Alison Healey's Journal Entry

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Alison Healey’s “Scratches” (a.k.a. JNL Entry, Deep Thoughts) on Scratch

Scratch was an enjoyable, brain-expanding, thought-provoking exercise. The concept seemed child-like and the idea appeared deceivingly simple, yet creating a game presented a series of challenges. First, one had to think of an idea for the game. Then, one had to evaluate the tools available to make the premise work. Although Scratch language is basic English, it offers a limited vocabulary. Moreover, it did not coincide with my line of thinking; I was trying to move my sprite right and left, up and down, toward objects. I had to translate my thoughts into commands such as “forever when flag clicked, point toward mouse pointer and move 2 steps” and “move 180 degrees right.” I also had to consider things that I took for granted; for example, when I told a sprite to say something, I then had to tell it to wait X seconds and say nothing. It was necessary to expand my sphere of thinking and be willing to experiment. As I played around with Scratch, I found myself enjoying the challenge of trying to translate my thoughts into understandable computer commands. After all, there is more than one way of doing things –in fact, there may be many correct ways, depending on one’s perspective. Playing with Scratch was a powerful reminder of the importance of an open mind, a creative nature, and a child’s enthusiasm.

The assignment was more time-consuming than I had envisioned, but the time was well-spent. It was a nice change from traditional law school reading research ---it was fun! Yet it was frustrating at times. A good “how-to” guide or a screen where one could see all of the commands at once would have been useful. (The Oscar the Grouch example in the guide by David Malan was helpful, but too narrow in scope. A handy tip guide would have been appreciated–including such things as ways to implement scoring, how to create levels, how to make a sprite flip; how the number of steps affects a sprite; in what situation one might want to use “if…else” language; differences between stop script and stop all; which sprite or control should stop all). Allowing “control+z” and “control+y”or other buttons to serve as undo/redo functions would have been helpful as well.

Overall, I was pleased with my work product; although imperfect, I was proud that I developed a multi-sprite, win/lose game that functioned relatively well. Of course, when I played some of my classmates’ games, I realized how much of a novice I was. DangerCat (my personal favorite – reminds me of a DOS Hopper game), Siddhartha, and Tron were created by far more experienced programmers, with a higher degree of complexity and coordination.

While developing my game, I simultaneously developed a profound understanding for computer programmers and animators. The tennis match that I had originally envisioned got “scratched” in favor of a simpler game. In my posted “Dragon Dinner” game, one must goal is to earn 12 points by eating fruit that randomly moves around the screen. However, Dragon does not like strawberries, and once a player earns more than 7 points, a few of the fruits turn into “veggies in disguise.” If the veggies are touched, points will be deducted from a player’s score. I was pleased with my novice, rather amusing game. It works fairly well, although every time I fixed one glitch another problem would appear. For example, after the game ended (win or lose), the objects would keep moving and touching the dinosaur so the score would keep changing. I modified the game, but it remains imperfect. I also wanted to have levels of increasing difficulty. However, after piloting that idea, it wound up causing more trouble than it was worth. It made other instructions go awry, so it was not worth the hassle. Nevertheless, I’m hooked on Scratch now, and anticipate updating and increasing the complexity of my dragon game in the near future. Moreover, I hope to learn from my classmates and their games posted in the Scratch Gallery. I currently have a tennis game and a “Snake” game under construction…

  • nesson here: nice job. it took me four goes to win. damn the strawberries and surprise veggies!