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Kodu Engine Game Design

Yeah, video games are cool: Buying them, playing them, talking about them... But you know what's even cooler? Making a video game. Designing, building, advertising, and everything else.  In STEAM class we recently designed and produced our own video games using a game engine called Kodu Game Lab. With Kodu, we could easily work on our games using a simple and reliable method.

Let me tell you a little about Kodu Game Lab. Kodu is an application for windows PC's that you can use to create and edit your very own video game. The engine uses a block-like learning structure, making it easy for users to drag and place commands, instead of typing them.  There are also some customization features, such as land forms and colour preferences. Kodu Game Lab also comes equip with premaid characters for users to program. This kind of product is aimed at children or students, but if you have never coded before, it's a great way to learn the basics.

To design our game, my partner and I sketched an outline on paper so that we had planned instructions for when we started our online unit. We made sure to include the provided themes from our teacher, meaning the features we had to include in our game, in this case being FIRE, WATER, TIME, METAL and EARTH. Once we finished our sheet, we got onto our PC and launched Kodu. Being that Kodu has a very simple and easy-to-navigate design, it was great that my partner and I had a smooth start on the application and soon got very comfortable with the controls.

Now, here comes the hard part: meeting the requirements. As mentioned, Mr. Aringo gave us certain guidelines that had to be incorporated in our game before we submitted it. This was semi-difficult, because we had our idea on paper, but weren't sure how to set it up on Kodu. Though Kodu was smooth and simple, there were many aspects of the game that we had to search through to find what we wanted, and there were several times where we had to improvise and code for ourselves. That's the beauty of Kodu-you can watch examples, copy them, and also create some for yourself.

In the end, we came up with (at least in my opinion), a very cool game. My partner and I named it THE MAZE OF ELEMENTS, judging by the fact that we had to incorporate some given elements. Here's how we created our original game, and also met the guidelines. The object of our game is to complete the maze within the given TIME limit and reach the star at the end of the maze to progress into the next level. Each level has a different them, for example, Maze of WATER level, where the obstacles are blue, the land in brown, green, and EARTHY, and the maze is submerged in water. Also the Maze of FIRE, where the obstacles are red and fire-like. In the maze, you run into enemies who also go according to theme, like in the maze of fire, you find METALLIC sputniks, and in the water level, you find evil octopus. These enemies shoot blips at you and decrease your health. If your health bar or your time limit run out, the game ends. But wait- all hope is not lost! You can shoot at the monsters too! By pressing space, you can shoot in the direction your character is facing by using the arrow keys to move. This way, you can kill the mobs as you progress through the maze while also having to watch your time limit and think about which way to turn.

The next step in our process was the advertising campaign. We used a screen recorder and a video making application to capture the best moments in our game and include elements of a good commercial, such as music, pictures, not too many words, and intriguing dialogue. We used the last aspect of of the commercial (intriguing dialogue), to create our own paper printed pitch trying to convince the user to buy our game (although it's not actually on the market, sorry :)

All in all, this project was very fun, and probably one of my favorites so far. A side from some computer glitches and challenging feedback, creating a video game was a lot less stressful than some of our other projects, though I feel I did learn lots from my mistakes. You'd think that a class of wild middle school kids wouldn't be very focused during a morning STEAM class, but as it turns out, give us a computer and a video game engine, and the possibilities are infinite. :)

Kodu school


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