After several marathon-length development sessions, MyDeadDog Software has finally finished its first game. Get In There stars an anonymous drunk who whirls back and forth in front of a strip club. When the player taps him with the stylus, he rockets up the screen in a lager-fuelled dash. If the player has timed their input correctly, the boozehound sprints through the pink front doors and disappears into the bowels of the building; if they haven't, he runs face-first into a brick wall, coming to an abrupt stop with a comic "SPLAT!". Either way, that's the end of the game.
Getting to this point has taken me approximately six hours.
To a certain extent, this figure tells you everything you need to know about WarioWare DIY. As with previous entries in the series, DIY allows the player to battle their way through hundreds of bizarre micro-games that tend to be about four seconds long; the main difference this time is that you get to build tiny challenges of your own. While there are also toolsets for making music and four-panel black and white comics, the key attraction here is the chance to make your own games. You'll draw out your own graphics, string everything together with a simplified AI system, and bung in a jaunty tune to play in the background. Your mini masterpiece has to be controlled by tapping the DS touchscreen (swiping isn't supported, sadly) and it has to fit into the limited time constraints, but aside from these limitations the world is your DS-shaped oyster. However, one thing is guaranteed from the outset: to get anywhere, you're going to need time, and a bit of dedication.
Naturally this is the same caveat that applies to any game or product that focuses on user-generated content. DIY comes with several sets of pre-constructed WarioWare games, and there are also several options for downloading other people's creations (more on this later), but for the most part your time is going to be spent crafting stuff of your own. Projects like these live or die by the nature of their editing tools; if they're too complicated to pick up easily, or if they're too limited to let you create anything of note, there's very little reason to get involved. Happily, WarioWare DIY scores highly on both fronts. It keeps things simple enough that it's fairly easy to understand the basics, and yet once you've got a bit of experience you'll probably be quite surprised at how flexible everything is.
Like most build-it-yourself offerings, DIY uses a points system to limit the amount of content that can exist in a single micro-game. After sketching out a background, your first port of call is to create the objects and characters who will star in your game. You take your pick from one of four frame sizes, then use an easy MS Paint-like set of brushes and tools to paint your sprites. A given object can have up to four "Art" settings – think of these as "modes", or perhaps "variations" – and each Art can have up to four frames of animation. For Get In There, the game I mentioned earlier, my Drunk character had three Arts: one for him whirling around (which used three frames), one for him running (which had two) and then finally one for him crushed against a wall. A complicated object like this will end up costing you quite a lot in the way of content points, but as a general rule the content allowance seems fairly generous. Besides, once you've got a few games under your belt you'll start to learn ways to be more efficient with your budget.
Once you've got your cast together, it's time to set up the AI to dictate how everything works. In simple terms, every object must be given a list of rules to follow under specific conditions. Each of these commands consists of a trigger, followed by an action. If you give your cartoon doggy a "Tap" trigger followed by a movement action, for example, the sprite will move when you hit it with the stylus. In that example, you'd also tell the dog how to move – randomly, or in a specific direction or pattern; you'd probably also tell the dog to change Art, so that it would display a "running" animation as it starts to travel.
On paper this may sound complicated and perhaps a little dry, but in practice these mechanics are both easy to understand and very gratifying to work with. There are several little moments of triumph to be found in DIY – the moment you first make something move in just the right way, and then a little later on the moment that you finish off your first home-made game. At each step of the way, the level of required effort increases – but so too does the pay-off.