Friday, August 24, 2018

3rd Video Game Design Workshop Engages Students with Story Elements

by Dave Binkard, RRVWP TC and owner of PODS Game Design


This summer, we had another successful workshop with students of the Turtle Mountain Reservation! For this workshop, we used RPG Maker MV, a popular, powerful, and easy to use program to build our video games. The theme of this year’s workshop was the idea of the branching storyline, where the player would be forced to make a critical decision that would affect the rest of their game. We studied some examples from other popular games with branching storylines, such as The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, for examples and even drew upon the classic Dungeons and Dragons manuals for even more inspiration.
Once we had our ideas and a basis for our characters, conflict, and plot, it was time to get to work to bring their vision into reality. After going over the ins and outs of making maps and scripting events, the students’ stories began to come together as they games began to take shape. One student saw their game’s hero start the game imprisoned and have a chance at freedom--at a morally ambiguous expense, of course. A group of two students built a modern-day mystery game, where people were disappearing, but horrendous monsters made in a secret lab were beginning to appear in a quiet town. Naturally, the two situations were related. Yet another student, a veteran of the two previous PODS Game Design workshops held at Turtle Mountain, drafted a massive storyline and several key characters for their game. At the end of the workshop, their game, a long way from being completely finished, had a very strong start and structure to build on.
As the workshop went on, we covered a multitude of topics, but none perhaps as impactful as cut-scene development. The students learned how to create complex cut-scenes involving many characters, movement around the screen, and expressing emotion and thoughts through various means. One student commented, " I liked that [Dave] taught us how to make games interesting. For example, we learned that knowing what your story's about before you start developing it is very important, as is dialogue."
Turtle Mountain students used Scholastic journals and writing workshop to develop the storyline for their video games
In the end, the students not only got a playable version of their game, but also the development files for their game and an access code for RPG Maker MV, so they can keep working on their games at home. Video game design ties so many disciplines together. From story development to understanding programming logic to creating art and graphic assets to juggling mathematical formulas and equations, it is an excellent tool for learning.
We are grateful to the Alliance for Young Artists and Writers for the grant that funded this workshop and to NDSU's Office of Teaching and Learning for funding one of the workshop alums, Rick Belgarde, to return in the role of workshop assistant this year. Rick is a sophomore at NDSU, majoring in mechanical engineering. 

Rick Belgarde performs at the Turtle Mountain Teen Art & Workshop in 2015 as a participant

 PODS Game Design is glad to have led this workshop and we look forward to what summer 2019 brings!