Game Community Academy

8th November 2008

BACKGROUND

We don’t need to learn how to play games. This particular activity is natural. We do need to learn the mechanics and rules of each particular game to excel in it. The basic concept of “play” is inbuilt in all of us. For others the concept of creativity is also in built.

However, unlike playing games, creating games is a little harder. The Internet is full of websites listing, reviewing, criticising and generally talking about games. These websites also cover the topic on “Content Creation”. Unfortunately unlike discussing games this topic requires a more professional approach if it is to be successful. What we currently have is the equivalent of a group of children in the playground sharing pickup knowledge with no idea of how best to structure its transference and perhaps much more importantly its power.

Before I discuss the proposal in detail I feel that it is important to note that this idea is a very long term commitment and perhaps its time has not yet come, or may never come! It requires a group of very dedicated supporters, working together to bring the huge amount of knowledge and skills into a cohesive whole.

PROPOSAL

I propose that ModDB, and I’ll discuss why ModDB later in this document, create a project tentatively entitled “Game Community Academy”. The aim of this project is to offer a complete and detailed set of modules in “Content Creation”. Whilst there are plenty of tutorials available on the Internet few have been created by professional or even experienced teachers and communicators. This is important because knowing your subject well or even being an expert is not the same as being able to teach it effectively.

The modules would cover all areas of content creation and even before the first one is created they all will have been carefully planned. Potential students choose any modules that interest them. I don’t envisage an exam system but who knows what the future could bring. Perhaps one day the project could even be accredited and consider a desired distance learning center. The key is for the initial group of “educators”, henceforth known as the “principles”, to agree and formulate a framework of modules that would result in the completion of a complete, playable mod.

For the sake of discussion let’s assume that we use the Source Engine as the basis for the actual main modules. Upon completion of the relevant modules students would be able to distribute their mod. Eventually modules would be produced for other engines. I need to point out that I am not just talking about mapping, but all aspects of a mod; mapping, modeling, coding, story, storytelling, concept art, beta testing, publicity, team management etc. Many of these modules would be suitable for other engines and as such would be made available on a “pick and mix” basis. One important point is that the project would be almost self-referencing.

The modules would be managed by the initial group of educators but the actual content of the modules would be produced by the gaming community itself. Instead of many people producing the same, badly formatted tutorial, this time they would produce one to a set of standard guidelines that would be part of a whole. The style of the tutorial would depend on the subject matter. For example a module on team management could easily be done via PDF documents, whereas a tutorial on modeling may best be done via video.

The community would work under the guidance of the “Principles” each person would be tasked with doing what they do best. For example any video tutorials would be recorded by specialist Voice actors, not necessarily the tutorial creators themselves. Let’s be clear. This is a huge undertaking and I fully understand the depth and amount of work I am proposing. If with dedicated individuals this project reached the stage of requesting tutorials within one year I would be surprised. If the tutorials and one set of modules were available within another year I would be just as surprised. This is a long term project, have no doubts!

WHY MODDB?

ModDB has always been there for the community itself. It’s not perfect and there are many aspects I don’t like about it, but even with those negatives it’s a fantastic resource and all those involved should be congratulated. Currently it is really a window into the world of modding and there are plenty of great articles, features, forums, etc etc. Where does its future lie? I don’t know but I do know that it is in the best position to be the catalyst for the next step, empowering the gaming community in a way that has never been done before. If anybody has the people, reach and respect to bring this to fruition it’s ModDB.

True, there are other sites that offer great tutorials and 3DBuzz is perhaps the best known but instead of working individually, almost against each other why could other sites not get onboard. I run PlanetPhillip.com and I run it as if it’s a business. Not in the sense that I try to make money from it but in the sense that I try to do everything as professionally as possible.

I view ModDB as a friendly competitor; in fact I view all gaming websites as competitors. I am competing for readers’/viewers’/listeners’ time. Sometimes we need to work together to ensure that we all benefit and this project is one of those examples.

By having more and better content created we all have something to gain. I’d like to focus a little bit on some of the modules to demonstrate the depth and range of the proposals. It’s not hard to do a search and find plenty of tutorials for “building your first room” or how to implement a particular feature on your chosen engine but there are many things to consider before this.

Some Sample Modules

BASIC CONCEPTS
I’m probably older than you, not definitely but probably. I grew up with COBOL and Fortran. That doesn’t mean that I can’t learn new things but it means that many things younger modders may take for granted I need explained in a different way. There are many potential modders who would love the opportunity to create something but need everything explained from the ground up, with no previously assumed knowledge of experience.

These people need to have the basic concepts explained to them; things like the difference between mapping and modelling. How an engine/editor works on a conceptual level. Too often these things are ignored because the authors are already hanging around the playground and except everybody else to as well.

STORY Firstly, how many tutorials have you seen on “stories in games and mods”? I haven’t seen any and to be honest I haven’t even looked. The reason is that in general this aspect of modding is considered unimportant. In Podcast 17: Transmission Code 9161 NOPK uttered the following words: “You can spend six months building a mod and then 3 minutes at the end adding a story to it”. I was almost speechless (Which is saying something!)

This attitude is very representative of modders in general and I don’t understand why. Imagine a set of modules that looked at stories in games and mods and explained why they are so important, sometimes even for MP mods. It discussed techniques for creating these stories and how best to implement them etc.

