Kodu: first impressions and the art of simplicity

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The Kodu game by Microsoft Research is out today and I’d encourage anyone with an XBOX 360 with access to Indie Games on the XBOX Marketplace to check it out. Simply put, it’s a sandbox game that allows you to make games using a straightforward but capable visual programming language. By definition it’s not the Little Big Planet for the XBOX 360, but if that makes you want to try it, then let it be.

I’ve been toying with Kodu for a couple of days now and I can’t help imaginging almost everyone will have a different experience with the game because it is so unique and depending on what you want to get out of it. As someone who didn’t take the time to build anything in the game, purely playing other people’s levels has been the ultimate “why didn’t I think of that” experience for me.

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The variety of games that the creators and testers have already made is pretty astounding, ranging from a classic story-driven side-scroller to a multi-hole golf game. Even though I have no motivation to create a level from scratch myself, being able to dive into the “source code” of other games is extremely compelling since I’m one who loves to figure out how things work.

I think it’s quite amusing to recognize that in some ways Kodu, a games-building platform, is built on top of Microsoft XNA, another games-building platform.

Furthermore, I want to share with everyone the amazing simple art style of Kodu which I think is the perfect testament to the game’s shallow learning curve as part of its goal to be accessible by kids to learn about the fundamentals of programming.

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Unfortunately though due to limitations of the XBOX Indie Games, the XBOX version does not support the community sharing feature that is available on the PC version which I played with. XBOX users can only share their levels on a peer-to-peer basis which limits the discoverability aspect of this game. At the same time, the PC version is not being publically released and limited to only school deployment at the moment.

18 insightful thoughts

  1. No thanks if the XNA Game Studio / Indie Games still costs $99 for a year or $49 for 6 months, that what it was a few months ago when I checked here in Canada. Couldn’t they just sell it instead of having to buy a membership, it would make more sense to me, I’d buy it for 1000 points/$12

  2. Kodu IS an Indie/Community Game. You should be able to buy it on XBLM, or download a free demo, once the listing is up. The $99/year is if you want to write your own games in C# using XNA.

  3. @JQ: You only need to pay for a subscription if you want to create/distribute games. Does not cost anything to play the approved games.

  4. indie games cost $99??? i have always seen them around 200 points (UK) , Kudo is said to be $5 dollars. there has never been a subsrciption models, you either get the play the demos for free or get the games for about 200points (uk).

    for the developers they pay for the subscription to build the games and have xna…..(dreamspark offers visual studio and xna for free howvever…i think)

    so yea to sumerise, games are 200points some big ones 400points, and demos to try out. much cheaper than normal XBLA.

  5. were going a bit off topic here but yea, everyone wants a part of dreamspark, i mean you get expression stdio, visio studio professional , xna, windows server (read about tureing this into an OS thats better than windows vista – therefore you have windows for free)…

    back on topic, im gonna get this game now, just buying points from gamepointsnow.com, too lazy to go to my local music store (10mins down the road) to get them.

    boku, kodu, kumo….all sound the same.

  6. I dont have broadband at home yet, so i went round my mates house and connected to xbox live. i downloaded kodu trial but when i got home and tried to load kodu my xbox asked for a connection. i also downloaded forza 3 demo and this works fine without a connection. Im gutted and was really looking forward to trying kodu. Does anyone know how to solve this, so i can use kodu offline.

  7. If you’re still on the fence: grab your favorite earphones, head down to a Best Buy and ask to plug them into a Zune then an iPod and see which one sounds better to you, and which interface makes you smile more. Then you’ll know which is right for you.

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