I thought I’d make a PlataGO Super Platform Game Maker guide for the Early Access launch this week. I was lucky enough to be sent a Steam Key for the PlataGO Super Platform Game Maker beta some time ago and have spent a decent chunk of time with it – around 20 hours now – enough to get to grips with this great little game-making tool.
The lazy way to describe PlataGO is that it’s ‘Mario Maker PC’ – and it’s a description that fits for the most part. It’s a 2D platform game maker with a very simple interface. It’s extremely easy to use – easy enough for you to make a level in mere minutes and then play test it instantly. It can be as simple, or as complex as you want it to be, but it never requires any coding, or scripting or anything that requires what I would consider proper development knowledge.
While, a few minutes is not quite enough for you to prove yourself as the next Miyamoto, the ease of PlataGO is pretty liberating. You can get decent results very quickly though, as is always the case with these kinds of tools, you only get out what you put in. There may also be some elements in PlataGO that might not be immediately apparent as the game’s documentation (given this is a beta) is not exhaustive. So with that in mind I hope you enjoy this quick Beginners Guide to getting started with your first level!
Okay, lets start with the sexy bit. Key Bindings!
ESC / P – Pause
A – D / Left & Right arrow keys – Move Left / Right
W – S / Up & Down arrow keys – Look Up / Down
Space/ Left Ctrl – Jump
Z – Shoot
ALT – Interact
Arrow Keys / WASD – Scroll around level
C – Create region
N – Next region (cycle through created regions)
R – Rotate
Left Shift + Right Mouse – allows you to drag things around
Mouse Scroll wheel – Zoom In / Zoom Out
G – Toggle grid (you need to be zoomed in)
SAY HELLO TO MY LITTLE INTERFACE
This is a typical scene in PlataGO’s Create Mode. Create Mode is basically the main mode in the game – and the place you should start out immediately. All the elements are simply drag and drop, or click and place. I’ve numbered all the key elements in the screenshot above.
This is the World layer toggle. There are three world layers to play with – the level itself (the area you run and jump around in) and the background and foreground layers. Put a tree in the foreground and you’ll run behind it, put a flower in the background and you’ll run in front of it. As you improve your levels designs, this becomes crucial to adding some much needed depth.
This toggles your background – a varierty of clouds, sunsets, flat colours etc. I’m a blue sky kind of guy – but yeah, take your pick!
This one is interesting, it’s another layer of background (trees, interiour walls etc) You can also play around with parallax speeds and so forth, if that’s your jam.
Lock screen. This is to lock the screen so it doesn’t scroll when you move. This is essential if you want to make a single-screen levels like Donkey Kong or Bubble Bobble.
Menu for quitting and saving etc. Least exciting button of the lot – but you’ll need it.
This cycles though the games retro themes. Press it to cycle though GameBoy, NES, SNES, c64, Amiga, Apple II, Minamist – a whole range of retro style themes.
Player character. Hit this and you get a choice of two player characters – a girl and boy – who you’ll use to play.
Press to instantly play your level. It’s immediate, so you can test your game straight away, then, if it doesn’t play right, go back and edit instantaneously.
This is the main tool bar – here you’ll find all the tools for the game. Platform styles, enemies, power-ups, tricks, traps and lasers – all manner of level furniture.
This scrolls through multiple toolbars, some of which have empty slots – presumably to add further functions down the line. But even so, there’s still five toolbars-worth of goodies to play around with!
Hit this to undo the last thing you did. PlataGO seems to save all your actions, so you can undo all the way to the beginning if you want…
…or you could hit the bomb and wipe your entire level to a clean slate.
Lastly comes the erase tool. You can use this to edit your level (or mistakes) more meticulously!
DON’T FORGET TO RIGHT CLICK!
So all pretty simple right? One thing that is easily overlooked is the fact that the User Interface options also have a hidden right click menu, for example:
- Right Click the player character to open up the jump edit menu – jump height and double jump toggle.
- Right Click doorways to set the terms of the door opening.
- Right Click enemies to determine how many shots it takes to kill them.
- Right Click moving platforms to determine direction, start point ‘anchor’, length and speed of movement.
- Right Click spikes to determine their movement behaviour and timings.
- Right Click the Retro Console icon to open a select menu (instead of cycling)
- Right Click mid-background to open up the parallax speed menu.
- Right Click Moving platforms to determine length and speed of movement.
Be sure to right click items in the tool bar before you use them to see what options are available for you. Also as a warning – right click the option in the tool bar and set parameters BEFORE you place the item/trap/door etc. If you don’t (or right click the item itself) the settings won’t work and you’ll have to place the item in the play area again for it to register.
