Continuing with its effort to help nonprogrammers learn to “program,” Microsoft plans to distribute its new Kodu video game design program for novices through its Xbox Live community this spring.
At the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas on Jan. 7, Microsoft showed off Kodu during the event’s opening keynote. During his portion of the keynote, Microsoft Entertainment and Devices Division President Robbie Bach introduced Sparrow Buerer, a 12-year-old girl who demonstrated her programming skills using Kodu. Bach said Kodu is aimed at helping anyone from age 7 to 70 create their own video games.
Kodu, which was formerly known as Boku, is a new visual programming language that comes out of Microsoft Research. It was made specifically for creating games, and it runs on the Xbox and uses a game controller and allows for rapid design iteration. Kodu also runs on a PC.
According to Microsoft Research, the core of the Kodu project is the programming user interface, and the language itself is simple and entirely icon-based. The Kodu language provides specialized primitives derived from gaming scenarios. And programs are expressed in physical terms, using concepts such as vision, hearing and time to control character behavior.
Although Microsoft has other programs to help nonprofessionals create games, such as XNA Game Studio, Kodu is much simpler to learn and use. XNA Game Studio requires some basic programming knowledge.
Moreover, Kodu joins other Microsoft efforts to help novices, nonprogrammers and beginners learn to program, including the Express versions of the Microsoft Visual Studio languages and Web development platform, and the Popfly mashup maker and game creator.
Microsoft officials have said the company’s efforts to promote programming among beginners and novices are part of an overall strategy to help increase the pool of programmers and IT workers in the industry.