July 9th, 2009 — comics
In my little spare time, I’ve been playing with Kodu, creating a simple game centered around healing sick creatures and removing a pollutant causing the sickness.
Kodu communities are sprouting up. Unfortunately, the tutorials included with Kodu aren’t that useful–I think you can learn more by looking at the ‘code’ for the other included games. This forum is decently active with a couple of very good threads about tricks, creative coding, and tips for a good game world. There’s a kodu wiki, but it’s light on information. The Gamefaqs forum has also picked up in posts.
If you’re interested in sharing Kodu games, read this.
Without a doubt, this is a limited game making app. Yet, it’s very accessible, and with a little creativity, you can do a bit. I’m using it as an opportunity to teach some basic programming principles to my kids and helping them to plan and think through problems with a limited set of tools. In that respect, making the game is actually more interesting than the game output.
In some respects, Kodu is like a robust level editor–it’s for small games, something you can create and play quickly. I’ve done more of trying to create this or that small part of a game. Some people are creating some interesting bits. When you contrast Kodu with Microsoft’s online game maker Popfly, you quickly see what Kodu is. In Kodu, you have template characters where you can’t upload new graphics or sounds. You can’t dive into deep customization of a character or scene, like in Popfly [which is itself a limited game maker]. With Kodu, when you drop in a character, you don’t have to work about animating it when it moves, assigning health points. Kodu isn’t just for kids, but it’s so much more approachable for young kids than Popfly.
Also, it appears that the Kodu team will release an update. But nothing is definite.
July 1st, 2009 — 360
Okay, all you game maker types, kodu is now available for download as a community game on Xbox Live. For a mere 400 points [US$5], you can create that great American game using Kodu intriguing icon-based development tool. You can purchase online, if you log into your account at the above link.
I will definitely grab it. Unfortunately, game sharing is cumbersome:
- Gamers sharing must be on each other’s friend list.
- Both gamers must be online at the same time.
- Both gamers must have Kodu running.
And you thought Wii friend codes were a pain. [Seriously, this cumbersome sharing process could stifle significant game sharing, as the creator has to share with each gamer. It's a shame that, when I start Kodu, I can't see any Kodu games created by friend and then download from there.]
If anyone has games to share, please feel free to add me to your friend list. My gamertag is on the right column.
June 10th, 2009 — 360, ds games
For some games, creating is as fun as playing. Maybe it’s just a carryover my childhood obsession with building blocks, but a couple of creative items have my interest right now.
First up is Mario vs Donkey Kong: Minis March Again! which I never played in earlier versions. For DSiware, this is a very full offering, in large part because you can edit, upload, download and rate cutomize levels. Like other Nintendo games with level editors, you have to play the game to unlock new features and items in the editor. I have spent almost as much time editing levels as playing the game. Even though the DSi has larger screen, it’s still not a lot of screen real estate for something like level editing. Yet, it works very well and is easy to use. Minis March Again offers enough items that a lot of variation is possible.
Next, if you want more than level editing and more game creation, then get ready for Microsoft’s Kodu which is coming the end of June. It’s a game creator that is aimed at younger kids, but not limited to them, because it relies on icons, not code snippets. IGN has a nice hands-on with Kodu, which is part of the 360′s community games area. One of the nice features is that you can have more one person authoring a game at the same time.
My son already has summer homework, so we’re talking about creating a game for a part of it on the 360. I plan on wasting much time with it myself, creating some short RPGs and the like.
So, get your creative juices flowing.
March 31st, 2009 — 360
A Fading Memory is one of the more intriguing community games on the Xbox 360 that I’ve seen. Admittedly, I was drawn in by the cover art, which is somewhat rare for community games. What makes it intriguing is the premise behind this platform adventure — you play a woman, more accurately a woman’s dream of herself who, in reality, has slipped into a coma. The introductory level has almost lyrical prose to set the game in this dream world.
The game’s challenge is that the world darkens, which you can only relieve by killing the monsters that inhabit the dreamscape, illuminating it again though only briefly. I love this mechanic for bringing tension to a game. The graphics are simple but have a very identifiable style. [For some reason, I thought of Kandinsky, which, although his art really looks nothing like this game, would be an interesting style to adapt into a game.]
The downside is that I thought the controls and the level designs were somewhat awkward. Still, it’s one I wanted to buy and play to see the rest of the story.
February 16th, 2009 — games
After weeks of checking the Best Buy shelves for a 360 with the Jasper innards, I gave up on finding one and finally bought a replacement yesterday [a Falcon chipset]. After setting up the network and media sharing again, I immediately set up to share Amazon movies [because I'm heavily into catching up on 5 seasons of Battlestar Galactica], and I’m trying out playon to watch shows and movies from hulu.com.
Playon works pretty well and installs very easily and simply. You do have 2 wait, however–one wait as the video is ‘opened’ and another to buffer it. The quality is not DVD quality or comparable to the Netflix streaming video on the 360, but it’s good enough for free videos.
As for games, I picked up Jayenkai’s Johnny Platform’s Biscuit Romp, because my son loves this game. And he’ll be happy to find 5 new levels. I then sent my xbox friends mail, letting them know I was back online and ready to have my butt kicked.
The kids and I are still playing and enjoying Deadly Creatures. But I’m hoping that Nintendo releases the fix to support playing games from the SD slot soon, which is slated for a spring 2009 release. We’re still playing Goo and 3 virtual console games, and I’m very intrigued by Lit and Onslaught, not to mention Cave Story and Sword & Soldiers.
But thanks to an inflamed bursa sac in my elbow, waggling is out for me for a few days. [The life of an older gamer, sigh.]
December 1st, 2008 — 360
As much as I support homebrew and indie development, the Xbox community games are a kick to the crotch.
Some of the games are fun, like Word Soup. But others, like A Kitchen Sink War and Swords & Monsters , are just plain horrible. It’s one thing for me to download and try someone’s first DS homebrew project that is yet another Pong clone. But these community games come at a price, even if it’s just 200 points [~US$2.50]. You have to keep in mind that the community review of these games is to ensure only a certain level of functional quality, not a game experience quality or quality of ideas.
I’ve been excited about the Xbox community games for a while, thanks in part to my wonderful experiences with DS homebrew games. Charging for ‘garage’ games introduces a dynamic that could negatively influence both creating and buying/playing such games on the 360. It’s tempting to say that time and the market will drive the quality up, but, while I like much about capitalism, faith in competition ensuring quality is somewhat naive, in part because we’re not talking about constant competitors. We’re looking at seasonal, part-time, and hobbyist competitors, which is much different than ‘professional’ competitors. [Please, homebrew developers, don't take offense because some of you are highly professional in your skills and imagination: I'm talking strictly about developers who are developing games for a professional living.]
Too many of these poor games will deter gamers from looking at community games, except for the occasional ‘hit’ that gets media attention. I wouldn’t want to see community game development become something only for ‘professional’ developers, but by requiring a $99 fee for being able to publish games to the 360, there almost has to be some charge for these games, even though the game developers have much other costs, including time and tools. Even though gamer rating systems have their flaws, perhaps that would help, or at least, it would allow gamers to feel that the games have some level of content quality control.