Shoppers walk under the logo of Nintendo and Super Mario characters at an electronics store in Tokyo. File picture: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi
Shoppers walk under the logo of Nintendo and Super Mario characters at an electronics store in Tokyo. File picture: AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi

Nintendo's new game teaches people how to make video games

By The Washington Post Time of article published May 9, 2021

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By Shannon Liao

Nintendo is getting into game development lessons, with a new game coming out next month aimed at teaching people how to make their own, the company announced Wednesday.

"Game Builder Garage" is a new Nintendo Switch game set for release on June 11. It will retail for $29.99 and is essentially a way for kids and adults to dip a toe into developing games on the Switch.

"Game Builder Garage" features seven major lessons and each has several steps to complete. The lessons, which take players through how to build several types of games, are titled Tag Showdown, On a Roll, Alien Blaster, Risky Run, Mystery Room, Thrill Racer and finally, a three-dimensional game called Super Person World. After players complete their lessons, they're free to design their own games without following a template.

The bright and colorful lessons are simplified from coding lessons developers normally teach themselves or receive in training, aimed at a general audience that may have never even played a video game. They're also kid-friendly, though children will need some grasp of English and the ability to navigate the Switch to be able to follow along.

Tag Showdown is the first lesson. Like the name suggests, players must design a tagger and a runner, and the objective of the game is to tag the other player to win. As the lessons get more complex, players will design a game where the Nintendo Switch Joy-Con can be picked up and moved to control a ball rolling through a map (On a Roll), and even a space-themed game where the goal is to shoot aliens (Alien Blaster). Mystery Room is an escape room-style game, while Risky Run is a platformer akin to Super Mario Run and Thrill Racer is about racing.

Nintendo has cutely dubbed the individual components that make up the game "Nodons," a word likely derived from the word "node." There are dozens of Nodons inside Game Builder Garage, one for each game component, including the player's avatar. There's a way to utilize every aspect of the Nintendo Switch, from a Nodon that controls the Switch's infrared camera to a Nodon for motion controls.

As more kids become millionaires by developing their own video games, Nintendo releasing a title like Game Builder Garage feels well-timed and intriguing.

The variety of games that can be made using Game Builder Garage seems endless, such as a game about shooting things in 3-D, or a game about passing along a Joy-Con with friends, trying not to shake the controller. But Game Builder Garage does have a few restrictions, making it different from building a game on a free engine like Unity or Roblox and then monetizing it.

Games made will have codes that can be shared with friends who have Nintendo Switches, but those friends must own a copy of Game Builder Garage to be able to access those games. And there's no way to sell the games players created back on the Nintendo eShop. There's also no way to upload art and assets into "Game Builder Garage," as you can on other game engines, so all art for games must be hand-drawn. It's possible to draw on the Switch via touch screen and controller.

Games crafted by others will have their programming viewable to users as well, so that people can learn from each other's designs. If two or more people want to collaborate and build a game together remotely, they can't work simultaneously on the same file, but instead must make changes asynchronously.

Up to 8 Joy-Cons can be connected to a single game, which restricts how vast multiplayer games created in "Game Builder Garage" can grow.

Compared to other game development lessons available for children, often via summer camps or free online academies, "Game Builder Garage" looks extremely accessible and its use of the Switch's capabilities could make for interesting creations.

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