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Game Builder Garage Could Help Make The Next Generation Of Game Devs – Feature


Anyone can be a game programmer!

Most of the game developers you know today, and even the ones you don’t, grew up making games with some extremely arcane tools. Nintendo’s newest game, Game Builder Garage, might look like it’s aimed at kids — but it’s part of a new era of game development that’s more accessible than ever.

Back in the day, a lot of developers learned the ropes with BASIC — a precursor to modern programming languages, which you probably know as the one that you can use to “PRINT “Hello, World!”“. Developers that are a little older may have used Assembly language, which is pretty much the language that computers themselves speak.

A small snippet of Super Mario Bros' Assembly code
A small snippet of Super Mario Bros‘ Assembly code (Image: doppelganger)

Assembly is what’s known as a “low-level” programming language, which means it has fewer of the abstraction layers that make higher-level languages easier for human people to use. It’s like speaking fluent French to a French person, rather than having to check a guide to ask where the toilets are, or asking Google Translate to turn “my leg has fallen off” into French for you. As a result, it’s fast, because no “translation” is needed, but it’s also extremely hard to make complex things with it, unless you’re basically a programming wizard.

Imagine trying to write a novel in Latin with your eyes closed, and that’s pretty much what it’s like to make games in Assembly. Almost all NES, SNES, and Mega Drive games were made in Assembly, as well as the original Pokémon games, and Rollercoaster Tycoon, which is insane.

All of this is just a computer reading numbers to itself
All of this is just a computer reading numbers to itself

Fast forward to a little later on, and a surprisingly high number of modern-day video game developers got their start in FPS modding. Dear Esther, the game that kicked off the “walking simulator” genre, began life as a Half-Life 2 mod, and so did The Stanley Parable.

Others, like Super Meat Boy and Binding of Isaac creator Edmund McMillen, found success in Flash (RIP), publishing their games on sites like Newgrounds and eventually gathering enough support to publish them for real. Some people even learned to code on Neopets. Seriously.

Hopefully, this extremely brief history lesson of early-ish game dev has helped you realise how it’s honestly a miracle that anyone ever pushed past these obtuse game tools to create the video games you know and love.

Luckily, these days, we not only have accessible, “high-level” programming languages like C#, Python, and Javascript, but we also have high-level tools like Unity, GameMaker, and RPG Maker that can help us make games without having to figure out how to talk to a computer. The sacrifice is that these languages require extra processing power to “translate” them back to computer-speak, but with powerful computers, that’s no longer a problem! Yay!





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