For the most part, all of the big-name console developers have tried their hand at giving the everyday Joe a fun and approachable way to make their own games. Sony and Media Molecule released Dreams last year, Microsoft dropped Project Spark back in 2014, Nintendo released a couple of games that gave us the keys to make our own 2D Mario levels and even snuck some impressive game creation tools within the Nintendo Labo series of kits. Then just a few weeks ago, Nintendo announced Game Builder Garage, a new standalone game that’s looking to get aspiring designers and programmers' feet wet.
Game Builder Garage appears to use a bit of the framework that helped shape the same creation tools we saw with the Toy-Con Garage in the Labo series, but from the preview we sat in on last week with Nintendo, it appears to offer more possibilities than we could have imagined.
Let's take a quick tour of the things we learned following our preview session:
What in the world is a Nodon?
Nodon are essentially the pieces of your puzzles, the bricks that built the walls in your home and the cement that holds them together. Nodon are actions and elements that can be placed into your creation to tell it exactly what you want it to do and there all sorts of different Nodon that do particular things! If you want to make a character, you'll place down a Nodon, and if you want to make that character jump by pressing the B button, you'll place another Nodon and attach that to your character's Nodon. Over 80 different Nodon are available to play around with in Game Builder Garage and each one has a cute little monster-like aesthetic! You can also have around 500 Nodon set inside your project, so the ceiling for creativity is pretty high.
Can you share your games in Game Builder Garage?
Unlike in the Labo Toy-Con Garage, each game you create in Game Builder Garage will come with a custom Game ID that can be shared online for players to download. If you have your Switch account linked to Facebook or Twitter you’ll be a ble to directly share a Game ID through those social media platforms as well. You can also just share your Programmer ID with other players to give them access to the entire library of games you’ve uploaded to the server.
This sounds like it could be a bit of a pain having to share a friend code style ID over and over again, but thanks to the fact GBG supports mouse and keyboard, you'll always only be a few clicks away from trying out another new creation.
Unfortunately, there won’t be an in-game hub to browse and find new games like Nintendo has done in the past with a game like Super Mario Maker 2 either. You’ll have to find a Game ID online outside of the Switch, or by acquiring a game ID from a friend. You’ll also be able to distribute code through local wireless play as well, which sounds perfect for the classroom full of budding game developers! We're hoping Nintendo takes advantage of their social outlets to share and praise some of the more unique creations that come out of GBG.
Will we have to create our own game before we can download and play others?
If you’re looking to pick up GBG purely to play other user’s creations, be aware you’ll have to play through a tiny bit of the game’s lessons before you’re granted access to user-generated content in the Free Programming Mode, but no, you won't have to make your own game.
Nintendo said it’ll only take a couple of minutes before you have the download feature unlocked, however, they strongly recommend you spend some time with the lessons as it will give you the benefit of learning how to modify other players' games and build your own. You don't want to deny yourself from potentially becoming the next Miyamoto, do you?
How will music and sound effects work?
Anyone expecting a music creator on the level of Mario Paint may be a bit disappointed, as there isn’t an in-depth music creator, but the game features a large number of music tracks that are selectable with a Background Music Nodon. You can only have one of these particular Nodon active at a time, but this Nodon can have multiple audio layers playing at once and you can raise and lower the speed of the overall track as well.
It’s difficult to tell how much you’ll be able to manipulate music, but we imagine players will find plenty of ways to create their own music in-game outside of the BGM Nodon as there is also a Sound Nodon, that can play one of the many in-game sound effects whenever you’d like. Multiple of these Sound Nodon can be placed throughout your creation, and their speed and pitch can be adjusted as well. Theoretically, a player could create music with them in a similar manner to how players have created music box style levels in Mario Maker (just as one fan did when they recreated DOOM Eternal in the Labo VR Kit's Toy-Con Garage and added some of Mick Gordon's soundtrack).
What’s the barrier to entry?
Game Builder Garage is very much geared toward the player who knows nothing about building their own games. As long as you can read and have an appetite for creativity, you’ll be in luck! Game creation can sound pretty daunting, but the game comes packed with a load of lesson plans to help show you the ropes as well.
What can we expect from the lessons packed into the game?
There are three full Lesson plans contained within Game Builder Garage and each of these will teach you about different Nodon, give you examples on how to use them, and then test your knowledge periodically throughout each of the courses.
Each lesson is themed around how to build a certain game, one of which is a side-scrolling shooter, another is a multiplayer game of tag. In total, Nintendo says you can expect to spend 8-to-10 hours to complete the entirety of the game’s lessons but can go back and give yourself a refresher when needed as well, though.
Not every Nodon will be utilized and explained within the game's lessons, but there is an in-game encyclopedia known as the Nodopedia that will give you info on how each of the Nodon functions. It’ll be up to you to figure out how and where to incorporate some of them into your games!
Will there be DLC?
Nintendo has stated that they have no plans at this time of releasing extra downloadable add-ons of any kind for Game Builder Garage. Everything you need to build and create will be contained right inside the game.
Can we expect to find any Nintendo IP cameos or references?
As much as we’d love to uncover a secret fly-swatting mini-game, or use a tune from Koji Kondo as a background track for one of our games, Nintendo said we won't find any references to other Nintendo IP like Mario, or Zelda. Even though a Part Time UFO cameo would just make sense if you ask us!
Game Builder Garage is all about learning how to make games from the minds at Nintendo, but won’t feature their characters or worlds as a blueprint. Who’s to say you won’t be able to create those game styles or tunes yourself though and share them online?
Can I design multiplayer games? Can I design games with a friend?
Up to 8 Joy-Con can be used with Game Builder Garage at a given time and it will be up to the creators to determine how they’d like to utilize the tools at their disposal. Beyond the simple thought of button inputs, however, you’ll also be able to take advantage of the other features of a Joy-Con to potentially incorporate more people into your play session. Someone could theoretically create a game of hot potato using the motion in a singular Joy-Con or a game of musical chairs where the Switch plays and stops music randomly on its own. The number of players will only be limited by the experience that you create.
Then let’s say you and a friend want to tackle a project together, (maybe you take on the programming but your friend wants to tackle the art side) you can, but with some restrictions. There’s no way for two users to both edit a game in real-time, but if you want to take turns making edits with a friend, you’ll just need to share your new game code with a friend when you make a revision. It could get a little messy, but there’s also a Comment Nodon that allows you to leave little notes about bugs or ideas anywhere in your program for someone else to read.
Can you create your own sprites and character models?
From what we could tell, there won’t be any way to upload assets or images into the game, but you’ll be able to use an in-game drawing tool to create your own 2D backgrounds, characters, and more. We didn’t see this in motion either, but we’ve been told you’ll be able to create animations as well that you can set however you’d like.
While not everyone out there may want to start off designing their own games from the get-go, we're glad to see Nintendo is putting such a focus on the lessons and learning side of things with Game Builder Garage. The ability to share your creations gives even more reason for everyone to get out there and get creative too! We're anxiously awaiting all of the WarioWare and Rhythm Heaven style mini-games the internet is going to cook up.
Game Builder Garage launches on Switch on 11th June. Let us know if you're planning to pick this up next month!