New Kid on the Bloxel!

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Apologies for the cheesy headline! I’ve been keenly awaiting the arrival of Bloxels. As a fan of the Floors app and approach, I have had high expectations of Bloxels.

So what is it? Well, Bloxels is an app based process for making retro arcade style games on the iPad. This involves designing game play spaces, characters, enemies, and objects. The designs are restricted to a 13 x13 board that is both physical if you choose to buy one and virtual within the free app. The idea is to design all aspects of the game on the board with plastic cubes (hence the 13 bit builder tag). The board is like a tray that holds coloured plastic cubes. Curious?

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So what is it? Well, Bloxels is a creative process for making retro arcade style games. The process involves designing game play spaces, characters, enemies, and objects. The designs are restricted to a 13 x 13 board that is both physical if you choose to buy one and virtual within the free app. The idea is to design all aspects of the game on the board with plastic cubes (hence the 13 bit builder tag).

It comes is a nice old games style box from the pre-digital era, backing the day when we used to sit around, talk and engage with each other – remember those days? Obviously the fact that you can use motor skills to physically organise the board talk and plan is very attractive.

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We design/plan on the board and then use the “in app camera” to digitise the design. There is a simple colour code for the elements. Each colour block represents a different function. The green blocks are terrain/platforms blue water, red is a hazard. Some of these functions can then be developed. For example, the “power up” blocks can be used for adding “life/health” to your character or provide them with a jet back or ammunition. My one criticism of the experience is guns and bombs but it is unfortunately part of this type of gaming genre. Of course children can be encouraged to design something less negative and that is the joy of Bloxels. It screams creativity and not simple gratification. As part of the process the user creates both characters and objects.

Here is my enemy character.

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One unexpected surprise is the creative element. Characters and objects can all be animated. They can even have three animated states, idle, walk and jump. This immediately offers fantastic differentiation opportunities. This last week I worked with both y3 and y6 (digital leaders) quickly creating and thinking conceptually about how to get the best animated effects.

The overall process is as follows create a game, add boards complete with platforms, exploding blocks, water, lava pits, then decorate them. You can design all of your decorations. So if a pixelated pink and yellow Kath Kitson polker dot look is you thing – you can have it! Likewise, Characters and objects are only limited to your imagination within the 13×13 space.

The app is free and weighs in at 198mb. There are no in app purchases and I guess Pixel Press are thinking the revenue will come from the boards and cubes. It possible to create without the blocks and cubes, but there something satisfying about physically making and planning as opposed to everything being on the screen.

Projects and assets remain on the device. It possible to have accounts. This is so that you can play, earn coins via playing other peoples games and using shared assets, in effect creating a “social community” of “Bloxelers”. Again your class can create without an account, but you will have to keep track of devices if they are being shared.

My only gripe is the number of cubes in the additional packs of cubes is very small. The  basic box ships with 250 cubes. The additional packs are 8 x 15 cubes which isn’t enough to spread across the additional 4 boards in the 5 pack.

As a version 1.1.2 app this is a great start. It does need some fine tuning and the workflow at times can be a little daunting. There are no real instructions although there are some good Vimeo tutorial clips. I managed to create games with Y3. Like wise, Y6 digital leaders really caught the character animation bug and were very creative.

 

About Digital Roadtrip

Apple ADE 2007 and Apple Trainer/Mentor

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