Build a beautiful and complex game level, tweet the link, and watch the scoreboard as your friends are instantly able to play it. That's the promise of Square-Enix's Gameglobe, a free-to-play browser-based game creation tool currently in closed beta. Its assets are cute, but the code making it all go can't be trivial: this game-making game looks gorgeous and powerful.
Lead Programmer Peter Andreasen walked me through basic level creation. He ate into a hillside with a big translucent cylinder, burrowing out a cave behind a little pirate village he'd built earlier. It's not a restricted terrain map, so you can carve inward and downward like in Minecraft, except with fewer cubes.
When he was done, he opened the game's asset browser -- which he says currently contains "thousands of props" -- and selected a treasure chest. He plopped a couple chests into his Cave of Mystery and filled them with gold for the player to find.
"But any treasure needs to be protected," Andreasen said. Everyone knows that. He plopped down four pirates near the cave's entrance. Before playing, he also dropped a warhammer along the character's path, placed in "gameplay props" such as a level end point and background music, and played with the fog, time-of-day, and sun height.
Then it was time to test -- he started the game, grabbed the hammer, and action-adventure'd the hell out of those pirates with big jump attacks and side-swipes.
That's cool -- it empowers players to make creative action RPG-style levels and share them instantly (no login will be required to play). But killing Eyepatch McPirateface after Eyepatch McPirateface would get old, so that can't be it. It's not. Though players are limited to the assets provided (of which there are many more than I saw), they're already coming up with surprising ways to use them in the closed beta.
Oh PC gamers, we can't take you anywhere without you subverting something to make it neater. The space battle in the trailer, for example, was made without any existing space assets. You also see platforming, some sort of flying game, and a little planet apparently being attacked by boxes.
"I don't even know how they're doing some of the things," said Andreasen. "I'm surprised every day."
The developer, Hapti.co, is using that feedback to guide its feature and asset development efforts, according to Andreasen. He expects that they'll move from closed to open beta within "a few months," and interested parties can put their e-mail addresses in a box on the game's official site to receive news.