HNC Dash 2016!

At Teleios, we love highlighting and celebrating creativity. We also love playing video games. It should come as little surprise, then, that when we got wind of a game created by the students of Holy Name Convent POS, we were instantly blown away. HNC Dash 2016 (http://hncpos.edu.tt/hncdash) was built by the Upper Six Computer Science class at HNC, with guidance from their teacher, Mr. Andre Charles. Starting from the last two weeks of school and working all the way through their vacation, these diligent young developers churned out five beta builds before completing the entire game in about two months.

When asked what motivated them to build a game in the first place, Mr. Charles explained that he noticed his students becoming more and more discouraged by the requirements for their Internal Assessment. In order to show them that Computer Science wasn’t all doom and gloom, Mr. Charles decided to give his students a little taste of the wonders of game development. The shift in their programming perspective was both immediate and remarkably positive. Suddenly motivated by the prospect of being able to use what they were learning all along to create something cool, the girls set about building their very own video game.

Splitting themselves into two teams - art and programming, the students began generating ideas and assets for the game. Communication was done via in-person chats and a WhatsApp group for when it was infeasible to meet. In order to coordinate the development, DropBox (https://www.dropbox.com/) was used as their repository for the game’s assets and code. The Stencyl (http://www.stencyl.com/) environment (which Mr. Charles just happened to notice in a Facebook advertisement) was selected as the engine on which the game would be built. Stencyl features a drag-and-drop editor and has fairly good documentation which make it an ideal choice for new game developers. The coding team learned the intricacies of Stencyl from numerous online tutorials and videos. One of the drawbacks of Stencyl that quickly hampered them was that only one person could use the Stencyl instance at any point in time, which forced them to split the time using it amongst themselves.

The art team relied on the knowledge they gained from learning Photoshop in their art classes to produce the assets for HNC Dash. They found and modified sprites from online sources to fit within the game’s theme. They lamented that editing the frames of all the sprites in the game took a long time (especially the hair).

The game fits into the “infinite runner” genre and the girls spent the majority of their development time getting the mechanics to work properly and, at the same time, making the game fun and engaging. They ran into a few stumbling blocks with the movement speed of the sprites but those were quickly surmounted. One of the crucial features of any good infinite runner is the ability to jump. After delivering a build of the game to beta testers, they received numerous requests for the ability to perform a double-jump (which allows the player to leapfrog over larger or higher obstacles). The students deliberated and eventually decided to add double-jump into the game. This took a long time to get working but the way it was ultimately implemented unexpectedly gave rise to the triple-jump, which is arguably the most awesome “feature” in the game.

After months of hard work, and with a few minor glitches still remaining in the game, the students decided to release HNC Dash 2016 into the wild. The game was very well received and its existence spread through Facebook like wildfire (which is ultimately how we discovered it). When asked how their game has impacted them, the students explained that the thought processes cultivated during the development process could be applied to their regular school work and assignments. They went on to say that they want HNC Dash to be a Holy Name Convent legacy that upcoming students can build upon. The girls mentioned that their junior classmates in the Lower Six class are anxiously awaiting their opportunity to create their own game. As for Mr. Charles, his goal was to motivate his students to pursue Computer Science in their future endeavours. Based on his students’ reactions, we don’t believe this should pose any problems whatsoever.