It’s Not All About the Objects
Kodu Game Lab has some fun and entertaining objects. There’s Kodu to start with, and let’s not forget Rover, the Cycle, and one of my favorite vehicles, Blimp. Plus you’ve already encountered nonmoving objects such as trees and rocks, but there are plenty more, such as coins, stars, castles, and factories. You’ll find all these objects useful in your games as either playable characters, targets, or treasure (or something else). You’ll be designing the games, so it will be up to you to assign roles to the objects in your games.
But one character in almost all games goes unrecognized. This character is easy to spot but almost always never makes any noise. This character is absolutely required for your game to be a good one, and thankfully it’s also a character that you can program. Do you know what it is? Give up?
Okay, here’s the answer: It’s the world! Yes, it’s the actual terrain that defines the boundaries of your game, provides obstacles for your players to move around or hide behind, and gives your game new and exciting places to visit. Without the capability to add and modify terrain, your game would exist on nothing but the initial flat square of land shown in Figure 6.1 and that appears whenever you select New World from the Home Menu.
FIGURE 6.1. This small square of land is not enough for a great game.
Professional game designers often spend just as much time on the environment as they do on the in-game characters (and maybe more). One of the secrets to a good game is making certain the terrain (buildings, hills, rivers, and more) enhances the fun, provides players with a visually pleasing background, and is integrated into the design of the gameplay. That is, you can use the terrain to create rules that make a game more challenging. Imagine a game called Stay Off the Grass, for example, which penalizes players who wander off a path and onto the green grass. Or imagine another game called Pothole City that has holes scattered around that end the game if a player falls into one.
With most games, it’s not the terrain that provides the primary objective; instead, the terrain adds complexity or dangers, or just fun visuals. And because interacting with the terrain is not usually the way to win a game (but it can sometimes end a game), the game relies on other aspects such as the programming of objects that you’ve been learning.
The key is to learn to manipulate and control the terrain so that it can add to the fun of your game, not take away. And that’s what this chapter is all about: learning about the available tools that enable you to add, modify, and take away terrain. If you’ve got a solid understanding of how to control your new world’s terrain, you’re well on your way to creating some impressive-looking games.
Let’s take a look at the available tools and how to use them. Open up Kodu Game Lab and select New World so that you begin with that single square of terrain. You’re going to be making some major changes to it in this chapter.