Time to meet your maker...
I bet we've all said at one time or another, "DAAAAMN. This game sucks. I could pull a better one outa' my ass." Because of this, many of us aspire to one-day program and create our own games. After all, if you have to be a computer science major, why not use it for the power of good instead of working for Microsoft and being Bill Gate's little mouse monkey.
Exploring this idea is Agetec's Fighter Maker. In this fighting game, there is an edit mode within the game that lets you make changes to the fighters and and save them to the memory card.
First off, as a stand-alone fighter, Fighter Maker is not strong enough to hold its own. The characters are somewhat stiff, frame rate is average. The backgrounds are sparse and empty, and play control is a dummy clone of Tekken. To create a credible editing mode, you'll at least need a solid foundation of a fighting game.
When you enter editing mode, you select one character, and then have the power to alter vital characteristics, statistics within the moves, and keys that coordinate with the moves. You can then test it out after you made the changes. While there are many characters to choose from, graphically you're still forced to work off characters that they created. I would want to worry about the fun parts, like how their character looks. I made a character called John Shaft. He's one bad… SHUT yer mouth! But I didn't have the power to increase the size of my man's afro or give him a fly blue suit. I couldn't even change the color scheme.
You're given control over the little things, like which button combo executes which move, and how much damage it could do. You can change a character's martial arts style, and then change the way the frames of animation follow through. It's like changing Ryu to execute Chun Li's moves. Interesting, but you can't build a whole new game out of it.
By manipulating the key frames of animation, you can also change what the character does in response to each command. I made one character have a Monty Python silly walk when she moves. And I made Shaft do a funky dance while in a defensive crouch. If I wanted to, I could program a whole dance routine in. But the interface takes awhile to get into.
It's difficult and time consuming, but most of all, there is little satisfaction in finishing it. Because who wants to fight in just an average game, even with your own bastardized "created" character?
The game is very memory card intensive, taking one space per created character. While you can exchange characters with your friends, it still isn't really your character with all the details you'd want.
When you make something, you want to show it off to your friends. What if there was a program that let you create PlayStation games, burn them to a CD and then give a copy to your friend? That sounds better, if a bit more difficult. True, there was the limited, short-term PlayStation programming hobby system, Net Yaroze, but otherwise my wish is impossible. If you're seriously interested in game design, you just have to work on the computer.
There are more rewarding ways to exert your creativity in beginning game design. If I wanted to mess around with changing a game, I would want full control -- not just the statistical commands and inputs, but also the art and images -- the fun stuff. For example, for the Quake games, there are free programs that let you alter the character's skins and create your own terrain. And these work because they build off an already strong engine. Even the "create your own wrestler option" in the Acclaim wrestling games is more interesting because you can alter the "visual" information of the character.
Fighter Maker is no substitute for actually making a game. While an innovative idea, it really doesn't belong on the PlayStation platform. It's more of a toy to fiddle around then quickly get bored with. Fighter Maker promises too much, and delivers too little.