A Gamer's Guide to Video Game Software, Part 3: Making Games with Games
Today concludes our Gamer's Guide to Video Game Software (see Part 1 & Part 2). In our final installment, we will shift away from engines toward video games that allow you to make your own games within them.
Many games have featured level editors that allow users to create their own missions within the framework of the game. Others, like Warcraft III, have been modded to the point that there are all-but-standalone games made with them. But neither of those are on the same level as LittleBigPlanet and WarioWare DIY. The whole appeal of these games is that they allow users to create their own games, not just levels for another game. They don't offer the creative power of Unity or RPG Maker, but they are games, and using them is easier and more forgiving than either of the latter more serious gamemaking tools.
This is not a which-should-you-buy comparison like yesterday's article, since these games are for different consoles and aren't really competitors, but rather an introduction to two more options for making games.
LittleBigPlanet and its sequel LittleBigPlanet 2 are the most well-known gamemaking games. The first came out in 2008, and featured what amounted to a truly capable level editor with light game design elements. Players could really only make platform games, but were given tools that were visual metaphors for real game design functions. Event triggers were replaced by actual triggers. New objects could be made by combining shapes and then making them into different materials. String connects related objects instead of code references. Whatever its limitations as a tool for making original games, LittleBigPlanet is a great platform for teaching people about the actual mechanics of game design.
LittleBigPlanet 2 expanded on the formula, opening up the game design options to include options other than platforming. Raching, strategy, and role-playing games, among others, are possible in the second game, from a variety of perspectives (top-down, side-scrolling, etc.). Several new tools were added as well, including the ability to create enemies and NPCs, and give both of which custom AI to control their behavior. The game only came out late last year, so the amazing custom creations displayed above are only going to get more elaborate in in the future, as gamers grow more accustomed to the software.
Much less well known and commercially successful than LittleBigPlanet, WarioWare DIY for the Nintendo DS is one of the few other modern games that tasks the player with designing games. The WarioWare series has always been about playing a wide variety of microgames that last less than 10 second each, and require very simple actions to complete. WarioWare DIY ships with 90 such games and the tools for players to create whatever others they like.
Many of the game-creation tools come from the beloved Mario Paint. The way players draw their own graphics is very similar to the interface in that awesome utility. Custom music can be made either using the Mario Paint-style music program or by humming into the DS microphone, which the DS will convert into music. As you can see from the examples above, the games themselves are quite simple. But the assembly system players use to add actions to the game is surprisingly capable.
If you own a PS3 or a DS, give the one of these a try. If you hate it, you can rule out a career in game design. If you find yourself skipping weddings to play them, you may have just found your career path. Go download Unity and find out.