TEAM MANAGMENT
I have little doubt that many would agree that some great mods have been cancelled purely because they were not managed properly. Managing a team is as much a skill as modelling a new weapon or mapping a new environment. But people think it’s like writing a mod story; everybody can do it. This module would cover many aspects including, selecting team members, conflict resolution, time management, communication etc.

Those are just three examples and I could spend all day writing my ideas for modules but I won’t. I do want to look a little bit at the concept of each module though. One of the basic concepts about each module is that it would be standardized and much as possible. Not too limit the content or presentation but to ensure that the student gets the maximum benefit from it.

It would also ensure that a potential author can ensure their tutorial is as accurate and professional as possible. Its objective would be to ensure that the person who completed each module would have a much better understanding of the subject matter and was able to put the knowledge into practise.

The Modules’ Structure

Module format would vary depending on the subject matter but I envisage something like this:

MODULE ABSTRACT
A simple overview to allow potential students to decide whether this is the module they require.

PREREQUISITE KNOWLEDGE
If a module requires previous knowledge or experience this should be described here. Not point expecting a student to know something only to find they don’t and the tutorial is wasted on them.

OBJECTIVE
Each module must have a clearly started objective or objectives.

CONTENTS
An easy to understand contents list.

MODULE CONTENT.
Clear step by step instructions, with real world examples and proof-read content.

SUMMARY
Clear summary of all points discussed.

FURTHER STUDY
If appropriate a short section detailing further study strategies.

RESOURCES
A list of resource used.

CREDITS
Credit everybody who helped create the module.

REVISION
Details of the modules revisions.

FEEDBACK
Either a link to a forum thread or even a properly constructed survey on the module.

AUTHOR DETAILS
A brief description of the auth or authors with links back to their profile.

LANGUAGE

There are two aspects to this the first it to ensure that the English used doesn’t contain too many phrasal verbs or complicated structures. There are plenty of non-native English speakers who would benefit from joining this project and taking the modules. In fact hey may even do it to help their English. The second point is that eventually other languages other than English could be added but that’s for the future.

PROFILES

Not only is this project potentially of great benefit to the students but also to the module authors. I propose that a simple author Profile database be published where an author can create a simple bio section, along with links to the modules they have written and other details.

FORUMS

A project of this scale would obviously require a forum. Now is not the time to discuss the details of the forum itself but I do believe that each module should have its own thread. This would allow students to discuss the content with other students and ensure they really understand the subject but also offer author an easy feedback mechanism. They would monitor the discussion, and hopefully join in, and learn what improvements to make to the module.

MENTORS

Another aspect that I would love to see is that of Mentors. These are dedicated educators who take on a set number of students at any one time and are a direct link to the subject matter. They would obviously be specialists in their field and have limited time but for a student to have direct access to people like this would be a great thing. The logistics would need careful thought and planning but there are definitely possibilities.

BUSINESS OPPORTUNITES

A few years down the line there would open up plenty of business opportunities in the same way that ModDB now finds. Seminars, DVDs, books, streamed classes, who knows what. But with careful management the money generated could be used to improve the project in many ways without losing its roots as “Support for the community BY the community!”

IN CLOSING

Well, there you have it. I have no doubt forgotten some things and badly explained the ones I included. My aim has been to inspire you, the reader, to see my vision, as crazy as it may be. I am a dreamer and this is one of my dreams. The gaming community is still quite young but that shouldn’t mean we don’t plan for the future. As always I am eager to hear your thoughts and ideas on this, so please start commenting.

Thanks to Stenchy, from ModDB, for discussing this with me in an onofficial capcity and allowing me to partly organize my thoughts.

Lastly, I apologize if there are any errors, grammatical or otherwise, because I really rushed writing this.

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4 Comments

  1. Ade

    That’s a wonderful idea. Serious, organized, with a greater purpose. It’s not that hard to accomplish, either. It’s just that it’s difficult to impose a standard, unless it’s done by one or two professionals. The sections may be there, but may not always have the desired standard content AND the expected outcome of a well learned lesson. But I’m looking forward to this, no matter how long it takes. Something like this should be done, if several well organized tutorials exist from web-programming to even do-it-yourself stuff, there should definitely be for modding, not just mapping, like you said. Even for mapping, some sites have but 2 or 3 tutorials per game and expect too much from you and have to google so many words and techniques and while this helps me learn more, the linearity is lost, I don’t learn better, it’s all jumbled up in my head and I forget where I started from.
    If there is any way we could speed this process, do let us know.

    Also, you had an idea about a gaming guide, where you would post several hints to help the least experimented players play better and faster. How’s that working out?

  2. Pingback: Podcast 17 · Providing truth to Citizens!

  3. cubedude89

    It would be fun to work on something like this, I enjoy teaching.

    Package up good tutorials like 3d buzz does and you could probably make some good money with this idea.

  4. Also, you had an idea about a gaming guide, where you would post several hints to help the least experimented players play better and faster. How’s that working out?

    Work on that continues but with Podcast 17 it has been put to one side until I can get into a routine again. I’ve recently reformatted my laptop, so that show allow me to write when I am away from home.

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