Tue 03 November 2009 by Jim Purbrick

Last week I took some time off to spend with Luke and Natty during half term and we spent Wednesday having a lovely time finishing off a game we started a couple of months ago: Bouncaline.

Luke has been interested in making games for a while: he made a level for the You’re The Boss game at the Radiator festival in Nottingham in 2006 — when he was 3!

More recently Luke started designing a game that I was helping him put together in Game Maker. He drew lots of backgrounds and characters that we scanned in and there were vague ideas about treasure hunting game play, but it felt a bit like Luke was biting off more than he could chew.

So, when Luke and Natty inherited a trampoline over the summer I suggested that we build a bouncing game and we started building it with Scratch, an educational programming environment that I’d been meaning to experiment with since seeing that it had been ported to Second Life.

Scratch has a very simple model based on plugging together blocks that is similar to the Lego Mindstorms environment. Luke quickly got the hang of it and built a significant portion of the logic with just a few leading questions. Like Mindstorms and LSL it uses multiple flows of control within the same scripted object for complex behaviour, which can take some getting used to when making an object that simultaneously waits to be touched and for a timer, for example.

In some respects I wish Scratch was a little purer — although message passing concurrency is possible, it’s very easy to share state between objects — something we shouldn’t be encouraging the programmers of tomorrow to do. It’s also harder to do multiple levels or screens than with Game Maker, but given Luke’s propensity to lose himself in Zelda style epics, the tight focus might help learn the basics of logic.

Overall it’s a delightfully easy and rewarding environment to use. After spending a couple of hours finishing the logic, we went in to the garden to take pictures of the trampoline and Luke and Natty striking poses for the animations and quickly got them imported in to Scratch along with some very cute drawings and sound effects by Luke.

Scratch also makes it very easy to share your work on the web, allowing Luke to proudly show off his handy work to his Grandparents over the weekend and for me to proudly share the game with you here. I hope you enjoy Bouncaline!

Use the left and right arrow keys to move and try to collect the food.Learn more about this project


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