This release of Kinect Games includes the all new Math Mage. Math Mage is an educational game which helps students with numeracy, including ODD, EVEN and PRIME numbers as well as times tables from 3 through to 12. Math Mage has similar gameplay to fruit ninja, but you use your hand to swipe rather than doing a swipe with your finger on a touch device. The objective of the game is to swipe through pages with correct numbers, but not through pages with incorrect numbers. The pages of your magic book have been enchanted and are escaping, but they are numbered, which lets you know which ones are the correct pages to put back into your book. Everytime you swipe through a page with a correct number you gain 5 points, however when you swipe through a wrong number you lose one of your 5 lives. The game ends when you lose all your lives or when the timer runs out. You gain a bonus 5 points at the end of the game for each life you have remaining.
Click here to download Kinect Games. Once you run the installer it will create shortcuts on your desktop for the different Kinect Games. Kinect Games v2.6 is for Windows 7 or Windows 8 desktop mode. It will work with both Kinect for Windows or a standard XBOX360 Kinect plugged into a Windows7/8 machine.
Math Mage has a couple of keyboard functions, which are not as yet documented in the game, one of these is the ability on the main menu to move the camera angle up and down by using the UP & DOWN arrow keys. The other feature is that you can take the background away during the game and display live video feed from Kinect instead. To do this press S for show video and to cancel the video stream press the SPACE BAR.
I recently took part in a Microsoft Partners in Learning Virtual University series on TouchDevelop delivered by Jonathan ‘Peli’ de Halleux who works for Microsoft Research in Redmond, WA. The series was part of a PIL Appathon Competition for educators around Europe, the final stage of which will be a 24 hour Appathon in London just before BETT in January 2013. I had no idea what to expect from the series and had no idea about what TouchDevelop was. The series was excellent and I know have a firm understanding of the fundamentals of TouchDevelop and how to create simple apps using it. It was also a fantastic experience to be part of a community of learners from around Europe sharing experiences during online sessions and via PIL network forums.
I currently teach games development mainly using XNA with C#; however we have been looking at different tools to introduce students to programming such as Scratch, Kodu and MIT App Inventor, as XNA can be quite a jump for students who have never programming before. We are also keen to get students creating APPs and after learning about TouchDevelop I think it is a great platform to achieve these goals.
The really big difference about TouchDevelop and other dev tools is that it allows you to actually code and test your APP on a mobile device. You can choose to develop on a PC and then package it as an APP, but you can code on any device which has a modern HTML5 browser. So if your device can run IE10 or the latest versions of Safari or Chrome, you will be able to use TouchDevelop to code and test APPs on your device. I have used a variety of platforms successfully with TouchDevelop; on desktop PCs I have used IE10 in Windows 8 and Chrome in Windows 7. I have also used Safari on both the iPhone and iPad and on my Windows 7 phone I have used the dedicated TouchDevelop APP. So although TouchDevelop only creates APPs for the Windows Marketplace on WP7/8 and Windows 8, you can develop and test APPs via the TouchDevelop site on your favourite browser on pretty much any device.
Coding with TouchDevelop on iPhone
Another great part of TouchDevelop is the community aspect to it. The scripts (APPs) you publish are available to the rest of the community to use and play, which means if you don’t know how to do something you can look up someone else’s script doing a similar task and you will quickly find the solution. You can also take other user’s scripts and alter them and credit is still given to the original publisher as it shows how many variations of your scripts are out there. You can also build libraries yourself and then these libraries can be used by other users when creating their own apps and once again you can see how many scripts are using your library. One other great feature of TouchDevelop is the ability to have a high score table which the community can immediately contribute to as soon as you hit the publish button from your script. This is not publishing it as an app on the marketplace it is just making it available for the community to try out and it only takes 2 or 3 lines of code.
TouchInvaders High Score Table
TouchDevelop comes with a variety of libraries which makes most tasks easy to do. I have been working a lot with the game board, which has built in functions for dealing with sprites, collisions, physics and touch events.
Once I got used to working with the interface and the language I was able to quickly put together some games. I created a touch version of PONG in about 2 to 3 hours, in which you use your finger to control a Bat by sliding your finger up & down to try and defeat an AI controlled Bat. I also created a Space Invaders clone called TouchInvaders which took me roughly about 4 hours to get a working version, although I did go back later and tweak it to add shields and play about with the controls.
