Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tektoma - A Review

Product: Game Tutorials for Kids

Price: $14.95/month. $140/year.
Free 14 day trial.

Company: Tektoma

Where to buy:

A brief overview:
From their site: "Tektoma was founded in 2009 by Tom Marx and Matilda O'Connor, to provide 24 hour a day, 365 days per year access to engaging video tutorials that teach children game programming. " It allows children the opportunity to learn game programming at their own speed.

In-Depth Look:
Tektoma is geared towards children approximately 6 to 16 years of age. The site offers 5 full game tutorials (3 beginner, 1 intermediate and 1 advanced level). The time requirement varies from 1 hour to 2 1/2 hours.
1. How to make a racing game.
2. How to make an arcade game.
3. How to make a memory game.
4. How to make a platform game.
5. How to make a fantasy adventure game.

The site also has 6 shorter tutorials, varying in length from 5 to 63 minutes. 3 are beginner, 1 intermediate and 1 advanced.
1. Using tiles to build a racetrack.
2. Using tiles to improve the look of a platform game.
3. How to create and use custom icons.
4. How to create a stand alone version of a game.
5. How to make your game play in full screen mode.
6. Adding an inventory system to your game.

All of the tutorials use a software called GameMaker and the GameMaker Resource Pack. These are available as free downloads from YoYo Games. GameMaker allows you to make games using a drag-and-drop action. It doesn't require you to know any code. If you begin using it regularly, you may wish to upgrade to the ProEdition for $25.

After downloading the GameMaker and Resource Pack, your child will be ready to view the tutorial on "How to use the Tutorials". It is supposed to be about 4 minutes, but mine locks up everytime I try to watch it. After that, your child chooses the game that she wants to create. Your child should probably start with a "beginner" level, because the higher levels assume that you have already been working with GameMaker and are familiar with it, so the tutorials are not as detailed.

First open up the GameMaker. Make sure you are in "advanced mode". Then open up the tutorial. Pausing the video as needed, you follow the step-by-step instructions. The advantages to a video tutorial are that you can pause and rewind as needed. I did have some trouble with the tutorials, such as a brief instance in the car racing video...when 2 people are talking at once on the tutorial.

If you are interested in using GameMaker software, then Tektoma is a good place to start. It starts you at the very beginning, assuming you know nothing about the program. It "holds your hand" and walks you through a few games in great detail. The speaker not only talks you through it, but he also shows screen shots where you can actually see everything that he clicks and types. By the time you finish all the tutorials, you should have a very good sense of how the GameMaker software works and have enough knowledge to make some basic games of your own.

It might be a good place to start, for someone interested in game programming. As it helps you get a feel for the thought process involved in game programming. But this is not actual coding. You won't be using a programming language. So there other options out there, for someone that wants to jump right into using an actual programming language. But keep in mind, that GameMaker is intended for youth. Not for someone trying to make a career out of it.

I tried some of the game examples on their site. I didn't find the games to be interesting or user-friendly. Playing them might give you a feel for whether or not your child might be interested.

My husband, a computer programmer, sat down with my 11 year old daughter, who wants to learn programming, and tried some of the sample games and looked into the tutorials. They found several bugs/problems in the sample games. My daughter quickly lost interest in the tutorial. Later, I sat down to try the car racing tutorial. It moved slowly and I quickly lost interest as well.

But I would like to mention that several of the other crew members' children absolutely loved the tutorials. They have finished them and are now working on their own customized games. So check out their reviews as well and then decide.

An additional benefit is a member discussion forum.

The owners also operate another company:

Bits, Bytes & Bots Computer Adventures runs summer camps, birthday parties, after school classes and workshops in robotics, game creation, movie making, 3D and animation. Licenses available worldwide. Currently located in Albany, NY, Austin, TX, Boulder, CO, Denver, CO, Memphis, TN, Portland, OR, and Westchester, NY.

Disclaimer: I received an online membership to Tektoma free of charge to review, as part of the TOS Crew. The above is just my opinion. Please remember that opinions may, and do, vary.

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