Nintendo’s next big Switch title is aimed at budding game designers
Nintendo’s next game for the Switch is one you build yourself. Today the company revealed Game Builder Garage, a new software title that’s designed to teach beginners the basics of programming and game design. It utilizes visual programming, has pre-built lessons and games, and will be launching on the Switch next month.
Game Builder Garage appears to build off of some of the ideas featured in past Nintendo projects, like the DIY series of Labo experiences and Super Mario Maker. The core of the experience is a playful, visual programming language that utilizes cute characters called Nodon that you can move around and assign properties to. For instance, once you insert a character node, you can attach a “stick” node and assign the Switch’s joystick to control left and right movement. (Nintendo says that there are dozens of these Nodon, each with different characteristics.)
And just like in Super Mario Maker, players can quickly move back and forth between building and playing in order to rapidly iterate on ideas. The app also features several different control options: Joycon controllers, touchscreen, or a USB mouse.
The other half of the equation is the “Lesson Mode.” Game Builder Garage comes with seven pre-made games — they range from a 3D platformer to a multiplayer game of tag to a side-scrolling shooter — and the tutorial takes you through how they were built, so you can see the process from scratch. Each of the games is broken down into several steps, starting with basic concepts like movement, before moving on to more complex design features like adding a counter or game-over screen. Outside of those seven games, there’s a “free programming” mode, where players can build whatever they want. This mode is also available from the beginning if you don’t want to go through the built-in lessons.
Naturally, players will also be able to share their creations via a code that can be sent to other players. (Nintendo says that there will be an option to report inappropriate games, particularly given Game Builder Garage’s younger target audience.) In order to share their creations, players will need a Nintendo Switch Online connection. Once you download someone else’s game, you’ll not only be able to play it but also look at the programming view to see how it was designed. You can even make a copy to build on top of another player’s creation.
Over the last few years, Nintendo has steadily been putting a bigger focus on building user-friendly creation tools and bringing them to a wider audience. In 2016, the company partnered with the San Francisco Public Library to host a series of game design lessons via Super Mario Maker, and in 2018 it launched a pilot program to bring Labo to schools.
Game Builder Garage will be available on June 11th for $29.99.