Kodu1
Say hello to “Kodu.” It might look familiar. Kinda like Sackboy’s little brother.

At
tonight’s pre-CES keynote, Microsoft unveiled a new "game creator"
(their term) that will look pretty familiar to anyone who follows the
videogame world, or pays attention to  Sony ads.

“Kodu” is, as
Microsoft entertainment president Robbie Bach describes it, a way to
"empower everyone, the entire breadth of our audience, to create their
own games."

What does it look like? Well, it’s an accessible,
adorable application that lets regular people design and share their
own own videogame levels. Microsoft can protest as much as it wants,
but in the big picture, it's about as distinct from “LittleBigPlanet”
as avatars are from Miis.

The most obvious difference, however,
is that "Kodu" is 3-D. It's not just a platformer. In the demo that
Bach did with a 12 year-old girl named Sparrow, the game she created in
her little 3-D world was essentially fetch, in which two robots tried
to get objects spit out of a machine and return them to a spot for
points. Kodu2

Watching
Sparrow create the game, it's largely based on equations (like the ones
on the right). Telling the factory that every 10  seconds it spits out
a new item, for instance. When I say "equation," I mean you're literaly
using + and = signs to make in-game rules.

The
menus are still tricky (just like in "LittleBigPlanet," you have to
navigate through a lot of stuff), but it's a language that anyone who
graduated elementary school can probably understand.

Unlike
"LittleBigPlanet," "Kodu" isn't the result of years of work by a
development studio. It came out of Microsoft R&D, where it started
as a way to help teach kids how to program. Because it's not a "game,"
per se, it won't come with a rich campaign or, I'm going to guess, arch
voiceovers by Stephen Fry.

It's coming in the spring and it'll be
downloadable. Microsoft hopes to use it to fuel lots of user creations
on its Community Games channel, though it's not clear if there will be
a rich social community a la "LittleBigPlanet" (rating, tagging, etc.)
or if users will just be sharing the games they create with friends.

"Kodu"
is definitely not a "LittleBigPlanet" killer. Sony's game is inarguably
the richer experience. But Sony will no longer be able to claim it has
the only console with an accessible and intuitive level builder. And
based on what I say, "Kodu" may even offer a few tricks that make
videogame building even simpler than "LittleBigPlanet" has shown us it
can be.

(Cross-posted on The Cut Scene)

Filed Under:

Follow @Variety on Twitter for breaking news, reviews and more
Comments 3