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Game-making games

In this post I want to talk about the uprise of the Game-making Games. Games like Mario Maker are power houses, and how will, or could, they change the future?

Vitor Bulbovas, Blogger

July 5, 2019

4 Min Read

So, since many years ago, the humans have been making games, and all kinds of games. We have board games, physical games (like soccer), and all the likes. Many years went by, we have discovered a way to insert some dotted paper into a machine, and some valves would read these papers, and give us a result. For instance, we could make a ballistic calculation for some heavy gun by hand, and it could take us the whole day, or we could simply insert the dotted paper inside a machine, and two hours later, we would have the answer.

By the time we discovered how to make a machine understand more complex variables, we started to think about a way to, of course, make games in it. As a game designer, I see the process of making a game more than simply trying to make something fun, or trying to get some money by selling happiness. I see the process of game making as a challenge. I know, it may sound weird, but think about it for a second: the first computer game is, arguably, “Tennis for Two”, made in a radar equipment.

A radar.

I am not even joking, you can look it up. It consisted of a bright dot moving from side to side in a radar display. It had different gravity settings, like the Moon and whatnot; different power settings and directions, for when you hit a ball; and it was a two-player game.

Flash forward some years, now we have games like “Time Splitters” and “Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater”, where you could build your own levels. You had a set number of items, and a set number of items that could go in the same scene at the same time (to save memory, of course), but still, it was your own creation, your own thing. It made those great games fell more like your own experience. Yes, everyone would play the same campaign, but when it was over, there was the player levels, and no two were equal.

Moving forward some more years, now we have new games. “Zelda Breath of the Wild” breaks every boundary and adds a whole world to explore, both horizontally and vertically. “Witcher 3: Wild Hunt” becomes one of the most celebrated games in history, and shows the whole world that not only Japan and the US can make games. But, most importantly, now we have Mario Maker.

“Wow”, you may think, “Is Mario Maker a greater achievement than Witcher 3 and Zelda Breath of the Wild?”. Yes it is. Mario maker is a different kind of game. Yes, you are still “Mario”, the slightly overweight plumber that goes down strange pipes and swallows mushrooms that you find hidden inside blocks. You still jump into the enemies heads, and still eat a flower that lets you go full “hadouken”, but, what is Mario Maker in its core?

Mario Maker is a different kind of game, as I stated above, because it is a Game-making Game. You could buy it just to play the different kinds of levels that players around the world design, but the core of the game is making a level. Over the past few years, while we only had Mario Maker “one”, people would make all kind of stuff. Auto play levels, where you would just enjoy what the person built, puzzle levels, themed levels, but there’s more to it.

People made whole games in it. There were “Guitar Hero” levels, “Questions and Answers” levels, and hell, as MatPat already showed in one of his videos, a working computer in it that can add numbers from zero do seven. It is no simple task, as you have to imagine the shells as Booleans, and not hazards, but it works, it really works.

So, it got me thinking. I already made an article about the future of games, where we would start to make our AIs in such a way that it would actually learn with the player, and its own, mistakes, but, what if it is different? Maybe we are moving to a future where big corporations are no more the game makers, but instead they make the tool, an easier tool, different from Unreal and Unity, but a humanized interface, where the “player” can, and will, easily find what is needed. “Oh, you need a platform? Check the platform menu”, “Oh, you need a gun? Check the guns menu”. Maybe that’s not the future. Maybe we, as game designers won’t be obsolete, but maybe the future of games is a polarized one. On one side of the ring we have the “Game-making Games”, with its simple to use interface, providing infinite fun, and on the other side, “Game-designer games”, with complex mechanics and such.

To be complete honest, both future sparks me joy. Of course, I’m no hypocrite, and I like to have a job, so the future where we have Game-making Games and Game-design Games is my favorite, but both seem like a good choice.

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