TouchDevelop is still in its infancy and therefore has a number of minor bugs, but the Microsoft team are constantly working on these and improving it and adding functionality on almost a daily basis. Overall I would say that TouchDevelop has amazing potential and is a good alternative to some of the other tools out there that can be used to teach programming at a beginner’s level, however unlike Scratch it actually allows you to make games I would want to play.
This new release of xGames features many improvements, the main one being that you can now add wave sound files to questions. This means you can create a quiz where you ask a question about a piece of music which will play automatically as the question is asked. Due to some restrictions on dynamically importing sound files during runtime and to make this process quick I am only allowing standard wave files. This does not mean you can’t use your own mp3 files, just that you’ll need to convert them first. If you don’t already know how to do it try Audacity which is a free sound file editor. In Audacity you can load in an mp3, highlight a section of the sound track (I recommend about 10 to 30 seconds), paste it into a new file and export it as a wave file.
Click here to download xGames version 2.2 installer zip version (useful if your firewall blocks the download of exe files)
Ok so I know I said the last version was the last, but I did intend it to be at the time, so I won’t be making the same mistake this time and saying this is the final release, as it may or may not be. I still do need to update the user manuals for all the changes over the past couple months, so there will be a minor update for that when I get it done. When I worked full time as a programmer I didn’t mind the coding, but always hated the paperwork (design, planning, user guides etc) side of things and I’m afraid I still feel the same way about it.
Here are a list of the changes in Version 2.2 from Version 2.1
1. Added the facility to have audio wave files play against each question in xQuiz, xRisk and xDrop. I will not be adding it to xBots as it wouldn’t work in that game as teams can be asked different questions at the same time, however all quizzes will still work in Xbots, albeit without the audio tracks. Altered xBots quiz loader to ensure this is the case.
2. Changed the xQuiz & xRisk editor to allow the user to select wave files for each question.
3. Altered the editor to be more forgiving with blank lines between questions in the text file. So that if you create quiz in notepad or notes on iOS and then load it into the editor it won’t crash.
4. Altered the xQuiz editor so that it automatically adjusts the answer lengths from 52 to 30 if you add a picture. This means there are no longer two editors for xQuiz (previously I had one editor which allowed pictures and one without pictures where you could enter longer answers). You can now mix and match questions with long answers with questions with shorter answers containing pictures.
Another interesting week at Reid Kerr College, on Monday afternoon myself and Cherry Briggs MBE met with Mark Ratter from East Renfrewshire Council. We spoke about and demonstrated the games based learning tools and the CPD training we can offer teachers in Games Development using tools like Scratch, Kodu etc. The funny thing was, when I met Mark we both thought we knew each other, but neither of us realised until after the meeting that we go to the same Church. This is the second time this has happened recently, so I’ve requested a Church directory with pictures from our Pastor to help me with this :).
On Wednesday Dave Sharp from Binary Asylum came into the college and spoke with our Games Students about routes into the games industry and what to expect once you get into it. Dave has worked in the games industry for almost 30 years, for various companies including Virgin Media and has worked on games such as Fallout and NBA Jam. His work has taken him all over the world and he shared his experiences of working in the UK, Sweden, USA and Hong Kong. He was also one of the main people behind the successful train2game blended learning course on Games Development.
He shared experiences and offered some great advice. He also gave some invaluable tips about creating a portfolio of work and what employers expect from graduates. After the main lecture and Q&A session, he came up to our games lab and spoke to our 2nd year HND students and they got a chance to quiz him in a smaller group. Dave is hoping to arrange for some of our students to visit one of his games companies in Scotland, which will be an invaluable experience for them.
On Friday I did another online web conference/chat about my xGames and Kinect educational games. This time with GameToLearn and this week the web conference tool of choice was Skype. The chat was recorded and they will be posting it on their fb page soon. They are interested in the Gamification of educational resources to engage children in their learning, which is right up my street and hopefully it will encourage more teachers to make use of my educational games.
I finished the week by adding the facility into my xGames to add wave sound files to questions, which should be useful especially for music teachers. I will be posting this version of xGames very soon.
