The Bald Sage's Complete Guide to Minecraft Game Design

If you're a student looking for Game design help, skip ahead to the section, "Game Design with Minecraft EE". If you're a computer teacher who normally reads this blog as a part of professional growth, or just to make fun of me, feel free to read from the beginning.

The challenge

Yes, COVID-19 Strikes again
Recently, in my post, 5 Elements and Still Relevant, I explained that as far as an actual sound curriculum in Game Design that Middle School students can comprehend and apply, Gamestar Mechanic is the only game in town. It's the only thing that simply and concisely takes students through designing balanced games (games with flow), using 5 Elements of Game Design while essentially using Gamification and Game Based Learning to do it. NO OTHER TOOL TEACHES GAME DESIGNas a distinct discipline.

No computers = no flash. Now what??

I talked in my last post about the challenges associated with students are working from home on their 1:1, school issued devices, which are, for the most part, iPads. Well, Gamestar Mechanic is yet another thing that doesn't work on the iPad. In fact there's nothing like Unity or Unreal or even GDevelop. Trying to make games in the browser is sometimes painfully awkward, though it can be done with Gamefroot or Microsoft Arcade. Not to mention, while all of these tools have great practical tutorials available on the nuts and bolts of game development, there is little to no mention of good game design. So, here I am, someone who teaches this, with a group of students sitting at home waiting to do everyone's favorite unit from my class, expecting greatness... What do I do?

So, I have put together a system that combines a smattering of Youtube videos and some activities in Minecraft Education Edition, that should be both educational and fun. Minecraft Education Edition is not free. I should note that right off the bat. However, if you're teaching in a school with an Office 365 license, chance are you have it or can get it very easily. If you're lucky enough to be one of the PA schools whose IU pays for it, then you're in good shape too. If you know nothing about this, you can find out more here. 

Game Design with Minecraft EE

So from here on out, this is going to look more like a Unit Plan than a blog post because this is for the kiddos as well.

Part 1 - Introduction: 

In this introduction, you will learn what Game Design is, including the 5 elements that make up good game design, and you'll be introduced to Minecraft Education Edition and what makes it special. 

Intro to Game Design concepts

  1. What are the 5 basic elements of game design, and whcih one is the most important to you?
  2. Of the popular design strategies game creators take to ensure a fun experience for players, what one do you respond to the most? Which one do you think would be easiest to use in making your own games?

Intro to Minecraft Education Edition

Give students instruction on how to download and install Minecraft EE. Below are my sample instructions that work in my district.
  • Install Mincraft from the app portal on your IPAD or...
  • Download to a COMPUTER from the website 
Then, a good introduction to Coding in Minecraft is the Hour of code activity in the Lesson Library. I am assuming you've already done some kind of blocks-based programming with students, such as that provided by code.org. 


Part 2 - Mastering Minecraft EE:

I like students to get some tools in their belt to make game design / development easier.

Learn the Education Tools

Learn to build Stuff Faster

This lesson teaches how to program the agent using MakeCode to build structures. There are 10 exercises starting very easy, and gets harder.
Some kid figured out World Edit!

Code your first Game in Minecraft!!

You will create and advanced game, called Alien Invasion, using the Code interface with Tynker (Instead of Makecode, which we usually use).

Part 3 - Advanced Game Design Challenges

Mix the following Game Design Theory videos in with the following Challenges:



Maze / Runner Challenge

You will need...
  • A deadly enclosed obstacle course with lots of treasure and dangers along the way.
  • The use of Border, Allow & Deny Blocks to keep your player from gaming the system.
  • A goal so your player knows when he / she has won.
Bonus Items
  • A prodding mechanic to keep the player moving ever forward for a simple in-line runner (such as a chain reaction TnT explosion that starts behind the player shortly after starting).
  • Deadly enemies of increasing difficulty for a maze (treasure should help player overcome more difficult enemies)

3d Platformer (AKA Hardcore Parkour)

You will need...
  • A parkour-tastic course with plenty of deadly pitfalls for your player.
  • The use of Border, Allow & Deny Blocks to keep your player from gaming the system.
  • A goal so your player knows when he / she has won.
General hints:
  • The Nether is a great place to build a 3d Platformer
  • Flat worlds are also great because once you build your course, you can easily use code to delete the ground. 

Ultimate ultimate challenge... The Dungeon Crawl!

Use building, coding, command blocks, and redstone to create an old school Diablo / Gauntlet style dungeon crawl.

You'll need:
  • The use of Border, Allow & Deny Blocks to keep your player from gaming the system.
  • A goal so your player knows when he / she has won.
  • The Elements of a good crawl - 
    • a complex labyrinthine dungeon,
    • plenty of traps,
    • plenty of mobs,
    • some sweet treasure,
    • and some bosses.
Extra points for a beautifully designed / decorated dungeon that is awe inspiring and dread-inducing at the same time.

Remember: you should use the Camera, Book and Quill, and Lectern to provide some synopsis of the project or what's going on near the spawn point. You may also use the NPC to provide guidance for the player.

Think about how you'll creatively add your dungeon(s) to your map. Maybe it is in the basement of an unassuming village house or under the town church (like in Diablo). Will there be portals with parts of the dungeon in the Nether?

Add your ideas!

In the comment section below, I would love to hear from students and teachers with ways to make this better, additional challenges, or other great videos on Game Design concepts that are kid-friendly.


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