[OLPC-Games] Game ideas for the XO: Robot Odyssey

Alan Kay alan.nemo at yahoo.com
Mon Nov 12 21:57:51 EST 2007

Thanks SJ --

We are benefiting here from Don Hopkins' generosity (and of the original designers and owners of these games).

The basic notion is that there are many games that, if modularized with nice separable interfaces, would be great environments for exploring various kinds of "learning by doing". For example, there is a nice separation between the "rules/dynamics" of a games world and the "strategies/actions" of the characters. There could be a third separation to break out the graphics and sound routines as a media environment.

For example, in SimCity, the first and most useful breakout for children would be to allow various UIs to be made that would let children find out about and try experiments with the "city dynamics rules". It's not clear what the best forms for this would be, so it would be
great to have a variety of different designers supply modules that
would try to bridge the gaps to the child users.

This could work even for pretty young children (we helped the Open Magnet School set up Doreen Nelson's "City Building" curriculum in the third grade of the school and this was very successful -- a child controlled SimCity would have been wonderful to have). 

Maybe this separation could be set up via the D-bus so that separate processes written in any language the authors choose could be used. This would open this game up to different experiments by different researchers to explore different kinds of UIs and strategy languages for various ages of children. I think this would be really cool! We would all learn a lot from this and the children would benefit greatly.

A trickier deal would be the world dynamics (I'm just guessing here, but Don would know). This is one of the really great things about SimCity -- it can really accommodate lots of different changes and stitch things together to make a pretty decent simulation without too many seams showing. (Given the machines this game originally ran on, many of the heuristics are likely to be a little patchy. Don has indicated as much.) I think doing a great world dynamics engine for games like SimCity would be really wonderful -- and could even be a thesis project or two. 

Don has talked about doing the separations so that many new games can be made in addition to the variations.

Similarly, Robot Odyssey (one of the best games concepts ever) was marred by choosing a way to program the robots where the complexity of programming grew much faster than the functionality that could be given to the robots. This game was way ahead of its time.

Again, the idea would be do make a game in which environment, levels of challenge, and how the robots are programmed would be broken out into separate processes that a variety of gamers and researchers could do experiments in language and UI.

One of the most wonderful possibilities about this venture is that it will bring together very fluent designers from many worlds of computing (more worlds than usually combine to make a game) in the service of the children. We should really try to pull this off!



----- Original Message ----
From: SJ Klein <sj at laptop.org>
To: games at lists.laptop.org
Cc: Alan Kay <alan.nemo at yahoo.com>; Don Hopkins <dhopkins at DonHopkins.com>; Chris Trottier <christinetrottier at gmail.com>; John Gilmore <gnu at toad.com>
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 5:29:24 PM
Subject: Game ideas for the XO: Robot Odyssey 

Don and Alan have been having a great discussion about Robot Odyssey,
which I'd like to share with the list.  By coincidence, a discussion in
#sugar today around SimCity's open sourcing turned to how to get Robot 
Odyssey onto the laptops... so I'd like to open the discussion to a

Who is interested in helping develop a R.O. port, and in improving on
old implementation?  Alan has some excellent ideas about how to turn
updating of the design into a useful exercise, perhaps for an eager
or class.

Of course other nifty project ideas are more than welcome.

Don and Alan -- I think the entirety of your discussions about
and game design are worth sharing; if you don't mind, I'll transcribe
of them to the wiki for further elaboration.


On Mon, 12 Nov 2007, Alan Kay wrote:

> Hi SJ --
> Robot Odyssey is another game that would benefit from having a clean 
> separation between the graphical/physical modeling simulation and the
> behavioral parts (both the games levels and the robot programming
> be independently separated out) -- this would make a great target for
> those who would like to try their hand at game play and at robot 
> behavioral programming systems.
> This is a long undropped shoe for me. When I was the CS at Atari in 
> 82-84, it was one of our goals to make a number of the very best
> into frameworks for end-user (especially children's) creativity.
> Atari had quite a down turn towards the end of 83 ...  We did get
> Aquarium" idea from Ann Marion to morph into the Vivarium project at 
> Apple ... And some of the results there helped with the later Etoys 
> design.
> Cheers,
> Alan

Get easy, one-click access to your favorites. 
Make Yahoo! your homepage.
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
URL: http://lists.laptop.org/pipermail/games/attachments/20071112/f86b1fa0/attachment.htm 

More information about the Games mailing list