So far my blog posts have all been for software releases, but I guess that isn’t really what blogging is all about, so I thought I’d try doing a more standard blog since last week was quite an interesting one. On Monday I ran a whole day of staff CPD training for Kersland School in Paisley, which is a School for children with additional support needs. A few of their staff had been at a previous CPD event I had run and requested I do a whole staff training event for them. They were particularly interested in how they could use xGames and Kinect in the classroom, so I focused on my Kinect Games, xGames and also did some Kodu with them. Overall it went extremely well, although perhaps it could have been more tailored for their learners.
On Tuesday I was at a meeting with the Principal & Vice Principal of the college, along with other staff, about the future E-Learning strategy of the college. I think I was mainly there to give an update on the xGames project, however it was very interesting to hear the thoughts of the management on the way forward in regards to embedding IT more in the learner experience in the future and I hopefully managed to contribute a little as well.
On Wednesday I organised what I think was a very successful event, we had 3 graduates from UWS, along with a final year UWS Computer Animation student and a guy with 30 years experience working mostly freelance in the Games Industry. Two of the UWS guys were ex Reid Kerr College HNC Games Graduates and one of them recently graduated with a 1st class honours and has secured a job as a programmer in industry.
The big lecture theatre in Renfrew North was packed with standing room only left by the time the event kicked off and we had well over 100 students from the various Computer Games courses and from Creative Arts.
The main speaker was Lauren McKellan from One Thumb Mobile in Glasgow. Lauren graduated from UWS with a degree in Computer Animation and now works for a mobile games company as their Lead Artist, mainly working on 3D models and Animation. She spoke in detail with the students about how to get a job in the games industry and gave them some invaluable advice about online portfolios and the content they should put into them. Sean also gave some great advice on the business side of things for those that might want to work freelance in the industry.
In the Q&A session at the end, the 2 ex-RKC students (James & James) really came to the floor and answered a lot of questions about the progression from College to University and what would be expected of them. They hopefully demonstrated that FE students can go onto University and achieve and go on to great things, through hard work and dedication.
On Thursday I had to deliver an online webinar for JISC RSC TV on the xGames JISC funded project. In this I provided an overview of the project from initial concept to completion and I also went over the benefits of the games for learners of all ages. The session should be available soon to watch back by clicking here.
Later on the same day, I was taking part in the first Virtual University session for Microsoft Partners in Learning Appathon Competition. I am one of 50 educators from around Europe taking part in this event. 25 out of the 50 educators will be selected by Microsoft to join them in January for an all-expenses paid trip to London to take part in the first Microsoft 24 hour Appathon for educators, where we will work with an expert to create an educational app for Windows mobile 7/8 platforms. The winning app will be put out onto the Windows Store for educators’ world wide to make use of.
The first sessions was very good, however I struggled to keep up as I was unaware that Microsoft’s TouchDevelop platform was HTML5 only and IE9 on my Windows7 laptop isn’t compatible. It must have pained the MS tutor to say it, but I was informed by him to install Google Chrome which is HTML5 compatible. Once I got Chrome installed it was all good. I also had the weird experience this weekend of playing about with Microsoft TouchDevelop on Google Chrome on my Apple Ipad.
At the end of the session we were set our first homework assignment, the second part of which was to use the Turtle library in TouchDevelop to come up with a script to draw something of our own choosing. In my vain attempt to court favour from my Microsoft tutor I came up with a script to get my turtle to draw the picture below. You think it will work?
It doesn’t stop there, next week I have a meeting on Monday with someone from East Renfrewshire education department about using Games Dev in East Renfrewshire Schools and how we can assist with this; perhaps in the area of CPD for teachers. On Wednesday we have a guy called Dave Sharp coming in to speak to our students. He has 30 years experience in the games industry, including time spent working overseas, in places such as New York. He currently runs a video game company (Digital Asylum) and was one of the key guys behind the successful train2game online course. He will be speaking to them about the paths into the games industry.
Should be fun!
Video showing my USA Flag Turtle script running on Google Chrome on my Ipad.
