Monday, 26 May 2014

OCR We Need To Talk

This year has been a bit of a steep learning curve for us at work because it is the first time we have been with OCR for our Level 2 offering.

The unit I have been teaching across our four level 2 groups has been Unit 22 Developing Computer Games. Now those of you out there who know me know my passion for this subject. Heck I teach the game design and game production units on our a level 3 software dev stream.

For this unit for creating the games I have taught the students Game Maker. Game Maker is perfect for this unit, students can create games without knowing how to code, but more advanced students can using the scripting language. But even without programming students still get exposed to terminology and concepts from programming. So they learn about objects, events and actions, decision making etc.

I've enjoyed teaching the unit for the first time at this level, but I do have a couple of things that I think OCR need to change about the spec for this unit.

My first complaint about the unit is that you can pass this unit without creating a video game! Actually creating a video game (a playable level) is a merit criteria. This needs changing big time, it's a developing computer games unit, one of the pass criteria should be to create a game.

Next up is the P3 criteria - produce a design specification for a computer game. Now I have no qualms with the criteria it's the actual advice that they give those teaching it and moderators. They suggest "storyboards, pseudo code, narratives, concept art" and their guidance section (used by moderators) says "The design should show initial ideas which could be in the form of annotated drawings, spider diagrams and then show a storyboard and pseudo code of their final design".

What OCR are asking moderators to look for are for me not a design specification but more the out put of a brainstorming session, and why they want pseudo code in a design document I don't know. The activity I have students do before writing their game design documents is brainstorm ideas for their game. In this they create a mind map of ideas, moodboards, research notes, concept art, storyboards or combination of.

For me what should be provided here is possible a one pager, definitely a ten pager and a beat chart as detailed in the rather excellent book by Scott Rogers Level Up! The beauty of these three documents is that they work very nicely with level 2 and level 3 students. At both levels it is unreasonable to ask students to produce larger design documents. But these three documents are easy for the students to do at a reasonable level of quality and they capture more than enough information to document a game design at these levels. I usually specify that on the beat chart students cover a minimum of 3 levels.

I can't even think why they want pseudo code, as far as I'm concerned it has no place in a game design document. The game design document is there to communicate the design of the game, how that is implemented is down to the coders and they have their own documention that detail that sort of detail.

So this advice OCR are giving to teachers and moderators is wrong at worst and messed up at the best.

For me the distinction D1 - using design software, create objects/characters for a specified computer game is not needed and could be replaced with something else. If you have evidence that you have created a working level of a game then you also have the evidence for this criteria. At worst tack on a brief description of the software used.

In the suggested scenarios for assessing the work there is the suggestion of reports and presentations. I wish whoever wrote this would suggest better ways of presenting the evidence.

For the P1 about describing video game genres I get my students to produce mind maps, and a leaflet (which I'm not happy about) on the social impacts.

So by my count we have an extra pass criteria and are down a merit criteria and distinction criteria. What would I replace these with and what would I get rid of on the pass criteria?

I'm not a fan of the genres and social impacts criteria so I'd ditch those two pass criteria also. What would I replace them with? A single one looking at the different game engines that can be used.

I'd also alter the create working level for a game pass criteria (remember I moved it to a pass) I'd also specify that the game would also have to have a menu screen and a help screen. I think that also for the new merit criteria students that go above and beyond on their game and produce multiple levels should be rewarded for their hard work.

For the new distinction I'd like to see some evaluation of the students game. Comparing what they ended up with, with their design document. Explaining the differences and why they made them. We all know what sounds good on paper may not when implemented be fun.

So there are my changes I hope OCR stumble across this post, and if they want I am happy to consult with them on a much needed rewrite of this unit.

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