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Old 01-08-2009, 09:34 PM
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Default Kodu Impressions

http://www.destructoid.com/ces-2009-...w-117412.phtml

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See that girl up there standing next to Robbie Bach? That's 12-year-old Sparrow Buerer. At Microsoft's CES 2009 keynote presentation, Sparrow gave a live demonstration of Kodu, an upcoming Xbox LIVE Community game design to make the complex process of making games simple, visual, and fun.

But in front of a crowd at the near-capacity convention hall, Sparrow made it look anything but simple. She blew through the game's layers of menus, throwing objects into the environment and then making them do stuff faster than most human eyes and brains could follow. Clearly, she knew exactly what she was doing, calling out exactly what she was doing before she made it happen. But even the crowd of reasonably-ingelligent techies -- myself included -- was stunned.

To get a better grasp of just what this Kodu is all about, I had a chance to sit down with Micosoft's Mathew MacLaurin, the vision behind the game. And yes, he was a bit easier to follow than little Sparrow.

Originally started as a research project in programming models for children in 2006, Roku proved to be so much fun for both kids and their teachers, that it took the form you see today.

The idea is a program that makes it easy to design and program a game is nothing new; software like RPG Maker, for instance, has been available for a number of years. But Roku is a bit different, with a more visual and game-like feel to it, designed as a palette to let users create cool interactive experiences with little effort.

Roku will come with a bunch of "mini-games" packed in from the start, templates which should give potential designers ideas for their own projects. But it will also come with "Starter Worlds," included to spark creativity and give designers a jumping point, versus simply throwing an intimidating blank canvas at novice designers.

During the demo, MacLaurin hopped into one of these "Starter Worlds," an island with green grass and a few, rolling hills. At the press of a button, he opened the tool palette, which offered a few options: play the game, place an object and then "program" it, create hills or valleys in the environment and more. He opens the pallet for placing an object and a wheel pops up, showing a number of characters he can place; he choose a UFO, and makes a note that there will be about 20 initial characters would-be designers can choose from -- I see everything from robots to puffy fish in the roster.

Using the right analog stick, MacLaurin moves the camera, and the left stick controls a small "donut" cursor around for object selection and environment manipulation. He selects the UFO and presses "Y" to open the programing menu. The idea is simple, based on basic programming principals like "if this happens, then that happens." The difference here is that it's all very visual, and as MacLaurin put it, the game won't let you really make any wrong moves -- you'll never get a programming "error."

As an example, MacLaurin pulls up the tools and creates a simple script based to make the UFO interact with an apple. Everything is spelled out in physical, easy-to-understand terms for a non-programmer; there are variables or constants, no abstract terms to confuse the user. In this instance, the script is basic: if the UFO "sees" the apple, then it "eats" the apple. The fancy stuff happening behind-the-scenes in Roku means it knows exactly what to do, with no further instructions.

The same can be done to give the player control over a character -- just select it and tell the game that the gamepad (represented by an Xbox 360 controller icon) will make the character move, jump, or shoot. It simply makes sense, at at a basic level is easy to understand, and easy to follow. Looking deeper, it's possible to control other variables like movement speed, have an enemy show its hit points, control how powerful a missile is, and more.

You control the environment in much of the same way. Kodu features terrain building and deformation tools that look as simple to use as any simulation game. There are a handful of default tiles to use, ranging in color and texture; there's also a way to quickly and easily place water, which will react appropriately with other world objects (an apple would float to the top, for instance). While the game comes with a handful of preset characters and objects to use, MacLaurin said the option of adding content later -- either through DLC packs or allowing user-created objects in later iterations of Kodu -- was something being considered.

Worlds are and what objects can do are only limited by memory, which will be indicated visually by a stack of coins. As you start placing objects, the coin pile will drop, and if it's getting close to the point where the game's performance will suffer, you'll no longer be able to create. But beyond that, you're open to create a game and level how you want. Some other examples shown to me was a first-person style racing game across a volcano-like world, a 3D Breakout-style clone, and a dual stick shooter featuring "zombies." It'll even be possible to fix the camera in a particular position, so side-scrolling shooters and platformers should theoretically be possible, as well.

The game will feature level and game sharing in some fashion -- MacLaurin said the Kodu team is "fanatical" about including it. What shape that will take or how it will play out in the final version is unclear, with legal issues being cited as the biggest hurdle. When it comes to sharing user-created content, especially between children, a few issues arise. MacLaurin seems fairly confident sharing will be enabled, but to what extent is unknown.
Comparisons to Sony's own user-generated driven title LittleBigPlanet are bound to come up. So I had to ask, does MacLaurin think that's an issue?

