I think I like these, and particularly Etoys, even more than Alice. With Alice, you need to use a model that someone else provides (unless you happen to have a 3D rendering program that’ll import into the system, which is unlikely given our target audience of young people). But with Etoys at least, you can draw your own sprites. Essentially you start with a blank canvas. You use a fairly typical ‘paint’ program to draw something and Etoys turns that into a sprite with a bunch of event handles.
What’s even cooler (albeit a bit scarier — adults will want to supervise this of course) is that you can share your workspace with other users and type or chat with them. Collaborative visual programming. I like it!
Scratch is neat because of its YouTube-like front end for sharing things you make. I haven’t dug into the building process for it yet.
Interestingly, both of these projects are built on Squeak, which is an implementation of Smalltalk. Squeak is being used to build everything from these game-building projects to web development.
This is what I love about the web. Someone leaves a comment with a couple of links and suddenly you’re in the midst of a whole new world to explore. Thanks Dave!
[EDIT] Actually I just visited Dave’s blog and he has covered this terrain well before I did (he is a part-time teacher). Check out his post on Teaching Scratch and Alice, and his blog in general, for more on this topic.