Kodu is a free game programming environment from Microsoft. Formerly only for the XBox, it’s now been ported to the PC. It requires the XNA framework and an up-to-date .NET framework which are both obtainable from Microsoft if you don’t already have them installed. It’s in ‘Technical Preview’ release at the moment. Contrary to what I was told at the Microsoft stand at BETT (and later corrected by Andy Sithers who was on the stand), Kodu runs nicely on Windows XP.
It’s been designed to be used with an XBox controller and the physical programming environment is intuitive and easy, leaving the path clear for thinking about making things happen in the game rather than struggling to find out the ways to make them happen. Using it on a PC keyboard is easy too, but I bet the XBox controler makes it even easier. For teaching sequencing and/or programming in the classroom Kodu is a godsend.
First build your world, then populate it with objects. There are a number of pre-built objects including some cute characters for you to use. Objects are given behaviours, which can be conditional or random. They can be programmed to interact however you want. You might want them to move along specific paths, or you might want them to move according to rules you define. There is provision for scores, timers, various aspects of AI so that characters will act independently and interact as you tell them.
For learning to make things happen through sequencing, this program is exellent. It is engaging and intuitive, it’s easy to learn yet has enough complexity to introduce quite a high level of challenge.
After some basic twiddling, I found a tutorial here to get me started on more complex stuff.
Right, that’s enough blogging. I have some games to program..