Kodu uses a simple visual programming language to help children design their own computer games
Making programs, especially games, often interests children but reaching the point of being able to write something fun with a 'proper' programming language can be a lot of work. Kudo Game Lab is a game development program that introduces the basics of programming games without resorting to a lot of difficult text-based code.
In an clever twist, the games can also be played on an Xbox, which makes it easy for budding programmers to show of the fruits of their labours to friends and family.
You will need some form of 3D card in your computer, even most onboard graphics should be enough if they support DirectX 9.0c and Shader Model Model 2 or higher. It also needs .NET Framework 3.5 and teh XNA Framework 3.1 installed. The installer checks for these and includes button to download them if required.
The Kudo home screen has four options: Load world, community, options and help. We followed the onscreen suggestion to select help to load world first.
This option shows the differnet worlds that have been created. There are plenty included with the installation including the tutorials.
The tutorials include instructions at the top of the page explaining what to do at all times.
Getting started is very easy. There are plenty of different objects that can be added to worlds and then interact with each other. It is this interection that is the core of the programming.
In this example the Kodu character is set to move slowly towards any apples that it can see and then eat them when it bumps into them. Each part of the command is added by clicking on the Plus symbol and then selecting an action or its condition. Although we're not experienced game developers, these two statements are actually quite complicated to do from scratch, so this is an excellent way of getting results quickly.
The Kodu website has lots of help but in text and video formats. There is also a classroom kit for teachers to help with planning lessons using Kodu.
Games can be shared online at www.kodubgamelab.com.
Our only annoyance with Kodu is that we couldn't find a way of making the game window bigger in the program itself. It turns out that this can be set using the Configuration program found in the Start menu.
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An excellent way of getting children interested in programming with quick results
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