Nintendo's starting a new series of developer interviews appropriately titled "Ask the Developer," and the first installment delivered some interesting details from the leads on Game Builder Garage.
Nintendo describes Ask the Developer as an opportunity for Nintendo developers to "convey in their own words Nintendo’s thoughts about creating products and the specific points they are particular about." For Game Builder Garage specifically, those developers are director and programmer Naoki Masuda and subdirector Kosuke Teshima.
Much of this piece re-establishes what Gamer Builder Garage actually is. The name is a pretty clear giveaway that it's a game builder, but I wouldn't blame you for not knowing or remembering exactly how it works. It was abruptly released back in May and Nintendo hasn't pushed it much since, though it is a cool and very Nintendo-y take on programming.
What stands out more is how Masuda and Teshima conceptualized and refined the vision for Game Builder Garage. Teshima explains that the overarching idea was "creating is fun," so the team worked to make every aspect of programming and development as enjoyable and engaging as possible, both to improve the moment-to-moment gameplay and compel players to finish the game's lessons and their own projects. This led to the creation of the Nodon, for example, the game's anthropomorphized logic and programming functions. There are over 80 Nodon in Game Builder Garage, and they were apparently inspired loosely by the idea of an idol group.
Masuda and Teshima both felt that the ideal audience for Game Builder Garage would be people who've never tried programming, either because they don't understand it or have never had any interest in learning to program. The game builder was designed with totally inexperienced but curious game designers in mind, and presented in a way that even first graders could understand – literally.
To get a feel for how approachable Game Builder Garage would be to the average player, Masuda says that at one point Nintendo invited elementary school students to test the game.
"Their reactions were really encouraging to us," Masuda says. "On the spot, the students were able to reach the stage where they could get through the lessons we could prepare at that time…Well… they did more than get through it… Those students’ enthusiasm was incredible."
However, as simple as it is, Teshima believes players can work beyond Game Builder Garage's restrictions through clever programming. Masuda noted that limited text support makes it a poor fit for RPGs or text adventures, but Teshima reckons that "maybe there is someone who will break through there with a combination of various Nodon."
"It's true that even with the Toy-Con Garage VR [which preceded Game Builder Garage], there were a lot of things that were created by players that surprised the developers," Masuda added. "It was like, 'I didn't know you could make something like this!'"