Most of the game developers you know today, and even the ones you don't, grew up making games with some extremely arcane tools. Nintendo's newest game, Game Builder Garage, might look like it's aimed at kids — but it's part of a new era of game development that's more accessible than ever.
Back in the day, a lot of developers learned the ropes with BASIC — a precursor to modern programming languages, which you probably know as the one that you can use to "PRINT "Hello, World!"". Developers that are a little older may have used Assembly language, which is pretty much the language that computers themselves speak.
Assembly is what's known as a "low-level" programming language, which means it has fewer of the abstraction layers that make higher-level languages easier for human people to use. It's like speaking fluent French to a French person, rather than having to check a guide to ask where the toilets are, or asking Google Translate to turn "my leg has fallen off" into French for you. As a result, it's fast, because no "translation" is needed, but it's also extremely hard to make complex things with it, unless you're basically a programming wizard.
Imagine trying to write a novel in Latin with your eyes closed, and that's pretty much what it's like to make games in Assembly. Almost all NES, SNES, and Mega Drive games were made in Assembly, as well as the original Pokémon games, and Rollercoaster Tycoon, which is insane.
Fast forward to a little later on, and a surprisingly high number of modern-day video game developers got their start in FPS modding. Dear Esther, the game that kicked off the "walking simulator" genre, began life as a Half-Life 2 mod, and so did The Stanley Parable.
Others, like Super Meat Boy and Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen, found success in Flash (RIP), publishing their games on sites like Newgrounds and eventually gathering enough support to publish them for real. Some people even learned to code on Neopets. Seriously.
Hopefully, this extremely brief history lesson of early-ish game dev has helped you realise how it's honestly a miracle that anyone ever pushed past these obtuse game tools to create the video games you know and love.
Right, we're quite a few paragraphs in, and I haven't really mentioned the title of this piece yet. Game Builder Garage is Nintendo's new game, announced out of nowhere, that promises that "anyone can be a game programmer". It's actually not new at all, but a revamped, expanded version of the software included with the Labo VR kit, which sadly didn't sell particularly well.
Game Builder Garage is the latest in a crop of tools that make game development even more accessible, in the hopes that children of all ages will be able to understand what's going on behind the scenes of games like Minecraft, Super Mario, and Fortnite.
There's the PlayStation-exclusive Dreams, which lets players create... pretty much whatever they want; Roblox includes game creation tools that are so popular that some fan-made games, like "Adopt Me!", have made millions of dollars. Minecraft's Command Blocks, which allow players to mess with commands in the game, was introduced in 2012, and has since inspired players to create some extremely complex things.
There are even games about programming. If you've played Tomorrow Corporation's Human Resource Machine, then congratulations — you've experienced Assembly. If you've given puzzle game Opus Magnum a go, then you've basically started learning multithreaded programming. If you've put any number of hours into legendarily complex game, TIS-100, then... you might be beyond help.
So, how does Game Builder Garage fit into these accessible tools? It doesn't look quite as complex as Command Blocks, but it's definitely a few levels above Super Mario Maker. Nintendo's developers have done a lot of the fiddly work for you, like creating the art assets that you can use, from characters to objects. That leaves you, the player, free to play around with these tools to make something new — whether that's a simple platforming level, a top-down shooter, or a much more complex idea, like a recreation of your favourite Zelda game.
What Game Builder Garage does (at least, in the trailer) is turn all that programming gunk into friendly faces. Variables, logic gates, commands, and inputs alike are now chatty, tutorialised monsters, and it's hard to get annoyed at a colourful little monster. What's more, the visual interface — what you're interacting with on screen — is a simplified version of node-based programming, which is commonly used in game development software, like Unreal Engine's blueprint system.
So, not only will kids (and adults) be able to learn the basics of programming through bright, accessible, charming methods, but they're actually learning real programming methods that are in use in actual game studios. Game Builder Garage is a gateway to more complex systems, just like nursery rhymes are a gateway to music, lyric writing, and poetry, and learning the alphabet is a gateway to writing novels.
What this means for game development has yet to be seen — but, if the game developers of today got their start in Flash, Half-Life 2 modding, and making crappy BASIC games on their Commodore 64, imagine what the class of 2030 will be doing after getting their start with much more friendly tools. Greater accessibility also means a wider range of people will be able to learn game development with fewer obstacles (like cost, availability, and support), and that hopefully means a more diverse generation of game developers in the future, which can only be a good thing.
The game developers who earned their stripes back in the '00s, '90s, '80s, and '70s are old enough to have children of their own, now, in an age where video games are pretty mainstream. The idea that they could learn programming from Nintendo — a company which employs some of the greatest game designers in the world — would have probably blown their minds back when they were painstakingly trying to emulate Super Mario's mechanics, copying code chunks out of a programming book the size of their head.
