Review: Packt’s Scratch 2.0 Game Development Hotshot

Scratch is a great way to introduce children to computer programming, and the Scratch 2.0 Game Development Hotshot is a great starting point for doing so. It is a nice and lengthy text with exhaustive examples of everything that a learner would need to figure out how to do almost anything they need to do when working with Scratch.

This book is written well in a process that goes from simple to complex; anyone using it still needs a basic amount of familiarity with computers and at times the book suggests using external programs in addition to Scratch. Fortunately, the book lists free, easy-to-use programs in addition to the commercial software it suggests, so it remains accessible to educators and parents on a tight budget who don’t already have access to programs like Photoshop.

There is a small conflict in this guidebook between the complexity of programming and the need to be clearly communicative, and I feel that it did a very good job of being clear. I am not particularly proficient with Scratch, though I have worked with other alternatives extensively, but it seemed to use a very wide range of tools within the Scratch platform to accomplish its objectives, which should help learners utilize emergent strategies on their own.

The inclusion of many well-chosen code excerpts and diagrams within the book is done perfectly, and there is little left to be desired by the helpful images. For more advanced users, some of these will be redundant, but given Scratch’s nature as an incredibly accessible tool this could help computer novices or young children and they do not become particularly burdensome for a reader.

The projects contained in the book represent a variety of game genres, and are presented in an order of increasing complexity. Most of the lessons are intended to teach specific lessons, and the included code samples make it easy to jump between the concepts being learned, allowing students who already have a background in Scratch to study only the things that they need to learn.

I don’t have simple praise for the book, however. There are some pressing issues, such as cases where functionality isn’t really closely acknowledged or is only examined once; students need a certain degree of repetition and, like most guide books, only one way is examined to do most of the things in the example projects. While this isn’t necessarily something that is horrible, it does mean that you will need to make sure that someone trained using the book has it available for at least a while after finishing all the courses, so that they can go back and get a refresher on the things they may have missed throughout.

As a future educator, and a self-taught programmer, I feel that this book is a great starting point to the world of programming and game design, and I would recommend it without any reservations.

If you’re interested in checking it out, you can find Packt’s Scratch 2.0 Game Development Hotshot on Amazon here, or on Packt’s website.

Disclaimer: I got a digital reviewer copy of this book from Packt. I was not and will not be financially compensated for writing this review, nor was I pressured to write a positive review.

Project Update: What I’ve Been Up To

I haven’t been particularly productive recently, in part because I’ve been traveling, which has both the added busy factor of spending a lot of time in transit and away from my computer but also the fact that I am now in California, where more stuff that I am allergic to grows. Fortunately, I am surviving, but I’ve been somewhat unproductive.

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Project Update: I’m Back!

I sort of dropped off the radar for a while because I didn’t have much to show in the way of progress on XMICAE, mostly due to school-related things. Fortunately, as of Wednesday I’ll be back on track to be making (almost) full time progress on XMICAE. I’ve mostly been coding in downtime right now, since I’ve been so busy, but I have managed to make a few improvements.

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Project Update: Pardon My Mess

Sorry about how patchy blog posts have been recently. I’ve been having a lot more schoolwork and a lot of minor irritating problems with the XMICYOA system that preclude having anything good to talk about. Fortunately, as of about five minutes ago, I have stuff worth talking about again. I mentioned that I was going back to make the XMI parser more efficient and flexible, and a large part of that was cutting it into two discrete parts; one to call the parser and one to actually parse the files. Continue reading “Project Update: Pardon My Mess”

Thursday Review: Shadowrun: Dragonfall

Shadowrun: Dragonfall is an expansion for Shadowrun Returns that takes place in the Flux-State of Berlin. Being an anarchic, crazy, and generally awesome place, there’s a lot of good, in-depth, but really quintessentially “cyberpunk” characters to meet and work with, and while it does the same good job of putting you into contact with interesting characters as the original Dead Man’s Switch, it tends to do so with more depth and a lot more life to it.

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Game Design: Choice Paths Part 1: Linear, Option, Divergent, and “Dinner” Paths

Since the majority of games (or, perhaps it is better to say, pretty much every major game out there) relies almost entirely on pre-scripted advancement techniques to handle plots and narratives, I figured I’d write a little article on choice paths in games. Choice paths are something that I used a ton when I was working on Orchestra over on Story Nexus, and they’re a great way to see what you’re doing. Continue reading “Game Design: Choice Paths Part 1: Linear, Option, Divergent, and “Dinner” Paths”

Thursday Review: Tom Leveen’s Sick

Sick is a novel by Tom Leveen. It first came to my attention with a reference from a professor of mine over at Arizona State University in his class on young adult literature. It’s set in a high school at the outbreak of a zombie epidemic, and it makes for a remarkably good read.
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Project Update: Still Alive

I wasn’t able to do anything with this blog all last week because I was so busy; between school and a little bit of normal-ish-but-kinda-rare family events that I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here, I didn’t have as much free time to work on things as I would have desired. Fortunately, I still made a little progress.

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Project Update: It Lives!

XMICYOA now has a system in place to determine if an action has tokens, states, or stokens associated with it and can appropriately set those tokens and states. Right now there’s nothing in place to unset tokens, though this should be pretty simple to implement (literally copying and pasting the current code and changing the words where needed) and will be done pretty soon. Continue reading “Project Update: It Lives!”