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Indie Monday: Kodu Game Lab

Posted by: Cooper | Filed Under Other, Weekly Articles | No comments 
Apr 8

This Monday I’m going to talk about something a little different. Kodu Game Lab itself isn’t an indie game, it was backed heavily by Microsoft and pushed to release. What is interesting, though, is the fact that the game gives people who want to create games of their own an outlet and a way to interact with others who feel the same way. Kodu Game Lab simplifies the XNA software that Microsoft built to help indie developers. This simplification makes it easy enough to pick up for newbies, but deep enough for those who are a little more experienced. The Xbox version of the game leaves a lot to be desired. The menu system is clunky to say the least, and understanding what you need to do is a frustrating process and should only be attempted by those more patient than myself. The game also has the feature to share your creations with others and play their games as well, but considering that the game isn’t very active on Xbox Live, this is where the game fails the most. Updates are rare and there is barely any life left in the game. There is no motivation to create something because there is ultimately no one to share it with. You might be able to convince your friends to get the game, but they would have to throw down a surprisingly high price of $5 just to humor you.

When it comes down to it, using Kodu Game Lab on the Xbox 360 just isn’t the way to go. But over the past couple of years the game has seen a growing presence on the PC. The library of shared worlds is huge, and since there are more options with a mouse and keyboard layout, getting around the software is easier was well. Another problem the Xbox version had was the fact that you could create to your heart’s content, as long as it was within the structure of the game itself. The PC version allows you to actually code your game and makes it a little easier to think outside of the box. On top of all that, the game is also free on the PC.

This is how you program in the game, each symbol means something. This is actually a simple program, more complicated actions require A LOT more symbols...

This is how you program in the game, each symbol means something. This is actually a simple program, more complicated actions require A LOT more symbols…

Honestly, the primary use of Kodu Game Lab should be as a teaching tool. I remember back in middle school I had a technology class in which you could make your own game, among other tech-y things. To create games, though, you had to use a program called Game Maker. This was way before Game Maker became mainstream and became easier to use, so the process overall was tedious and boring, and probably is what pushed me away from wanting to code my own games as a career. If the school had used Kodu Game Lab, though, things may have been quite different. The interface is easy to get into and understand, all while seeming very deep. The game also manages to not be too intimidating and welcomes players to build whatever they want. More schools should look into this as a teaching tool and should try to promote game design more for children. Who knows, maybe the next big game designer will have been inspired by Kodu Game Lab.

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