If an item/character/trap isn’t working the way you wanted it to – then chances are you need to change the settings and place it again.
A SENSE OF AN ENDING
In this respect PlataGO is super-simple. All levels you make need an ending and (for now) there’s only one kind of ‘ending’ or level goal you can make, and that is to reach a door – the level’s exit. If you right click the door, you can also further define the means of opening the exit.
- Collect all the Gems.
- Kill all the enemies.
- Always open (so you just need to reach the end).
Doors are important to PlataGO Platform Game Maker in that they not only define when a level stops, but also what happens afterwards. PlataGO has a system which allows you to link levels together to make a bigger, longer game. Just save your levels and then, from the main menu – go to ‘Link Levels’.
Once you’ve dragged and dropped your levels from the right into the dark grey area, simply click a door and drag the linking blue line to the level you want it to take the player to. Then hit save. That’s all there is to it. Then, if you want to play your game, you can cancel out and access it from the main menu – or better yet, hit ‘Share Map’ to upload your creation to Steam Workshop.
You can then view your game’s overworld map in the ‘Play Game’ view. It would be great so see this view develop further while in early access!
SOME FINAL TIPS!
The above covers the rudimentary basics to start you off – honestly PlataGO Platform game Maker is so simple to use that you’ll pick up much of the game by playing around and creating in it. It’s all very self explanatory, and play-testing is so immediate, trial and error is never a chore. That said, I have a few things that you might want to consider.
Use the background, foreground and world layers to make more interesting visual designs. Layering girders or trees over the front view for example, or using terrain tiles to paint the background. This gives levels a much better sense of depth and is particularly good for making indoor/cave scenes, for example.
TWEAK YOUR JUMP POWER
You’ll be AMAZED how much difference a player’s jump ability makes to how a level plays. You start with good jump and double jump power, but personally, I found it way too over powered. Taking double jump off and putting the setting to 10/11 made levels more compact and intimate. That said, go crazy with the jump options to the other extreme and you can make some pretty interesting level designs.
SINGLE SCREEN GOODNESS
Initially, when I started, I was thinking of Mario World-style levels in terms of scale – but starting small is super fun too. Using the lock screen to make single screen levels can really flex your creativity, forcing you into a smaller space and encouraging you to really understand your game design.
Why and how simple design decisions, like placing an enemy, adding a power-up or simply raising a platform one square, can make a big impact on the fun factor of your level, or break it entirely. Making single screen levels will definitely accelerate your understanding of platform game design.
PlataGO! has some nice mobility options, from simple moving platforms to cannons, bubble and jetpacks. You can make some VERY different play styles using these exclusively (like a Balloon Fight Style game for example). These kinds of power-ups also open up the level space tremendously, for much larger scale, faster-paced levels!
NOW, LET’S TALK ABOUT SPRITES!
This is where things get (just a little bit) more complicated. In a VERY AWESOME touch, PlataGO Super Platform Game Maker allows you to import your own (or someone else’s) sprites. Want to recreate Mario Levels and put Sonic in the game? You can do that!
Want to make some Mega Man levels? That too. While it’s still early days in terms of the overall engine and framework – it is SUPER FUN to mess around with this stuff and is possibly one of my favourite things about PlataGO. It’s also not immediately apparent what you need to do to make this happen – so I’ll explain.
From the main menu – hit ‘Open User Folder’ and It will take you to the User/Template folder in the PlataGO Program File. This is where you need to put your edited Sprite Sheets. Note that you MUST put the files in using the correct names – ‘entities’, ‘gui’ and ’tiles’.
These are the in-game player and enemy objects – like player characters, bullets, explosions and enemies. basically all the moving creatures you interact with or get hurt buy.
This is the interface in the game – you can change it if you want to (though it doesn’t appear during gameplay) so I never bothered – but it’s nice you can change it if you want.
These are all the environmental elements – terrain, platforms, walls, pipes and girders – and prove to be the most time consuming parts to edit.
Essentially, you just drag and drop these files into an editor like Photoshop and get tweaking! To make things easier you definitely want to set up a grid in preferences – I set mine to 16 x 16. It’s then a case of swapping out each individual sprite and tile on the sheet to whichever graphic you want to use. Once you’ve swapped out the graphics you want, save as a .png to keep the transparency and just drop it back in the templates folder. The graphics will then magically appear in your toolbar ready to be placed or painted onto a scene!
And there you go! Have fun crating. I think that covers pretty much the basics for you to run with it. PlataGO! really is a fantastic game making tool, genuinely simple to use and accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. Looking forward to seeing what creations people come up with over the coming months!
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