One of the games Iím thoroughly enjoying at the moment is the ultra violent murder fest that is Hotline Miami. Whilst the game does have itís flaws particularly in the areas of AI it is still a well realised world. In a recent interview with Edge Magazine the designers talked of how they created the game with Game Maker. Whilst most players wouldnít know or even care what the game was made in there appears to be a dismissive tone levied at games made in Game Maker, Unity or other tools of a similar nature. For some, these arenít considered ďrealĒ games as they havenít been hand coded.
Perhaps there is a feeling that due to the creator of the game not having to go through the endeavours of coding an engine from scratch they are somehow less invested in game design as a craft and as a result can never truly be considered a games designer.
In my opinion, the introduction of these tools that get rid of a lot of the grunt work in games development and lower the barrier to entry for people other than programmers to come in can only be a good thing for the industry as a whole. The expanding of the industry both in terms of the players and the developers is a sign that the industry is maturing.
Take my industry, video production, as an example. Due to (relatively) cheap tools like Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere becoming popular in the past couple of years there has been a massive influx of video editors who have not had any traditional media training. Theyíve installed the software on their home computers and have been able to do the job of an editor using a fully kitted out Avid suite that would have cost nearly 100 times as much. Whilst the old-school editors may be annoyed at the fact that these new, non-traditionally trained editors are coming in, the truth is that itís been great to get some new ideas and perspectives into the industry.
Another upside to having these simplified game development tools is that they reduce the need to perform a lot of the tedious jobs and allow the games creators more time to focus on the creative aspect of game production. Thereís no point reinventing the wheel. If it wasnít for tools that eased the development process, you probably would not see a majority of the AAA titles you see on the shelf. Do you think that most games companies spend millions developing a state of the art graphics engine? Nope, they mostly use off the shelf ones like Unreal Engine as a base and modify it. Reckon that those amazing physics that you see in some games was programmed in-house? It was probably something like the Havokís Physics Engine. Asking game devs to reinvent the wheel in order to prove that they are proper game developers is counter intuitive.
Of course the one downside with lowering the barrier of entry for content creation is that you end up with a huge amount of terrible and pointless material. YouTube has shown that the availability of affordable and cheap cameras and software has meant that for every FreddieW classic, thereís a about a hundred reply girls. Indeed, the same is true for games. Just a quick browse of the App Store or Google Play will show hundreds, if not thousand, rubbish games. But there are some innovative and amazing games out there that would not have been possible if it were not for these tools being available.
Of course I am not suggesting that it is bad to go out and program a game yourself from scratch. Games designers should feel free to use whatever tools they need to bring their ideas to life. If an off-the-shelf package like Game Maker or Unity isnít quite getting the results you want, then roll up your sleeves and get coding. These tools have severe limitations and are no substitute to coding by hand. But as a starting point for games development theyíre proving effective. Yes, these easy to use tools have meant that there is more poorly made titles out there. But if it allows for people who previously would not have considered games production as an option to go out and produce great stuff then I am all for it.
What do you think? Are easy developer tools making games rubbish? Or are they helping the industry grow? Post your feedback in the comments.