"We started this in early 2006," he tells me, "and I think we were probably a year in before we heard about LittleBigPlanet. And our response was 'That rocks! [We] want it!" Because we're all gamers, so that's great."
So while comparisons are justified and in some cases even welcome, MacLaurin is quick to point out key differences.
"LittleBigPlanet does an amazing job of [saying], 'How far can you get without any programming?' Because program is icky and scary. Our thing was really how fun can you make programming?"

From what I was able to see, it certainly does look like fun -- manipulating the world seems quick and easy, something even a complete programming nincompoop like myself could dive into. While it's designed primarily for children in mind, there's certainly going to be an appeal for anyone who simply wants to create. I was happy to hear that with multiple controllers, designers can take turns placing and programming objects, making it possible for Kodu to be an interesting social experience.

Kodu is set to launch on the Xbox LIVE Community games channel this Spring.
I think ill pass until I rent LBP to see the hype.
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:02 PM
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People are saying this isn't even a game, but a learning tool, unless I'm mistaken...
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Old 01-08-2009, 10:45 PM
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Kudo is best describle as

"The game factory" for xbox

or

"Magic Fusion" for xbox
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Old 01-08-2009, 11:13 PM
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Cool, sounds like I'm mistaken =)
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Old 01-09-2009, 02:12 AM
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Its a xbox community game not a retail game.
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:00 PM
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The starting position on video games is skepticism,” said New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof in his keynote address to this May’s Games for Change Conference in New York City. In its sixth year, the conference is a gathering of developers, academics, and activists intent on using the medium of games for social and educational messages. Kristof was there to discuss his forthcoming social-networking game—an extension of his work on gender inequality and an endorsement of games as something more than mindless entertainment. “I think the way to change that perception is just the record of success in connecting to audiences,” he said.

But on what level are games connecting? The game industry’s roughly $26 billion a year in software sales is on par with Hollywood’s yearly box-office receipts, but the public conception of games remains closer to checkers than to Citizen Kane.



That perception may begin to change next Tuesday when Microsoft Research is slated to release Kodu for Xbox 360. Using terrain-drawing tools and an intuitive graphical programming language, players can design, play, and share a wide variety of 3D games.

With no adrenaline-soaked violence, no plot, narrative, or even defined goals, Kodu challenges expectations of what a game entails. But it also embodies a form of communication that reflects some of the fundamental aspects of human cognition and learning. As such, Kodu may epitomize how games are uniquely capable of marrying traditional storytelling with the complexities of the real world.

The growing “serious games” movement seeks to show off this potential, but selling “serious” in a medium synonymous with “fun” is no easy task. Sitting down with a heavy-handed, good-for-you-game is like getting a plate of broccoli when you ordered the chocolate cake. While advocacy groups might support them as communication or outreach tools, “broccoli” games are not exactly ready to become a part of the mainstream industry’s business plans.

Aimed at younger demographic than the 18- to 34-year-old hardcore gamer and slated to retail as an $5 download, Kodu won’t compete on the level of a game like Grand Theft Auto IV, which brought in more than $500 million in its first week of sales. But for a game where players learn the basics of computer programming, it’s notable that Kodu is being sold at all. Other games of its ilk generally exist in the educational or hobbyist world.

Kodu is different. Drawing equally from Lego and Logo, the kid-friendly graphical programming language developed in the late 1960s, the game’s developers hope to sail its educational content under children’s radars by wrapping it in pure imaginative play.

Just as a child is equally likely to turn a pile of Lego bricks into a spaceship or a skyscraper, Kodu’s players can use its programming tools to create a dungeon crawler, a shoot-’em up, or side-scrolling platformer. Novices can learn the basics by playing a number of pre-built games, then take them apart and tweak their rules.


Kodu’s editing screen. The pictured instructions tell a computer-controlled character to move toward apples when it sees them, then turn a random color when it eats them. Image courtesy of Microsoft Research
Players do this by choosing from menus and sub-menus of icons representing all of the behaviors and traits a player might want to assign to a game object. Arranging them in ordered rows allows players to build nested “if/then” statements, such as “if a ball bumps into a flying saucer, and if the ball is blue, then the flying saucer explodes, and then player’s score goes up by 100.” These complex sets of rules can be ascribed to game characters, which can be copied as needed, allowing for simple object-oriented programming.

Those rules can also be edited while a game is being played; swapping “the ball bounces” for “the flying saucer explodes” quickly turns a Space Invaders–type game into something resembling Pong. Knowing which rules need to be changed to create a particular kind of game demonstrates a solid understanding of conditional logic, as well as a certain degree of ingenuity.

Not wearing its educational agenda on its sleeve may make Kodu feel more like cake than broccoli, but it also addresses a deeper criticism of serious games: They don’t take full advantage of their differences from other media. Playing a game about a topic may be more immersive than simply reading about it, but most games still take players through a relatively linear story; the gameplay mechanics don’t allow for more than a handful of predetermined outcomes.