I’m banking on this being the final release of xGames. I think I’ve done everything to it that I can and I am very happy with the final result. I plan to do a blog soon about the 3 year journey from the initial concept to this point; so watch out for that coming soon. In that blog I will probably release the final source code too. A special thanks to Kenneth Robb who created the editors for me in VB.
The main difference in this release from the last version is in the editors, which now allow you to select any JPEG or PNG from anywhere on your hard drive and it will automatically copy the image into the PICTURE folder for you. I have also made some minor fixes to the all in one installer so that it doesn’t try and install drivers that are already present.
This new release of Kinect Games fixes a couple of bugs from the last release which affected performance, the main thing being that I wasn’t correctly disposing of some unmanaged resources which slowed down the framerate. As well as fixing those bugs I have also used the new Kinect SDK v1.6 in this release which should also improve performance.
I have also added a new game to the installer called Kinect Pong, which is just a simple pong game which can be played 1 player against the computer or in 2 players mode. You simply use your right hand to control the bat; the game senses whether 1 or 2 players are standing in front of Kinect and automatically implements AI for the 2nd bat if only 1 person is playing.
There are a few keyboard controls for Kinect Pong:
F11 toggles full screen mode
UP and DOWN cursor keys move the Kinect camera angle up and down
SPACE BAR toggles the video feed on and off (turning it off will improve framerate on slow computers)
ENTER starts a new game when a game has ended
ESCAPE quits the game
Please click here to download the new all in one installer for Kinect Games, the installer includes Math Mage, Kinect Angles, Kinect Time, Kinect Magic Cursor, Kinect Pong, .net 4.0 framework, XNA4 runtime and Kinect SDK v1.6.
You might notice in the Kinect Pong source code that I haven’t used classes much, that was because I was writing the Pong game for a structured programming unit I teach which doesn’t go into classes but only structures. I simply added the Kinect stuff into the game I wrote for that class, so that is why it doesn’t use classes much. I suppose if you are a beginner to XNA/Kinect programming this may make the code easier to follow, or not as the case may be 🙂
This will come as a shock to you all, but I made a mistake with the last release of Kinect Games :-(. In my haste to release the all in one installer of my Kinect Games, I failed to properly test it. I was told by a reliable source at MS that I didn’t need to package up the full Kinect SDK 1.5 with my games, just the 1.5 runtime; turns out that isn’t the case. I had tested my installer on my multiple PCs, however they were all mine and they all already had Kinect SDK 1.5 on them, so it worked fine. However I tested it today on a machine without the SDK and the games wouldn’t run. I have also changed all 3 applications so that an error message will appear and ask you to plug in Kinect if you haven’t done so; previously if you ran them without Kinect plugged in nothing would happen, they wouldn’t even launch.
So go ahead and download the new and improved Kinect Games all in one installer by clicking here.
Kinect Angles being played at ALT-C 2012 at Manchester University
Kinect Time being played at the High School of Glasgow – Junior School
Following on from my last post and while I was creating an all in one installer for xGames, I thought I should do the same for my Kinect Games. The installer below will install Kinect Angles v2.4, Kinect Time v1.1 and Kinect Magic Cursor v1.2. It will also install .net4, xna4 runtime and Kinect Runtime v1.5, basically it will install everything you need to run my Kinect Games. All you have to do is run it and then plug in a Kinect for XBOX360 or Kinect for Windows and you are set.
I am releasing an updated version of my xGames educational suite of quiz based games which make use of wireless XBOX360 controllers. This version uses XNA4 to bring it into line with my Kinect game releases. I have also made improvements to the games; the most notable being that the three 2D games now have a single front end as shown above. Another big advantage is that xQuiz, xDrop and xBots also now all share the same question folder bank which means when you create a quiz for one it will instantly be available in the other 2 games as well.
I have also packaged them up in a proper professional installer file, which contains the various runtimes needed for the games such as .net and xna4 runtime. This means that if you download and run the installer file below it will install everything you need to get the games going and it will create shortcuts etc. It also will install the drivers for the wireless XBOX360 receiver and controllers for WinXP 32-bit, Vista 32-bit, Win7 32-bit and Win7 64-bit.
To avoid the file size getting too massive, I left out the controller drivers for WinXP 64-bit and Vista 64-bit as I doubt many people are running them, but if you need the drivers for them they are below.