

@Mustard: I think I'd lean towards elder scrolls depending how difficult the world builder tools for skyrim turn out to be. Since it appears you mostly want a creative expression and/or interactive storytelling exercise you could even pre-make a setting for the students before hand and have them create the stories surrounding it. I don't think a solid grasp of the workings of the story from the specific game would be necessary, the goal is to write your own story within the world and tools allowed.

As in the linked article I would create the backdrop for them, separate from the world of Skyrim in general. The linked article talks about very small and insular stories, no outside knowledge of the world or its interactions would be required. By starting the students with a relatively blank canvas and having them simply place the set peices and start telling the story I believe you'll come closer to your goal. Radiant Story should be powerful enough to make any story the students wish, while the rest of the scripting and creation tools can flesh out any small portion of the world they like. Starting them with a blank canvas of a world would be much more likely to allow the students a wider range of creativity with the project.

#19 Posted by DanielJW (4929 posts) -
#20 Posted by Talis12 (522 posts) -

anything Valve..

all mod tools available, good looking engine, tons of options, easy to use, fast to learn, enough tutorials and help across the web, cheap

#21 Posted by Mustard (180 posts) -

Thanks for the advice guys.

I think I'm going to look a lot more closely at the Morrowind Construction Set, as well as RPG Maker XP.

@TheSeductiveMoose: Does the Construction Set come with any copy of Morrowind, or is it a separate download? The steam description doesn't make mention of it.

#22 Posted by Ubersmake (771 posts) -

You'd need to do a lot of work beforehand to make these libraries usable for a class, but they might be worth looking into.

#23 Posted by TheSeductiveMoose (3629 posts) -

@Mustard: I have the disc version of Morrowind from when it first came out and then it shipped on a separate disk. I have no idea how it works with the Steam version.

I know that Oblivion's CS is available for free on the internet, but I'm not sure if that's the case with Morrowind.

#24 Posted by Dagbiker (7022 posts) -

@chilibean_3 said:

It's been a long time since I've given it a look but would RPG Maker work for your needs? Isn't that supposed to a simple way to make a game? And RPGs are often defined by their story and characters.

Edit: Looks like they've been updating them and even have a more action game building program if you wanted to go that route. RPG Maker XP seems like a decent deal for a simple game maker.

this, its simple, and can fit simple needs, its cheap.

#25 Posted by Djangosix (46 posts) -

erm hide the pickle?

srsly rpg maker is the way to go its free if you get the older ones, if you didnt already know its a program that lets you make games akin to the early final fantasys and the likes its really good tho me and a couple of friends fooled around with it in high school and made some sick games with cut scenes and everything. i wasnt long before i realized the hardest part of game design is balance and pacing its so much harder than you could ever imagine.