First Impressions of "The Video Game Machine" from Stardock

Updated: Mar 30, 2020

Ever wanted to make your own video game but just didn't really know how to go about doing it? Ever wanted to get a simplified taste of what it would be like to make a video game? Well thanks to Stardock and their latest release, The Video Game Machine, you can get what you're looking for and hopefully more.

Now it is important to understand this game is in an Alpha release and is not complete yet, but what is available is more than enough to give you a taste of what there is to come upon a full blown release. You can join The Founder's Program for $9.99(US) and this is what my first impressions is based on after messing around with it for a few hours(a few hours each day for a few days).

First it lets you create a character from some preset 8 bit(maybe 16 bit?) characters as the main character of your game, then you can choose what type of game you want to create. Right now there is only a side scroller and an open world RPG game like the older Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, with more games becoming available as time goes on. The graphics are similar as well, bringing back a fond nostalgia of simpler times.

I chose the RPG game because I'm an RPG tool and this First Impressions Review is solely based on the RPG option. Once your game is chosen, you pick a title for your game and boom! Off you go! You're plopped down into a blank slate and are given some pretty simple, but impressive for right now, tools to use. You can start modifying your world by placing trees, bushes, water, waterfalls, bridges, enemies, items, dungeons, etc.. It really is up to you on how you want to build your game. With pre-made pallets, you can change the overall look/feel of the environment that in turn will change the way the environmental items you place in the world look as well.

The areas you have to work with are pretty large in size and give you lots of room to be creative with. You can make secret areas to hide goodies and adding in NPC's with/without dialogue to give the world some life.

This is not my creation but it gives a good example of what the RPG game can look like.

Now as I said before this game is in Alpha and is still a work in progress so these "negatives" I'm about to give should be considered, but taken with a grain of salt because so much could get revamped, completely removed, or whatever the devs feel like doing as they keep making adjustments due to player feedback. With that in mind, here are my current gripes with the game after only a few hours of play( again spread over a few hours a day, not just 3 hours and done).

  • -There's no tutorial really. You kind of just blunder around and figure it out as you go. I don't think a traditional tutorial would work with this. Lots of the gizmos they put in there tell you how it's supposed to work but there's no real example of how it actually works in game. I tried to give some enemies a path way to follow, by the description given from the gizmo I should've been able to place the spawn point on top of the first block and the enemy should've followed the path, but nope. There's lots of little things like this that are awesome sounding and you want to implement, but don't really know how to do it because there's nothing to show you how to do it.

  • -There's very little choice of NPC's to pick from. There's literally 3 fantasy RPG standard NPC characters to choose from and the others are space or futuristic themed, or a cat. Which is fine, because I'm sure they'll add in more NPCs later.

  • -The pre-made enemies are fine to use, but there should be a way to completely modify them or create your own.

  • -The chests that say they give random items, either the common/uncommon chest or the gold chest, only give coins. Never had any items pop out of them.

  • -When making "secret areas" you should be allowed to make secret areas out of the "Props" tab too. I desperately wanted to use the secret area function just to make it to where my character could go inside the cottage prop like he was entering a house. Hopefully this will get fixed later on.

  • -There are some weapons that don't have any function at all. No damage rating. The wizard staffs need to actually do damage instead of just be used for environmental interaction and there needs to be a way to actually incorporate spells/magic into the character. Simple spells just so you can maybe have a mage archetype.

  • -I had trouble with the dialogue box for your main character. It seems like you can't really have "triggers" for dialogue, or even have an initial open dialogue just to give context as to what's happening. You can just have these weird little "dialogue points" set up in the world where when you walk over them you can hit "enter" and the dialogue pops up. Setting up dialogue for NPC's is easy though, there's no problem with that. Just would be nice to give your character something to help breath life into them as well.

  • -The way your character walks around with their equipped weapon is pretty odd but I'm sure this will also get addressed with later improvements.

  • -A way to save files and share them with friends/people other than The Game Machine community, hopefully this will get added later.

All in all though, this game is actually pretty spot on and well worth the $9.99(US) for what is offered and what could be offered later down the road. There's lots of promise here and with its simple interface, anyone can start making their own games in no time and sharing it with the community. It seems like it would also be an awesome step for kids who are interested in developing their own games, just to give them the taste of development and show them that there's more to it than what they might think.

In my opinion you should head over to The Video Game Machine to purchase this little gem and get in on The Founder's Program while you can.