unity Workshops as Game-Jam PREP

Over the past month I and another Unity Student Ambassador have been running introductory workshops at Hull University. In order to provide motivation and increase engagement with students interested in game development, we decided to hold two preparatory workshops for the University’s Bi-annual 24h GameJam: 3TG on the 3rd of November. This gave us around a month to prepare the students, so we planned two fortnightly workshops, on the 10th and 24th of October.

For this format, we decided to have them complete a whole game in each 2h workshop, no matter how simple. Each workshop was set out as a self-contained project, focusing on creating a fully playable game whilst learning specific Unity functionality:

  • In the First workshop we started from absolute scratch, introducing basic concepts and User Interface, then moved on to simple C# scripting, collisions, materials and scene changing. The class slides were available online as a .pdf tutorial file, which was very useful for those who couldn’t attend, but also for those in class. It allowed them to more easily read the coding sections, and for different levels of students to continue engaging. This first workshop was a great success. The tutorial and Graphical assets are freely available here: https://drive.google.com/open?id=1c2EKiWGuPq4jmlBGbZHU4ez1HqBmSjk6
  • In the Second workshop we introduced a lot more, as it was the final workshop before the gamejam. We looked at unity packages, 2D sprites and animations, physics, triggers, prefabs and audio. This workshop unfortunately could not be completed in 2h, and stretched to 3h for those who did not have to leave. Many people completed it at home however, as the assets are available online: https://drive.google.com/open?id=18B3Tql9mSsiWSh7WrUm0pmCGLd0TzuQe

There are many lessons to learn from running these workshops, such as content prioritisation, time estimation, and class management. In hindsight, three workshops would have been the ideal to cover all of Unity’s basic functionality at a calm and unhurried pace. That is how we will set it up in the future.  Another challenging aspect that we came across was addressing the different levels of participants, and engaging with them all, despite the massive experience difference between one person and the next. As mentioned previously, providing the tutorial slides during the workshop was a big help, and permitted the students with more experience to continue progressing, whilst students with less experience were not left behind, and could set the pace of the main teaching.

Overall, the workshops were very successful in preparing the attendees, and promoting the gamejam. Many of the students began with no experience in game development whatsoever, and would not otherwise have felt ready to enter a gamejam. But after completing two small games, and covering all the core functionality of Unity, they not only felt confident participating, but created some really great games!

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