What if Everyone Could Make Video Games?
Wouldn’t it be great if game creation and distribution were as accessible as the creation and sharing of text, audio and videos? So, why aren’t they?
In this blog post we’ll explore what’s prevented games development and publishing from getting within the reach of ‘regular’ people.
First off though — what is accessibility?
It has a few different meanings, from the narrow (design of products for disabled people) to the broad (design of products that are usable by people with a wide range of abilities and skills), but in this post we’re using it in the broadest sense. To us it means designing products with as few barriers to entry as possible.
A (Very) Brief History of Media Accessibility
(with apologies to historians!)
Creating and distributing media has generally become more accessible over time, but this has accelerated massively with the technological boom of the last few decades.
Consider the case of text. Originally it would have taken a scribe days or weeks to copy a document. This only changed in the 15th Century following the invention of the printing press, and since then we’ve seen the invention and rise in availability of printing hardware, and then the digital reproduction and sharing of text.
The internet meant that people who were technical enough and/or had sufficient resources, could distribute content online, and over time these barriers have lowered to the point we’re at now — where almost anyone with an internet connection can use a site just like this one to share their ideas.
This increase in accessibility has also happened with music. Originally, the only way to experience music was in the presence of musicians. With the advent of radio, music could be broadcast to a much wider audience, and once recording became available anyone could listen at any time and in any place. But it was when music became digital and services such as SoundCloud, Garageband, and BandCamp arrived that musical creation and sharing became democratised.
Video’s tipping point came in 2005 with the launch of YouTube. A backdrop of affordable camera phones and webcams, as well as accessible editing software, led to the video creation and sharing revolution we see today.
However, while there have been some fantastic advances when it comes to games creation, none of them have properly broken that barrier yet. In our opinion, this problem usually boils down to one of two things:
Either the software itself is capable of realising someone’s creative vision but it’s too complex for the majority of people to get the most out of; or it’s relatively easy to get into but people soon reach the limit of its capabilities.
Lowering the Barrier
Games creation and distribution today requires people with a variety of highly technical skills. These people need to understand and use the available software to create and publish their game. They also then need to support it once it’s out, and promote their game to access a fan base. The current landscape mostly offers these elements individually, but we’re combining them all into one streamlined ecosystem.
The easiest entry point for making games is to use a single genre or style development tool, such as Twine, Bitsy, or RPG Maker. These will create a basic but effective game but don’t always allow people to experiment very widely.
For people with broader ambitions and more technical skills there is then the option of modifying certain existing games like Minecraft.
Then at the top end, professional game engines such as Unreal Engine or Unity bring the power of AAA video game creation, but are too complex for the mass market to adopt. They provide incredibly powerful development tools, but creators still need to find their own ways to release, promote, and sell their games.
Therefore, the missing link to bring games creation to the mass market is a solution which provides:
- ͏Easy, high-quality, collaborative creation so that anyone can learn or access the skills they need
- ͏Comprehensive but simple-to-use publishing infrastructure
- Powerful and intuitive discovery, to benefit creators and players alike
That solution is Crayta. It does all these things, and makes game creation fun for everyone!
Social Creation For All
Crayta’s development tools will provide an entry point for people of all abilities and experience, from newbies to established pros, from artists to programmers. The learning curve will allow everyone to progress at their own pace. It’ll also help creatives find collaborators with complementary skills from within the community so that everyone can get involved with building games socially.
To maximise the flexibility and quality we are using Unreal Engine 4 to power Crayta’s tools and services.
User generated content (UGC) underpins everything we’re doing, from all the games that will be available on the platform to the community-created assets and mechanics that anyone can plug straight into their own game creation.
This may all sound too good to be true, but we’ve already made a lot of progress, thanks to the incredible team of over 30 people that we’ve assembled here at Unit 2 Games. But that’s not all — we’ve also established a small but dedicated pre-alpha community around the world (many of whom have no previous game creation experience but are already learning new skills). They’re helping us to iterate Crayta, making it easy and fun to use so that anyone can get a game idea out of their head and onto the screen for others to play.
(If you want to be a part of our community programme then you can apply at www.Crayta.com!)
Getting Your Creations Out There
Streamlining the ‘publishing’ process is also a key part of the Crayta experience. Whenever a creator is ready, they’ll be able to make their games or assets available with ease. They’ll be able to share their creation with just specific people, or make it available for everyone, and they’ll even be able to decide whether to give it away for free or to monetise it.
We’ll handle all the annoying technical stuff under the hood — things like player accounts, multiplayer networking, server infrastructure, billing, and so on — but we’ll also provide useful analytics data, so creators can see how their games are performing and then iterate them to make them even better for their players.
As well as that, we’ll also make discoverability easy and intuitive so everyone will be able to find and play games that they’ll enjoy, and creators will get their work seen by the best audience possible.
We’re not including all this functionality just to be able to boast about our features though — the idea of ‘democratising’ game development and creativity like this is one we’ve been working towards for some time. Many of us here have been passionate about supporting smaller-scale developers and cultivating communities since we started working together over a decade ago.
What Have We Done Before?
Creating opportunities to empower creatives and game makers has long run through our DNA. Back in 2006, while we were running Blitz Games Studios, we launched the Blitz Arcade programme to run alongside our high profile PC and console work. Its goal was to focus on smaller, short-session games that were becoming a major part of the burgeoning indie scene at the time.
Later on, that led us to create the indie publishing label Blitz1UP in 2008, which gave a number of up-and-coming indies exposure to a bigger market, advised on their games, provided introductions and helped them finish development.
The success of Blitz1UP and the ever-growing world of indie development led us to realise that while the industry had started to open up, discoverability was becoming an impossible nightmare. In addition, Blitz1UP was still quite manual and difficult to scale up, so although we helped tens of indie developers, we realised we could help many more by creating an automated platform.
So, in 2010, IndieCity was born — a distribution platform for indie titles that was run by the community for the community. A powerful recommendation engine helped ensure that games found their target audience, while newcomers got the support they needed to make their mark.
IndieCity grew and grew for over three years (and was even used as a white label platform for the RaspberryPi store) until the sad closure of Blitz Games Studios in Autumn 2013. By that time nearly 1,500 indie games were on the site and a tonne of independent creators were able to get their work in front of an eager audience that would otherwise never had seen it.
We didn’t give up on trying to expand the idea of supporting creatives though. We moved on from Blitz Games and started Radiant Worlds to work on a UGC-powered creative sandbox game called SkySaga. Over the course of 4 years and many tens of millions of dollars of investment, we’d built a community of hundreds of thousands and learnt how best to empower and encourage a wide variety of players to fulfill their potential, collaborate with each other, and produce amazing creations that others wanted to explore and experience.
Radiant Worlds was sold to Rebellion Developments in late 2017, and the profits from that sale have now given us the perfect opportunity to bring all this experience together into one exciting new project that empowers and inspires people in a whole new way!
So we’ve taken the inspirational creativity we saw in SkySaga, added the publishing and discoverability lessons we learnt from IndieCity and Blitz Arcade/Blitz 1Up and combined them all with the power of Unreal Engine 4 to create the ultimate game creation and publishing platform — Crayta.
We know that it’s an ecosystem that’s needed by many, while also being something that will allow a huge number of people to able to express themselves creatively in a whole new way.
We’ve got a long-term plan in place to grow Crayta and its community for many years, and we’ll expand from PC onto other platforms later too. We’re incredibly excited about where this can take us, and you!