Game Builder Garage may seem like a strange, weird Nintendo project that no one really asked for — but it's part of a game development revolution that could change the future of gaming. Here's to the next generation of creators!
My first experience with programming was in high school with PASCAL...don't remember anything about it though. I later went to a for-profit trade school that was teaching COBOL and C++, and those experiences made me realize I hate any and all forms of traditional scripting. Now, I mess around with game development using tools like Construct, Game Maker, Unreal Engine Blueprints and Unity with Bolt and Playmaker.
I can appreciate what Nintendo is trying to do here, but there are already so many ways it can be done already. Construct is as simple and logical as it gets, and Scratch is great for kids, and free.
Not a programmer, but if this is a start as like a little hobby then yes I'm def getting this, I don't want to be one ever so....ya.
I’ll be buying this. I wonder if the online community will be like Mario maker for sharing / rating / downloading. Not sure if this has been detailed anywhere.
Always wanted more games like this like dreams
I'm a programmer and I'm interested now that I've seen more of the tool selection thanks to NL's video but not ready to buy it day one. I want to see more. Labo Garage was too limited but this has potential.
Honestly, I doubt this will do anything. I can already tell It's gonna be limited as hell
I already program eight hours or more a day, five days a week so no thanks. I'll be interested to see what people make though.
I'll be getting it, and (as long as there's no terrible 1958 hour tutorial) will be attempting to make SpikeDislike, as is my thing.
I doubt I'll ever reach having made 100 games in the thing, but if you're a SmileBASIC user, I'm scheduled to reach that number by the end of June!!!
And yes, I am absolutely thrilled to play around with Nintendo's game creation tools.
I learned Java in high-school and in college I kind of hopped around between C++, C#, Java, and Python. At work now I basically work with Bash and PowerShell automation plus some IT cloud stuff. I did do some full-blown programming out of college but it just wasn’t for me. It’s not only difficult a lot of times but also pressure-intensive, heavily reliant on others, and really just got boring for me. I guess I just like working with smaller, more manageable software or scripts that I have more control over. I envy full-blown programmers, they go through a lot and it’s usually really time-sensitive as well.
That being said, I’m 50/50 on Game Builder Garage. It really just depends the extent at which you can make your games, how big of games you can make, and how accessible sharing is. Regardless, this is definitely a cool product that could shape younger audiences into more creative designers or even software developers.
I mean.....you're probably not wrong...
Ok, I admit I only looked at the pictures. Hehe
"Young man, you too can be a game designer."
this will be fun.
10 Print "I'm so buying this!"
20 Goto 10
I am so excited for this game..the website showed 7 premade games and you can make up to 71 games. with 10.5 gigabytes of memory. I hope i can make alot of levels for each game. i have alot of ideas and cannot wait to get started.
I am a programmer, but am not getting, not because 'it's too much work', but because I think it will end up like Dreams, where after the first year or so, very few people support it, and it'll just be a bunch of junk meme games being made.
@yuwarite Excuse me, some of us like poorly made Wallace and Gromit memes.
I'll be looking at this, since based on what I saw via streams, Dreams is a bit too much for me. Maybe I'd give it another go once I have my own Playstation, but I want to give this a try.
My only worry (well, besides wondering how audio will be handled, lol), is how far can you take this? Because knowing Nintendo when it comes to creation tools, there has ALWAYS been a limit. Can you really make a full 2D Zelda-like game with an overworld as well as mirrored version of that overworld? Complete with caves, indoors, dungeons, and everything? Or a massive open world game?...Not that I would make an open world game since I don't care for those, but yeah, you get my point. lol
This may be snobbish but as a programmer I loathe this kind of thing and all the government schemes to get more programmers, the quality that comes out is atrocious from people that think they can now do it because of things like this.
Not from what I'm seeing. It doesn't look like it will result in much more than we saw from Labo Garage Kit--anyone still talking about that?
So is this supposed to substitute new Mario Maker games in the future?
Most people, including myself, aren't creative. In the arts, exclusion, is as important as inclusion, as paradoxical as that sounds.
Won't be getting this. I prefer real game engines with code not drag and drop
Game Jam! Game Jam! Nintendolife Game Jam!
I'm writing this every chance I have.
I learned some C++ in college, though I'm not into programming anymore but I spent countless hours messing up in WarioWare: D.I.Y. and see what I could come up with.
If I can find the physical version, I'll get it. If I can't, this looks like a game that sounds better downloaded.
I'll get this as a digital time-passer. As far as it leading me to learn coding, I seriously doubt it.
"I'm so buying this!"
"I'm so buying this!"
"I'm so buying this!"
"I'm so buying this!"
While we're discussing programming games, let's not forget PlayStation 1's long-lost strategy / programming game Carnage Heart. THAT's an obscure reference for you all. In Carnage Heart, you use parts to build battle robots called OverKill Engines (OKE), and program their behaviors with a grid of "If/then" statements in icon form. I was never that good at it, but I do hope with the tutorials for this Game Builder Garage, I can be much better at this!
