There’s one thing I’ve always choked on: The programing. It is a thorn in my mind, even more so considering my love of technology. I managed to tame the HTML (I would have worried if I had not succeeded) and I managed to do some very basic little thing with PHP (a web development language) by teaching imposition. But this issue has always been in my head as a messy tangle of concepts that I have never managed to untangle and put in order, something that makes course after course this ends up on my list of New Year’s resolutions as a pending task.
But for those of you who have some curiosity about the matter, regardless of what knowledge you have and that the codes sound like Chinese to you, there is a way that this becomes very digestible. ‘Video game studio‘. This is the name of the last rabbit that Nintendo has pulled out of its hat. The objective is none other than to help you get your hands on something that can be a real ‘rock’ and quite arid if it faces the bravas.
The name gives quite a few clues as to where the shots are going. The game is about assembling your own games. Obviously, lThe Japanese company does not catch and throw you into a pool full of codes and formulas, because you would drown. What he has done is to create very clear dynamics and interfaces so that all this is digestible, to learn concepts while playing. I have been able to test ‘Videogame Studio’ for a few days before its official premiere this Friday and here are my reasons to ensure that it is something that would be useful for everyone to try.
There are two doors through which to access this particular development studio. A ‘free mode’ in which you can face a blank canvas or build games from some templates in the Nintendo library. A library that will surely not take long to get fat, since users will be able to choose to share their creations with contacts and with the community that is generated around this game, being able to download them to modify them.
This is like learning to ride a bike. If you get on one without knowing how to use it, you are likely to get hit. Even if you do it after trying your luck and seeing yourself safely with training wheels, you can also suffer some other mishap. That’s why it is convenient You go through the ‘Video Game Studio’ academy and complete all the lessons. Seven lessons in which you will develop different games of different genres (platforms, puzzles, ‘shooters’ …) in a guided way.
You will have two tutors who will accompany you during the process. The first of them is Bob, a small sphere of light that guides us step by step through each level. The other ‘teacher’ will be Alice, whose role will be to examine us after each chapter to see if we have caught what the roll is about. To achieve this, he will create a series of ‘puzzles’ in which we will have a predetermined scenario that we will have to modify with what we have learned to solve the challenge. These tests remain as saved notes, so that we can always return to them and review what they have learned.
But how does it work? We have a play area and another work area. All the time we will alternate between them. Whatever we do in the work zone, in the guts of the game, will have its reflection in the other. During the interactive lessons, the habit becomes more common, you have no choice but to follow the path, marked by Bob, of checking that each change you make works correctly.
Sometimes you feel, especially when you have caught callus with the most basic things in the first lessons, that it is too short a leash and that you would like to have a little more freedom, but then you realize, thanks to the intermediate puzzles or the free mode , from that you are not so caught up in the concepts and it is convenient to take a little review. There is only one thing that I would personally change: to be able to ‘customize’ the games with the colors, textures or music that you want, all the points in each chapter must be passed.
When you are going to learn how to set the type of ground, a platform to jump on or a ball that rolls to destroy things, you do not have the possibility to choose the color and other parameters at that moment. Bob says to put that and only gives you the option to put it in a specific way. It would be nice to put some freshness in some very directed sessions. When it comes to playing it, by the way, I have found it more comfortable and agile in portable mode than on television thanks to the touch screen, but it’s all a matter of getting quiet.
What gives life to ‘Videogame Studio’ and differentiates it from a basic programming course are the so-called Nodon. Son characters that replace formulas and programming commands. There are more than 80 and, in order to make everything more fun, Nintendo has given different personalities to each of them. Personalities that have not been chosen at random, since they help to understand a little better what each of them is for. In addition, you will have to combine them to make the game work.
As we said there are dozens of these characters. You have to start with the basics. Choose the game screen node, which will serve to create a container where to place the rest. We can define its size and what we will see on the screen. But for the objects and characters to stay in focus and not go out of the margins of our television, we will have to resort to the object nodons and use prisms to create the floor and the walls.
Button or lever knob?
To give life to the protagonists of the game, we will have to choose the ones that allow us to create characters or vehicles. In order for them to respond to our orders, it will be necessary use the lever or button nodons. Once we have one, for example, that represents control ‘B’, we have to join them by a kind of cable that indicates that every time the character is pressed, it jumps. And so on.
This may seem very simple and it really is in the first few bars. However, as you go deeper into the game, you will find new options and nodons, let’s say, more complex, which require multiple settings and connections. One thinks that to put, for example, for a counter in the game it is only necessary to put the number and that’s it.
But no, to that counter node you have to indicate, with other accessories, If we want the account to be ascending or descending, what is the maximum value … In addition, you will have to tell him what happens when the objective is achieved and when the game ends. For that we will have to put check nodons that allow us to check if our character has been destroyed, if we have collected everything … And tell him to start again in such a long time. If you want it to be a screen where you have to overcome obstacles or kill aliens, you will have to take a node that makes the playing space move automatically and another that says at the speed that it should do it.
Even if you want that when you achieve the goal of the game there is a celebration like streamers that appear everywhere. Obviously it will have to be connected to the test one, just like if you want to put a sound. Many of these characters need to interact, but there are others who do not need any connection. For example, the music nodons.
It is an ideal tool for those, not only children, who want to know a bit about programming
But just because they don’t have to be connected doesn’t mean that configure them, beyond parameters such as color. For example, if you want to create a chase game between two players and one character has to catch the other, you have to touch the settings of those two nodons saying that one can destroy the things they touch and the other be destroyed. If we want a platform to remain suspended to jump on it, we will have to deactivate the option that it can fall. It can seem overwhelming at first.
I insist on the idea that the first levels, especially the initial one, may seem that everything is very easy and that Bob is not letting us go as fast as we want, but then, when the complication rises, that somewhat slow pace is appreciated for go picking up more complex ideas. The game is recommended for ages 7 and up And it seems to me a tool with tremendous educational potential for those kids and older.
But I think it is also very useful, I insist, for older people who want to have a pleasant landing in programming, since many times abstract concepts are better understood that way. Obviously, do not call me a programmer that I am still not me any of that. This will help you understand the logic and have a conceptual base that can make contact with programming easier, if you want to dive deeper. I also think that it can be entertaining for those who have notions of the subject and have a fondness for video games to test themselves and create their own titles. Obviously there are limits, because this is not a complete programming environment and the resources are finite. But, by using imagination and having a waist, one can create a great number of things.
This game, deep down, is a kind of mix between ‘Super Mario Maker’ (the title that allows you to create your own Mario levels, a game with great popularity within the company’s catalog) and Labo, that environment of kits that using cardboard as a raw material allowed to create a series of ‘hardware’ accessories such as a steering wheel, a fishing rod or a virtual reality helmet to be used later in different games of the Switch.
In the case of Labo we also had a programming workshop, but from my point of view it was not as effective to teach the concepts of programming as it was not as grounded and tutored as this one, which can cause many players to get lost. ‘Videogame studio’, that can only be purchased in digital format for 29.90 euros, is one more example of how Nintendo has managed to reinforce its own identity in a sector that often seems to have nothing other than Xbox or PlayStation. They have achieved that it is not exclusive thanks to the catalog that they have created. Many people, who play on one of those two platforms or PC, end up buying the Nintendo Switch as well because it offers something that the others do not offer. And Labo, ‘Video Game Studio’ or ‘Mario Kart Live Home Circuit’ are examples of that ‘indie’ spirit that characterizes this console.