Review by Mark Chen, Common Sense Education | Updated October 2012

Sploder

Bevy of wildly inconsistent game-making tools lacks support, feedback

Subjects & skills
Subjects
N/A

Skills
  • Creativity
Grades This grade range is a recommendation by Common Sense Education and not the developer/publisher.
6–12
Common Sense says (See details)
Teachers say (2 Reviews)

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Pros: Provides building blocks to make a variety of simple games.

Cons: Motivated students will quickly feel constrained by the preset objects and behaviors.

Bottom Line: Teachers can use Sploder as an introductory game-making tool, but would quickly need a replacement for more advanced learners.

Teachers could use Sploder as a one-time introduction to game making, introducing students to such game objects and concepts as sprites and behaviors. Teachers would need to build lesson plans around Sploder, though, to help students get the most out of the provided tools. They could then transition students to client-based game-making tools that would require them to work with game object libraries, simple scripting, and so on.

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Sploder is one of a growing number of Web-based game-making tools and, like those others (e.g. Flowlab), is very limited in what it can provide students. Actually, it’s more a mish-mash collection of tools than a single, cohesive experience. Once arriving at the site, a user chooses the Retro Arcade, Platformer Creator, Physics Puzzle Maker, Classic Shooter, or The Algorithm Crew to make a game. Oddly, once in a tool, the top-bar navigation doesn’t use the same naming convention for these tools (i.e., the Physics Puzzle Maker becomes the Physics Creator). There’s also no clear indication which tool is good for what kind of game, and to make matters worse, they don’t provide a consistent interface, level of help, documentation, depth of customization, or overall experience. A teacher will likely spend a lot of time helping students troubleshoot a great variety of problems given how many different tools are available. It may be wise to direct students to check out the Physics Puzzle Maker, one of the newest and most extensible and supported of the bunch. Recently, it was also ported to iOS, which is great; it is unclear how much support or further development will be provided for the other tools. Sploder's main attractive feature is that it runs in a browser (or iOS), so there's no initial setup required other than making sure the site isn't blocked by a school firewall. As such, it’s easy to share games with the Sploder community, adding tags and descriptions to completed projects. In fact, as with Flowlab, the community of sharing around Sploder is one of its main selling points. Even so, it’s difficult to recommend this or other Web-based tools over a robust, flexible, full-featured alternative like Stencyl, Construct 2, or GameMaker Studio.

Sploder is just as likely to confuse new users as ease them into a nice workflow, since much of this initial experience depends on the chosen game-making tool in Sploder’s library. The Physics Puzzle Maker provides the most support and allows for more customized behavior of objects than the other tools. Students will likely find all the tools constraining, however, after delving deeply, at which point teachers may want to move them onto other game makers. One feature that is unique to Sploder is that certain objects in a game-making tool require “leveling up” with the tool before using. In other words, students are rewarded for spending time exploring tools and publishing games, allowing them to make more complicated games with unlocked features. It’s unclear how likely a student would stick with a tool long enough to get these unlocks, though, but it’s an interesting feature to meta-game the game maker.

Overall Rating

Engagement Is the product stimulating, entertaining, and engrossing? Will kids want to return?

Active creators get cool stuff to use in their games, but engagement largely depends on intrinsic motivation. And, unfortunately, those who are motivated can quickly outgrow the preset tools and objects. 

Pedagogy Is learning content seamlessly baked-in, and do kids build conceptual understanding? Is the product adaptable and empowering? Will skills transfer?

Tools are inconsistently presented, making it hard to count on as a learning tool. For example, Physics Puzzle Maker presents first-time users with pop-up explanations, but other tools don’t offer much help.

Support Does the product take into account learners of varying abilities, skill levels, and learning styles? Does it address both struggling and advanced students?

There's a healthy forum, but it's oddly lacking in specific supports for learning the tools. Physics Puzzle Maker provides a link to a Web how-to guide, but similar guides aren't readily available for the other tools.


Common Sense Reviewer
Mark Chen Researcher

Teacher Reviews

(See all 2 reviews) (2 reviews) Write a review
Featured review by
Taylor W. , Classroom teacher
Classroom teacher
International Christian School
Shek Mun, ShaTin, Hong Kong, Hong Kong S.A.R., China
In the beginning we wanted to make a game...so we Sploder
Sploder is a really great tool that offers students a first look at game based learning. I believe that if the opportunity arises, students can use this tool to be creative, offering opportunities for students to produce new information, rather than consuming from other sources. Sploder has more uses as well that expand outside of my subject. Though the support is difficult, I would still recommend this tool for a middle school use.
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