Xbox game lets children become programmers

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News Posted: Wed, Jan 14 2009 7:41 PM

The idea behind Kodu, which will be released on the Xbox Live Community Games channel this spring, is to let people program and play their own games.

Robbie Bach,
president of Microsoft’s Entertainment and Devices Division, said development of Kodu was created to help children learn how to program, but evolved into a way they could create their own games. Though, obviously, anyone could use it, it's geared toward children.

Kodu is built around a game-friendly programming language that is
simple and icon-based. Players can choose from 20 different game
characters – including flying saucers, submarines, and a Pac Man-like
Kodu main character – then use an interactive terrain editor, a bridge
and path builder, and other tools to create their own game world.
Players also have the option of using pre-loaded worlds.



The program was developed over the past two years in Microsoft Research by principal program manager designer Matt MacLaurin. All he wanted, starting out, was a game his then-four-year-old daughter "could use to both have fun and learn something about programming."

So Microsoft Research partnered with Girls Inc. and the University
of Santa Barbara on researching the influence educational games have on math and science comprehension.

Players begin by choosing from a set
of almost 200 visual building blocks and then use an image-based
creator menu to build a world based on physical action and reaction –
when a character performs an action, the game world reacts to it.
Gamers have the ability to use hearing, vision and time to control
their character's behavior.

Kodu can be played on PCs or on Xbox 360 and has apparently gotten the thumbs up from children, parents and teachers alike.



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3vi1 replied on Thu, Jan 15 2009 8:24 AM

As long as it doesn't teach kids the DirectX API, I'm for it. :p

I will definitely be checking this out for my kids.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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ice91785 replied on Thu, Jan 15 2009 12:40 PM

Maybe I should get it for myself --- since I am terrible at programming and all.... :p

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3vi1 replied on Thu, Jan 15 2009 8:25 PM

Practice makes perfect.

Looking at other peoples code to see how they approach things helps a lot too. I don't mean the examples that MS puts in their knowledge-base either; half of that is garbage and very little is practical. Find a modest project on sourceforge or one of the other OSS sites written in your language of choice and take it apart to see how it works.

What part of "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn" don't you understand?

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ice91785 replied on Fri, Jan 16 2009 12:56 AM

Part of my problem is that I get overwhelmed with my programming classes -- I get confused with my C# programming after doing a few C++ projects. This then in turn makes me have trouble doing my SAS projects....

 

Anyway, the syntax takes me a few minutes to get a hang of.....I am horrendous with structs, arrays, and pointers mostly

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digitaldd replied on Fri, Jan 16 2009 8:42 AM

The girl in the CES video is the daughter of the guy that developed KODU, FWIW

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3vi1 replied on Fri, Jan 16 2009 9:52 AM

Learning how to use pointers is kind of like riding a bike: Suddenly it just clicks, and it will never be a problem again. I actually missed them when I started writing 'safe' code in C# (well, at first).

Don't sweat the syntax stuff - It's natural that when you start a project in a language that you know fully well but haven't used in a while, you'll have to pop open a web browser or look at your old code to refresh your memory on the syntax/functions/framework. At least, that's what I have to do. :)

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