Nintendo’s structure Play builder garage is fascinating and could be his greatest asset in teaching newcomers to make games.
The game itself is fairly easy to describe; it’s a suite of tools that allow gamers to create their own rudimentary video games using just their Nintendo Switch and imagination. There have been quite a few such tools over the years – the most recent and well-known of course being Media Molecule’s Dreams on PS4 – but something about the way Game Builder Garage goes about it is very different. . This is, to quote that old call to investors, where we got the first teases of what has become the Switch, a “Nintendo-type solution”.
At the heart of Game Builder Garage’s commitment to teaching you how to make games the Nintendo way are seven basic lessons. Except these aren’t just lessons – they’re step-by-step instructions on how to make a game of a specific type.
Think of it like Lego. Each of the seven lessons slowly builds a game – say, a side-scrolling space shooter or a platformer with power-ups. By creating these prototype minigames – which in some cases can take a while – you have mastered the basic programming concepts behind them. Then you can carry this knowledge into your own creations.
At the end of each lesson you have the option to slightly customize each game with your own touches like textures or sound effects, so that even from the same instructions your game will be unique from someone else’s. else. And naturally, you can edit and customize these lesson sets further, using them as a starting point to create something completely different.
Once each lesson is completed, Game Builder Garage will question you about its content with a series of simple puzzles. These immerse you in a game that is usually slightly broken in one way or another and challenge you to go over to the programming side to fix it with the knowledge you got from your most recent programming. . You learn by doing and then carry that knowledge forward by applying it in a different scenario.
Nintendo describes the steps as Concept, Execution, Quiz, then either on the next lesson or better yet to learn other applications in the form of free programming, anything goes. This is a very smart method of disguising the learning process – but that doesn’t mean that what you are going to learn is simple. Quite the reverse, in fact.
Each of the games you create is more complicated than the last and teaches more advanced programming skills. By the time you have completed all seven, you should have mastered all of the basic programming features on offer.
As a reminder, the games that the seven lessons allow you to build are as follows:
- Tag Showdown, a 2D multiplayer tag game
- On a Roll, a motion-controlled puzzle game
- Alien Blaster, a side-scrolling space shooter
- Risky Run, a 2D platform game with power-ups
- Mystery Room, a 3D escape room puzzle
- Thrill Racer, a 3D racing game
- Super Person World, a 3D platform game with full camera control
As you can see, this is a wide range of genres – and one can get a pretty good idea of how these might be augmented in different types of games. Tag Showdown’s default form already looks a bit like a Smash Bros. scene, with some obstacles to avoid – and one has to wonder if it could be changed to become a Smash-style fighting game.
The steps you need to take to complete this conversion all take place in the editor – which is essentially a screen where you connect different elements together to create the complex web of interactions and checks and balances to do everything you have to. need to do, adding a sound effect to a whole new playable character.
The setup here is probably the most similar to Toy-Con Garage, the programming tool launched alongside Nintendo Labo. Similar names are a clue, but there is also an aesthetic style in business here that is very similar to Labo games. Toy-Con Garage has led to some amazing efforts, including a small recreation of Doom Eternal that went viral recently – so you can immediately see the huge potential of Game Builder Garage, which is more explicitly aimed at mainstream video game programming. .
You can go from the lineup screen to the game seamlessly with the push of a single button, so it’s easy to test as you go and see what happens with each change. Iteration is key, and it’s a concept in game development that Nintendo strongly prescribes – and so it’s an essential part of the flow of this teaching tool.
Some items are available as presets – you can, for example, drop a drivable car into a level or a base platform character – all you need to do is plug in their controls. But controls and other items can also be connected to just about any object, meaning you can create your own fully custom protagonists, enemies, and items.
While there is a limit on how many Nodons, connections, and other items you can have, it is high. The more complicated of the seven lessons grouped together only uses a tenth of the upper limit.
As you build your game, the network of interconnected elements can become overwhelming – but one way Nintendo has tried to gain advantage is by making those elements real characters. They teased it a bit in the trailer, but these are the “Nodons,” small, sentient entities that exist to power your game. The image the developers wanted to conjure up was that every game you play is powered by a bunch of little critters, like Inside Out or Wreck it Ralph or whatever.
The Nodons talk, make jokes and each have a little personality. The A button is excitable, bouncy, and always wants to be pushed down and be a part of the action. The retry button is monotonous and pressed, always thinking about how things could be better if there was a redo – and so on. One Nodon even exists just to chain together different levels and creations – meaning you can build a full game that takes you through stages seamlessly.
The adorable little Nodon characters will cheer you on and help you through the process, but everything also seems designed to show how difficult it is to make games. Children and the less talented can have fun with it, building rudimentary, fun and educational creations. But there will undoubtedly be some Game Builder Garage scholars who will create some incredibly complex mechanics to replicate many other games.
Everything looks exciting. I have to be honest – when it comes to video games with this level of creative tool, my creativity is pretty shallow compared to what you would find online. We haven’t had a chance to play Game Builder Garage yet, only to watch a Nintendo presentation of one of its lessons. However, it seems like a versatile, powerful, and intelligently designed tool that is going to lead to a slew of quite brilliant creations from people much more talented than me.
Which, in turn, brings us to one of the weirdest parts of the game – sharing. Game Builder Garage has no navigation tools, no leaderboards, no in-game way to download stages from others, even friends. Instead, he expects players to step out of his ecosystem to find the creations of others.
As an individual you will be given a Programmer ID, while each game you create will have its own Game ID. This is your path to sharing; outside of the game, you give one or both of these numbers to give someone access to all or only one of your downloaded creations.
More than anything, it feels like Nintendo is taking a step back and letting the community take over. By allowing people to submit their own textures, their own themes, their own everything … there are naturally moderation concerns. By removing an in-game browser, Nintendo is not responsible for preventing you from stumbling across a game with an inappropriate theme.
The report feature is there to get some really offensive stuff, but it seems like a surprisingly handy fix for Nintendo. Some will bemoan the lack of a browser… but social media is quite easy to launch, where no doubt a huge Game Builder Garage community will appear.
All in all, I was impressed with what appears to be possible here. The idea of making 3D games in this system seems a bit daunting and potentially limited, but there is clearly a plethora of options that people can play with to such an extent that it will inevitably lead to some amazing creations. I can’t wait to give it a try, find out I’m useless, and then play other people’s mind-boggling things instead.
Game Builder Garage is released on June 11. We will come back with a review closer to the exit.