A program that’s easy to start with is Scratch. It’s really popular, but it could never be used to make a professional game, it’s meant for beginners.
@chipia No, it’s a completely different game...
@yuwarite It seems based on the description that you can’t share games publicly like you could in SMM2. Only people with the code/ID for the level can play it. That’s what I thought based on the description, I could be wrong.
I’m a programmer and I’ll definitely be getting this. My only concern is what assets will be available, I’ve seen some sort of sprite drawing screen in the trailer but it would be cool if there was a store front for people to create assets and upload them like Forza has for car designs.
Hopefully it will be possible to hide whole node sets inside a box, otherwise I could easily see more complex designs becoming incomprehensible spaghetti.
I'm mostly interested in this due to the portability. I've mucked around with Game Maker Studio, but it's a bit of a hurdle to sit down at my PC. Being able to drop in on my Switch Lite in bed for 15 minutes seems like a more realistic path toward programming.
Game Builder Garage will substitute Mario Maker about as well as Doom will substitute Fortnite.
So not at all.
I began teaching myself Unity around a couple months ago, though having learned C++ back in high school/college helped. Still working my way through whatever tutorials I find that I think would be helpful. I have a game idea in mind that I'm working toward and hope can be made into a sellable product.
I do plan to pick up Garage. If nothing else, I think it'd be helpful in prototyping. But I'm hoping there's some good Nintendo style advice as well.
It’s gonna have the same fate as Mario Maker 2: devs refuse to curate levels and rely on the same hot and popular tabs which results in endless garbage, no easy way to search for games/levels instead relying on codes you have to find online. They can’t have user content games overshadowing their own games so they put in all these road blocks are put in place, they made sure Mario Maker 2 wouldn’t be the place for 2D Mario and instead would be the place for music, QTE speedruns and effect spam hell.
I can barely produce a Mario Maker stage, let alone a game unto itself - so I imagined being too intimidated to even try Garage.
But WOW my elementary school age daughters were excited by the trailer! They have creativity to spare, though I’m not sure if they’ll be patient and persistent enough to get far with it. I may pick up a copy and see if my oldest at least truly wants to create stuff in it.
A related coding game I played on Switch was FUZE. I tried FUZE for about 2-3 hours and found it hard to use with the joycons + keyboard combo and having to fiddle with the tutorial in between. It was helpful and I made a map and some animated sprites but ultimately gave up. This looks great. Hope the tools just get easier and easier to use. Did a python course for fun last spring & it's been helpful for product management and working with devs, always recommend taking at least an entry level course or online tutorials for coding, it can be helpful
Actually glad they announced this and i will certainly check it out. Last game i built was in Unity, was a basic marble and maze game using unities built in physics, based on the tutorial and built out more to resemble an actual game (think i had 7 levels, then ran out of steam/enthusiasm).
My favourite was a Star Wars Text adventure i made on the ZX Spectrum, stealing a storm trooper outfit to get passed the search party out in the Dune sea, to visit Obi Wan before he meets Luke in A New Hope. Had to then steal a ship and divert the Empire while Obi Wan hooked up with Luke, Han an Chewie. Your character was the reason the two star destroyers in orbit were completely out of position when the Falcon takes off from Mos Eisley.
My first programming language that I learned was C#, followed by C++ & Python.
Gonna be making a new Turrican game/Turrican clone with this
@NintendoArchive makes perfect sense. Just like Bob Seger said...'what to leave in, what to leave out'.
Will likely pick this up for the kiddo.
@BabyYoda71 SCRATCH!!!! That's a throwback!!! I remember playing around with that a bunch in secondary school, making a whole bunch of stuff on there. None of it was particularly good, but my god was that fun. I kinda dropped programming after then; had a course in my first year of uni using MATLAB where I made a couple simple functions before I dropped out. Tried picking up Python back last March but I really wasn't in the headspace for it. Scratch was soooo wonderful
@nessisonett Yesss!! I love Ink. Fun fact: I wrote Goodbye Volcano High in Ink 😎
@KateGray Ok that’s pretty cool, you even made it into the PS5’s showcase! Do you use Inky or just a normal text editor?
My first was PHP.. Dang
Weird that the article didn’t even mention fuze4 or smile basic though..
@nessisonett I tried using Inky, but it didn't have enough features at the time (though I think it was recently updated!) so I switched to Sublime Text
As an electronics engineering student, it would be a great idea to learn kids getting creative with technology like Arduino and Raspbery Pi. My first attempt to learn programming was in high school with C but the awful university entry exams didn't let me to study more. I'm glad i study in the field. I learn Unreal Engine with some Unity as well to make an indie game
I don't program and I don't know if I will get it or not. I wish they would add that as an option of the not knowing. The most I have done is Scratch. I wish I knew how to program, though.
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