Game Builder Garage is Nintendo's latest addition to the Switch's catalog, but it's not really a game. As its title suggests, this is a tool catered to those interested in creating their own video games... but does it really work? Well, we've been trying it since it was released, so here's what we have to say about Game Builder Garage!
Did You Say... Gaming Console?
Sure, everyone knows the Nintendo Switch is a portable console you can use on a TV, but it also doubles as a powerful creative tool. In case you don't know, Nintendo launched a few years ago a "game" called LABO that allows you to create your own cardboard toys, something that no other gaming company or platform has tried so far. With LABO, you can use your papercraft skills and Joy-Cons to build a robot, a car, a piano, and more. Of course, there's also Super Mario Maker 2, a sequel to one of the best Wii U titles (also available on Nintendo 3DS) that allows us to design our own Super Mario courses and share them with other players and developers all around the world. Thanks to Game Builder Garage, game development goes even further, now giving us a whole world of opportunities and teaching us the fundamentals behind every dev tool. Creating platforming games is cool, especially if they are Mario-themed, but having the freedom to conceive our dream game regardless of the genre is even better.
All this confirms that Nintendo doesn't see the Switch as 'just a console' anymore. It's a rather powerful creative device, making game development more accessible and blurring the line between players and developers.
With a Little Help From My Nodon Friends
Forget about coding, long strings of variables, and everything boring about game development. Game Builder Garage is way more friendly, with a colorful interface and easy-to-follow guides. What makes it feel less like a boring tutorial and more like a fun game is the inclusion of Nodons, charming characters representing the different functions and variables you need to make a game.
There are over 80 different Nodons, all of them identified with a color depending on their role. For example, green Nodons are associated with logic functions, while orange Nodons will help you dealing with objects. Instead of remembering names and weird words, having a funny face/character sounds more appealing to casual users who are not familiar with coding terms yet, especially kids. Even if it wasn't for the Nodons, the colorful interface and comedic approach definitely feel less overwhelming than a technical book, a screen full of lines of code, and/or a teacher with little patience...
The Sky Is the Limit! (Kind Of)
Game Builder Garage will present you with a series of exercises that will slowly increase the difficulty, ultimately teaching you what you can and can't do with all these Nodons. You'll learn how to make a character jump, how to move the camera, how to create objects to interact with, etc. For some people, this hand-holding approach will make them feel more secure, focusing on the one goal the exercise is about. To others, however, it will come off as restrictive, limiting your options and forcing you to do things 'their way' whether you like it or not.
We probably don't even need to say this, but Game Builder Garage is nothing but an introduction to visual programming. You won't be able to create certain things, and there's no way you'll end up making a AAA quality game. Nonetheless, you'll notice that there already are several indie projects that bend the rules in unexpected ways, hopefully inspiring more and more users.
If you follow Bob the blue dot's instructions, you'll end up with 7 basic games to enjoy alone or with a friend. If you're too ambitious, maybe this is not enough for you; still, we're sure that these will be the first 7 games in the life of several soon-to-be video game creators, kids and adults that will devour Game Builder Garage and then, inspired and motivated by their own curiosity, jump into more complex languages and methods.
For what it's worth, Game Builder Garage does a splendid job at making game development more accessible and less intimidating, yet it shouldn't be considered as an alternative to other, more potent procedures.
If you're interested in learning how your favorite games work, or you know someone who owns a Switch and would love a friendly introduction to the world of programming, consider getting a copy of Game Builder Garage!