SMILE GAME BUILDER Review

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In an ever-expanding market of Indie game development, the creation of content has never been so full and exciting. Take a look at the market on Steam, as one example, there are a plethora of titles available to buy, each with their own unique take and style of genre. If you’ve ever considered getting your own game out there, but have limited programming capability, then the Smile Game Builder may bridge that gap and assist in creating your dream title.

Now then, let us get off on the right foot. You’re not likely to develop a new triple-A title in your bedroom, nor will you create the next Grand Theft Auto whilst sat in your pajamas eating cold pizza from the previous night. However, what Smile Game Builder will give you, is the platform to create a meaningful and professional RPG similar to older titles such as Zelda or Final Fantasy, but to name a few.

I’ve personally never created a game before, nor have I any in-depth programming experience. My limitations reached the programming of macros in visual basic back when spreadsheets weren’t so cool. Yes, spreadsheets are cool. Confirmed. It is important to understand, with Smile Game Builder, there is no requirement for the user to be Godlike with coding, in fact, a criticism of some, is the lack of scripting ability within the software. However, for the average user, this will not be a problem, as the game is designed to be simple. It does not dwell in the darkness, endlessly pouring code and syntax at the user. It is designed to be innovative and easy-to-use. If you want to place a tree, a pond or a fountain for example, it is as easy as point-and-click, which will be a great selling point to some, and not so for others.

For the most part, Smile Game Builder carries the same style, that is a cartoon Anime feel, the maps and placements are bright and colourful, this may irritate some users, although for me this was not an issue and I felt there was plenty content to keep me interested. Smile Game Builder includes an impressive library of over 1,000 assets, inclusive of 3D models, 2D graphics and sounds, however, for those that wish to add their own style, the software will allow the importation of textures as you see fit. This is an important feature, as those more experienced with game design, will inevitably want to infuse their game with their own artistic flavour.

As a starting point, I would suggest that you play around with the functionality of the software. See what fits best, test how your map design will work, how each stage will move into the next. The software allows you to do so with absolute ease, set the style and tone of your game by implementing specific lighting and sound effects. Give your world seasonal charm by including weather effects such as snow or rain.

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Smile Game Builder handles beautifully, I did watch some tutorials, however in the first instance I merely ventured into the software to get a feel of the controls. The options are extremely simple and user friendly, it is easy to navigate around the commands and you will create your first setting in a matter of hours, if not minutes. It is easy to lose time in the software, constantly preening and pruning your scenery, testing the game to properly assess how it feels. There is a real sense of accomplishment when you step into your world for the first time, when you walk up the footpath you’d created only moments earlier. It’s exhilarating and absolutely satisfying.

If you really want to test your hand, Smile Game Builder also allows the importation of 3D models, should you have the necessary skills as a 3D modeler, then you can create a wholly unique world based on your own experiences. Again, the ability to place your own stance on your game is a huge selling point, should the software had limited inclusion of visual adaptability, then I believe it would have been far less of a title. Thankfully however, it does not, and as they say, the world is your oyster. Aesthetically speaking of course.

As you progress your world, it is interesting to watch your game develop before your eyes. As a game developer, you can consciously sculpt the economy within the game, for example, hidden chests can contain items and / or gold. Think carefully how each item will assist your character. You have control on all financial aspects within the game, every item can be given a value. If you fail to take this properly into account, then you may over indulge the wallet of your lead man, or, make life all the more harder when over-pricing items. This is an aspect of the game that Smile Game Builder allows you to take control of.

As you’d expect from any good RPG maker, Smile Game Builder allows for the inclusion of narrative. For those budding authors out there, the software will allow you to implement all your thrills and twist plots with ease. The characters come to life as your story progresses, it’s easy to create personalities for the entire cast. The child in me decided to make a mockery of my family members, although a rather short narrative, it was wholly satisfying to witness my brother acting bemused in the town center, obviously I ensured that each time he spoke with me, he would properly address me as “Sir”, I lost count of the number of times I made him shine my shoes. Absolute satisfaction.

Smile Game Builder does have limitations, however, if you have hungered to get your story out there, and to bring your ideas to life through the genre of RPG; then the software has everything that you need, and more. The level design system is sublime and user-friendly, similar to carving a sculpture from clay, you’re given a sizable are to work your ideas. It’s easy to increase or decrease the gradient of the land, should you wish, you can incorporate a lake, stream or waterfall with minimal effort. The only limitation is your imagination, as the software provides you with a wealth of aesthetic options to bring your world to life.

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The software allows the end-user to plot interactions and journeys for all their characters, prompt responses and act accordingly. If you spend time developing their personalities, then the world can become a whole lot more realistic and believable. The possibilities are endless and again, satisfying to watch your world come to life, a living and breathing entity.

For fans of RPG, Smile Game Builder also includes a battle system, again similar to Final Fantasy whereby you employ a turn-based combat approach to fighting. Again, this is synonymous with many RPGs and fits well with the software. Again, should you wish, you can import your own styles and textures, or make-do with the default library. The choice is yours.

It’s difficult to comment from the perspective of a coder, as I mentioned earlier, I’m not. However, having read threads around the functionality of the software, this is an often and repeating theme from those looking to purchase. The inability to apply your own script, essentially to craft the mechanics of the software and ultimately the end game, is simply not part of the software. The developers have made reference to this on their website, and it appears this is not going to change. I would suggest that Smile Game Builder is better suited to amateur game developers. The software is ideal for those looking to harness and develop their skills, if anything, it gives an appreciate of just how a game is made, how the maps, levels and scripts all fit together to make the end product.

I would certainly consider myself to be an amateur, but one of the most appealing aspects of the software for me, was the fact that it made the whole process so much easier. Now, it is without doubt, that there are many out there that will find the limitations of the software to be frustrating, however for the rest this will be a breath of fresh air. I acknowledge the fact that the software does pull the reigns on certain content creation and design, although I honestly feel that as a compromise, it gives so much more back. To watch your game develop into something real, to enjoy the storyline you’ve created and to gain an appreciation of how complex and time-consuming game development can be, is something that is worth the price. If anything, Smile Game Builder gives the user a hunger to learn more, develop more ideas. It is one of the best, if not best, pieces of software out there for users who are keen to learn but are having to start at the bottom in the first instance. With limited knowledge or experience, anyone will be able to create something satisfying and personal, which, for me, is the biggest and best selling point for any software out there.

Currently Smile Game Builder retails on Steam for just over £60, which is a considerable amount. However, I feel the cost is justified by the amount of time you could spend developing your own titles. Of  course, should you be in a position to actively distribute your work, then you may even make money in return. Think of Smile Game Builder as an investment, the potential to create games for your own pleasure and / or for sale. One must not forget either, that the software will also develop your own understanding about how games can be made and the amount of time and dedication required to create something meaningful. I must stress however, that clearly the software is aimed at those with limited knowledge of programming, however could also be used by those with previous experience. What is clear though, is the simplicity of the title is there for all to use and enjoy, so, sit back, relax, and see where your mind takes you. I look forward to seeing your creation. Exemplary software and worthy of merit.

Rating 9

REVIEW CODE: A complimentary PC code was provided to Brash Games for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to editor@brashgames.co.uk.

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