Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins!
Okay. So up to now we have been playing with and reviewing apps that come with very little live online support if any at all. This is where things are about to change. The Minecraft Modding Fundamentals course, entitled “Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins” developed by online coding and game design academy CodaKid, is one of the most intuitive, well-supported and fun courses on the market. The brainchild of founder David Dodge, associated with over 30 game titles for Sony and Sega, Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins takes the extremely powerful back-end language called Java, and teaches it in an enjoyable and interactive way. Did I mention CodaKid also offers unique real-time support and the option of screen-sharing with course staff too? Well it does! Some of the core values they operate on include “delighting kids and wowing parents”, “building open and honest relationships with communication” and [my favourite] “create fun and a little wackiness”. This is going to be fun!
Mod Creation and Java
(in a way kids understand)
The course is taught through video lessons by the fantastically appealing Marshall Cannon. Marshall oversees CodaKid’s curriculum design team and heads up CodaKid’s online division where he develops new and exciting ways to introduce young students to video game programming and game design. Let me just say that this guy has it all! The skill of being able to relate to kids in a fun and engaging way while teaching concepts that can, let’s be honest, be a little confusing at times, is not one to be sneezed at. He brilliantly explains course features, the Eclipse IDE (“Integrated Development Environment” – software used to code Java) and the overall goal of Mod Creation by cleverly tying aspects of the game and programming code together.
Marshall discusses and develops in a fashion similar to Dan TDM or Stampy Longhead. He codes and explains what he is doing and students follow along. This sandbox style of development and design has proven to be extremely positive for learning code. Again, let’s remember that Java is not a simple drag and drop language. It can take time and dedication to establish proficiency. Marshall helps to reduce any frustrations and keeps the learner on track to journey towards the goal: Mod Creation.
Ehhhh …. Modding???
Whoah … whoah … whoah! Hold up a second! What exactly is Mod Creation I hear you say. Not to worry, I’ll explain. Minecraft’s popularity is in a large part due to the fact that players can in fact make their own changes to the way the game looks and behaves. These customisations can be accomplished in two ways. The first is by resource packs which add simple things like replacement image and sound files. Modding on the other hand is the practice of creating files which have the potential to make larger alterations and completely overhaul the dynamics and behaviour of the entire game! That sounds much more interesting to my testing team and I!
The Course Itself
There are 12 chapters within the “Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins” course, beginning with Chapter 0 “Setting Up Your Environment” and progressing through titles such as “Polishing Your Sword”, “Making Monsters” and “Biomes”. Within each chapter lies smaller video training subsections. At the end of each subsection the student can test out what they have coded via gameplay in Minecraft itself, which included as part of the package.
Herein lies the unique genius of Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins. It takes the newcomer on a voyage of building Java knowledge via a hugely successful and attractive gaming platform. By associating aspects of the game to the Java programming language, CodaKid is building a mentoring relationship, capturing the learner’s attention, holding it and allowing them to see the benefits of their efforts. This is not just a simple drag and drop application. Rather it is a web course developed by a serious and dedicated team who have created a valuable resource that teaches real-world applicable knowledge; something that is priceless.
A Word on Java
Just to mention a thing or two about the language taught through Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins. Java is a general-purpose language, platform-independent and intended to let application developers “write once, run anywhere.” It is extremely popular. Graduates and coding enthusiasts with a solid foundation in Java are very VERY employable. I have yet to come across a computer science course that does not dedicate at least a semester to the language. Java is everywhere! Do you have an Android phone or tablet? All of your apps are written in Java. Do you use internet banking? Chances are that your financial institution uses Java to make all the money move around. It’s also used in devices: smart watches, TVs, phones, cars … the list could go on … possibly even toasters?
The lessons are easy to follow. Marshall speaks in a language that kids can understand. However, Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins is not really aimed at children of elementary school age. The recommended age in my opinion would be pre-teen and upwards. This is not to take anything away from CodaKid at all. I love the whole package. In our own testing environment I coded up the Java along with the videos and my children (aged 7 and 5) tested it out in the game, making suggestions, asking questions and defeating creepers by the dozen.
Just to include a small bit of technical feedback, I installed the Eclipse IDE on a Windows 10 laptop which took some time but that again is not a fault of CodaKid. It’s just something to be aware of if you decide to go out and purchase this product. Large applications can take time to install. The price comes in at a smooth $249. You may think that this is quite high but for the level of instruction, availability of support and option to screen share live with the developers, I don’t think that’s too bad.
So to wrap up. I really enjoyed testing and developing via Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins. It has a fresh approach to learning a really useful language in a fun and engaging way. CodaKid has taken something that is familiar and popular (Minecraft) and paired it with a highly applicable skill in today’s technological society (Java). I believe it would be absolutely brilliant to take this course and run it as part of a school coding curriculum or Coder Dojo club. Let’s not forget that a large number of schools throughout the world are beginning to include coding as part of the core curriculum. If Mod Creation: The Adventure Begins was used in collaboration with guided classroom instruction then this would be hugely beneficial for kids. Proficiency in Java and an understanding of fundamental coding concepts is an important skill for a child to possess as they journey through education into a world where everything is changing.