Discussion with Alan Kay about Robot Odyssey

One of Alan Kay's favorite games is Robot Odyssey! I wrote to him:

From: Don Hopkins
Subject: Robot Odyssey

One thing I've always wanted to do is a re-make of Robot Odyssey, with the full power of a real programming language underneath it, and lots of cool toys for the robots to play with! That was such a powerful concept for a game!


From: Alan Kay
Subject: Robot Odyssey

I actually argued with him [Will Wright] and Maxis for not making SimCity very educational. E.g. the kids can't open the hood to see the assumptions made by SimCity (crime can be countered by more police stations) and try other assumptions (raise standard of living to counter crime) etc. I've never thought of it as a particularly good design for educational purposes.

However, I have exactly the opposite opinion of Robot Odyssey, which I thought was a brilliant concept when the TLC people brought it to me at Atari in the early 80s. (Rocky's Boots is pretty much my all time favorite for a great game that really teaches and also has a terrific intro to itself done in itself, etc. Warren Robinette is a very special designer.).

The big problem with Robot Odyssey (as I tried to explain to them) was that the circuits-programming didn't scale to the game. They really needed to move to something like an object-oriented event-driven Logo with symbolic scripting to allow the kids to really get into the wonderful possibilities for strategies and tactics. (BTW, Etoys is kind of an OO event-driven Logo (not an accident), and the next version of it has as a goal to be able to do Robot Odyssey in a reasonable way. This got delayed because of funding problems but we now have funding and are really going to do it this year. Want to help design and build it?)