In Kodu the outcomes—the games a player can make—are almost limitless, but are ultimately beside the point: The take-away lessons of the game are encoded in the process, rather than the product.

“If you look at painting, film, or writing, none of them are going to do things that you didn’t tell them to do explicitly. When you’re making a simulation, you’re watching situations unfold and waiting for them to surprise you,” says Matthew MacLaurin, Kodu’s lead designer. “So the core of Kodu is simulation design; the programming is secondary to that.”

At
a private demo of Kodu in April, MacLaurin showed off one of these surprises. Starting with a premade landscape of grassy hills, he picked a gray motorcycle from a circular menu of playable characters and assigned its movements to a controller by selecting a few more icons. After tooling around for a bit, he opened the edit menu again. This time, he selected the original motorcycle and copied it, coloring it red and switching its movement icons to a second controller.

With no one operating the second controller, the red motorcycle just sat there as MacLaurin circled it a few times with the gray one. But when he pressed the button to make his motorcycle jump, they both did—MacLaurin had forgotten to switch the red motorcycle’s jump icon to the second controller.

“This could be the basis for an entirely different kind of game, where the players have to work together,” says MacLaurin. “And I just made it by accident.” These kinds of situations don’t just teach players about programming bugs, they ask them to think how they might be features in different contexts. Being presented with unexpected results—especially when they stem from complex interactions rather than simple error—is fundamentally how we learn new things.

“Kids are basically setting up simulations all of the time and watching them unfold, that’s how they model the world and predict outcomes,” says MacLaurin. “In some ways, simulation is foundational to human intelligence, but it’s a skill we don’t teach at all.”

“Games give kids the tools to explore complex relationships in something closer to their native tongues,” agrees the appropriately named Alex Games (it’s pronounced Gah-mez). A researcher at the Games, Learning and Society Group based at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, he has been working with Gamestar Mechanic, a web-based game-making game, for the last three years.

Supported by a grant from the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning initiative, Gamestar Mechanic is more explicitly an investigation of game’s pedagogical potential. But as with Kodu, the lessons go beyond the surface-level activities of basic computer programming into developing something Games calls “the designer mindset.”

“Designing a game is a process of inquiry very similar to what happens in science, as it’s a process of iteration and a refinement of a particular way of organizing your reality,” says Games. “So the value of the designer mindset is about producing a stance towards knowledge.”

This meshes with the inquiry-based model of science education, in which teachers provide the framework of a scientific concept and guide students into asking and answering the relevant questions with self-directed experiments. The idea is that students will more deeply internalize the processes that underpin a scientific concept through firsthand discovery.

Serious games can learn from this approach, and vice versa. Instead of keeping their messages on the surface, game designers can encode them in the process of their play.
Educators might then come to see games as the best medium for conveying information about the real world in all its intricacy.

While Microsoft has already distributed PC versions of the game for after-school computer clubs, the Kodu development team is already looking to expand the game to make it a better fit for in-school curricula. By adding topic-specific content packs of 3D models and behaviors, students could use Kodu for simulating environmental or biological processes.

This is an added benefit of Microsoft positioning Kodu as a mainstream, commercial game. “Sometimes, free things get a little less support internally, as opposed to things making a profit,” says MacLaurin. “So if it means having it be free for a year and then disappearing, or charging a token sum for it and having it be around forever, I’d choose the latter.”

Time will tell how Kodu will fare as a commercial product. While it has proven popular in the schools where it has been tested, MacLaurin admits that “creating is just more challenging than consuming” when it comes to a game intended for a mass audience. It’s not even clear that Kodu will be thought of as a game at all. For his part, MacLaurin feels the term “tool” is more appropriate: Kodu as Photoshop rather than Bioshock.

But shifting definitions for what makes a game a game are not unwelcome at a time when the medium is trying to mature and evolve, especially if public perception of its usefulness and relevance to the larger world are on the line. Semantics aside, if kids are playing it, it sounds like a game. And if in playing it, they gain new insight into logic, hypothesis testing, and how to model the complexities of the universe, it sounds like something that could be much more.
http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/serious_fun/P2/
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Old 06-28-2009, 12:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Badger3920 View Post
Cool, sounds like I'm mistaken =)
Sounds like something akin to LBP.
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Old 07-01-2009, 01:25 PM
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http://news.teamxbox.com/xbox/20108/...Available-Now/

Out now.
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Old 07-01-2009, 02:08 PM
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Originally Posted by Master X View Post
I a bit curious about it, are you going to try it out?
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Old 07-03-2009, 02:59 PM
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This vid shows the tutorial levels.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2Poa-EgR5xw

This is what joystiq did.
http://www.joystiq.com/2009/07/02/vi...-game-builder/

Theres alot of cool videos on youtube, I only played the demo( very short) but I will buy this and mess around with it.
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