PlayCraft – First Look
PlayCraft is a game-making engine that allows players to create simple games without needing to learn how to code and share them with other players, sort of like Super Mario Maker. So how well does it work? Not very, as it turns out.
As I mentioned, PlayCraft boasts that its players can create games for others to play without having to learn how to code using simple object placement and interaction.
Visually, the game looks alright. It has a very cartoony art style that reminds me of Fortnite somewhat. Still, a lot of the assets at play here feel incredibly generic. Nothing about how the game looks or sounds feels inspired in any way. The slew of music available for use in your projects are the most forgettable tracks I’ve heard in some time. The game’s text is also littered with typos and poor English.
The way PlayCraft is supposed to work is that you’re supposed to be able to build worlds out of objects given to you in a giant objects menu. You can then fine tune the properties of these objects and link them to other objects to make them perform specific actions. This is the crux of the creation aspect of Playcraft.
The biggest problem with PlayCraft is that it doesn’t teach you how any of its mechanisms work. For example, the dispenser tutorial throws you into a room with several object dispensers and shows you what they can do, but doesn’t tell you or show you in any way how to recreate that. You’re left to reverse engineer everything in the tutorials by hand and that can be a confusing process.
Not to mention the fact that the official tutorial breaks halfway through. Once you complete the first island where you learn how to save and submit worlds you’re working on, you’re brought to a large portal that leads to the next area. Proceeding through this portal drops you into an infinite freefall because you spawn under the actual terrain. The only way out of this is to enter build mode and double-tap jump to enable fly mode to get back above ground. Entering play mode again and trying to proceed with the tutorial is borderline useless though because as mentioned none of the tutorials teach you how the game works. They’re largely incomplete tech demos at best.
That’s not to say that everything about PlayCraft is bad. It’s a great idea on paper and some people have managed to spin that idea into some cool projects. For example, one guy made a faithful recreation of DE_Dust2 from Counter-Strike complete with a team selector and everything. Another user made an almost completely functional bowling alley. It’s no Wii Sports bowling, but given the tools used to create it, it’s damned impressive.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a fair share of duds. Even the games that do work, within a certain definition of the word “work”, feel off. The cheapness of the engine and its assets seeps into every work created with it, bringing them all down a notch or two in quality. It leaves even bright ideas feeling cheap and flimsy. Especially once other players are supposed to be involved.
This leads me to the other big problem that PlayCraft has. For a game based around sharing your ideas and creations with others, it has a miniscule player base. At time of writing, 107 players is peak traffic for the game on any given day according to Steam Charts. Whether this is due to lack of exposure or the poorly explained tools, we may never know.
Again I want to stress that I think PlayCraft, on paper, is a great idea. The problems it faces could be easily fixed by sprucing up the tutorials so that they teach you the core concepts more thoroughly without breaking, and cleaning up the text so that it reads more fluidly. Just those two relatively minor adjustments could turn a confusing mess of a game building engine into something unique and special.
As for monetization, the game features a Pro Pack DLC for $19.99 that unlocks extra fly speed and terrain settings, increases your chances of getting a gold chest on level up by 100%, and adds several new effects and objects to the game. Given the quality of the base game, I find it laughable at best and insulting at worst that they would offer any paid content, much less a $20 resource pack.
Unfortunately, I can’t recommend PlayCraft at all. Honestly, if you’re that into game design and want to learn to make your own games, you’re better off learning how to code and use more focused resources, even if it’s starting with something like GameMaker Studio which actually helps you learn to write code.
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