Creating your own games normally requires expensive software, in-depth knowledge of C++, years of spare time and a brain the size of a planet. But, Microsoft's FUSE Labs say, there is an alternative. Their Kodu Game Lab is so simple even a child can use it, and the results are attractive 3D games that are playable on both the PC and Xbox 360.
Kodu is certainly very easy to use. A terrain editor brings point-and-click simplicity to the task of creating your game world. And you can then add a range of characters and objects: a flying saucer, balloon, jet, blimp, cannon, clouds, buildings, rocks, stars, coins and more.
There are no boring text-based lists here, either. Kodu uses control wheels that graphically display all the options available at any one time. And it all works with mouse clicks, so you'll quickly feel at home.
The core programming is just as straightforward, as it involves only one construct: When/ Do. When you bump into an object, lose some health maybe; when the character sees an object, move towards it; when the player hits a particular key then perform some action; when the player moves the mouse then move the character accordingly.
This can, obviously, build into something quite complex, but it's reasonably easy to set up - most of the time you're just choosing icons, there's no text editing involved. All you really need is patience, and a little imagination.
And if you have any problems creating games of your own, then don't worry, you can always load a sample game instead. There are plenty of examples and tutorials available, which you can then customise as you like. Though beware, many (though not all) of these need game controllers, and you can't play them with a mouse alone.
Kodu is an interesting and capable game creator. The finished results are understandably limited, but it's fun to use, and if you'd to teach your kids some programming basics then this is a very good place to start