My teen is going through The Game Maker's Apprentice: Game Development for Beginnersand is loving it. These are more action based games that teaches him basics of programming logic and handling if/then type of statements, timers, some collisions, etc. He's really latched onto it and even though he's done with the book he's experimenting with the current capabilities as he developed his own Tron Light Cycle type of game. He's eventually moving into 2D and 3D scrollers with the second book in the series The Game Maker's Companion, ISBN 1430228261 (not sure why I can't link that book here).
When I received this book for review I had high expectations when comparing it with the other books.
But we find ourselves playing RPG's and MMO's more times than not, so I was hopeful.
1) Book is easy to read with lots of illustrations and black-n-white pictures
2) Nice introduction to the "team" of engineers used these days to develop a game. Thus there is a nice talk about the multiple career options one can pursue in the development field. Working in the software field, I appreciated the time spent on explaining there are more jobs out there than just coders.
3) Recommended tools/resources (pg 80):
b) an image editing program - you could use GIMP as a free program if you wish
c) a sound recording program - though of less quality, you could use Window's built in options
d) RPG Maker software - NO CD provided! You must download the 30-day trial. If you like it, then buy it for $60. A light-version to get through the exercises would have been better
e) Art supplies - drawing pencils, pens, markers and paper
4) The book then progresses by describing the elements of an RPG and the reader is led into the many elements of world-building. Having played pencil&paper RPGs for years (such as D&D) and having written a few fantasy stories (one short story published), I found the world building to be a great overview of the key areas needed for a fantasy rpg game.
5) Then we finally get to fire up the program and start designing our world from the top down.
First with the shape of your continent(s), then down to the city then town then inn level.
We eventually move into character creation, dialogue, levelling, storyline, combat and questing amongst other things.
6) The book wraps up with places you can publish your game in order to bring visibility to your work.
7) Even though 95% of everything is done through the GUI, there is some coding you can get into. I like how the foundation for RPG maker is based on Ruby/Pearl. Thus if my teen wanted to move onto more advance stuff, he could pickup books on these languages and go from there.
Lacking from this book was a longer than 30-day copy of the software and exercise examples & sprites already provided. (yes, the full version already provides some stock sprites) You can get around these things, but realize there is an additional cost to the book.
Otherwise, I really like the logical progression of the book, the focus on RPGs, and the easy of use of the RPG Maker program.
I can't wait to give this book to my teen as I think he'll eat it up and it will be a good addition to the other types of game program he's been exposed to in the other books.