Bloxels is an exciting new game design app created by Pixel Press. This is the team that produced the popular app Floors. The earlier app enables students to design game levels complete with moving platforms, ladders, various hazards and, of course, enemies. These designs have to be drawn very carefully on paper and are scanned into the app for further development in order to create a game. The process requires plenty of testing and refining to ensure a good gaming experience is created. It is only limited by the lack of personalisation of the characters and the settings. The new Bloxels app takes this to the next level (no pun intended).
The idea is that a game complete with landscape, platforms, exploding blocks, lava, water and enemies can be created in a 13 x 13 block space. Students begin by designing a basic layout for one room or level. In layout mode, each colour block is coded to have a specific function. The green blocks, for example, are the terrain and platforms; yellow blocks are rewards, coins or health boosts.
Whilst you don’t have to buy the physical boards, they are really fun to use and learners can design, discuss, test and tweak until they get exactly what they want using fine motor skills and some higher level conceptual thinking.
Looking across the top of the user interface, we can see the design elements for the game beginning with game layout, animation of characters, backgrounds and middle grounds. These are then followed by characters and new board designs.
Characters can be animated by duplicating the design and then adding a slight alteration of each frame. The frames automatically loop so that we can test and see immediately if the animated nature of our character is effective. This creative aspect of Bloxels is very interesting as it requires our student designers to work in a disciplined way with a limited set of squares for the design. You can see my attempt at Little Red Riding Hood above. This process requires creativity and some trial and error.
Once the layout and characters are in place and tested, students can then decorate the game space using remade 13 x 13 designs or, more creatively, design their own. Everything from the land and water to enemies can be designed with blocks. If you want animated water, you can create it.
Projects can be one board big or as big 13x13 boards. The testing and re-testing helps build resilience in learners. There are key configurable blocks such as enemies, power-ups and text blocks. Whilst younger learners enjoy adding a jet pack, teachers can develop story telling and instructional writing skills with the text blocks, written by the student to provide clues and directions for the gamer. The app also has a community aspect. Users can (if they choose) sign in and share designs. Shared objects are uploaded to the “Infinity Wall” where they can be “bought” using coins won by playing the games. There are no issues here about using real money!
Bloxels is one of those rare apps that provides both instant gratification and deeper learning journeys. It isn’t a pure coding/programming app. It does however, provide opportunities for checking/testing input and output and works well as a gateway app to more formal coding in tools like Hopscotch. The app is free and well worth exploring.