I really don’t know what I was expecting when I first pitched the idea of creating a game for my colleagues to play, given that I have absolutely zero experience doing so.
It was July, and Garena had just launched its free-to-play creation sandbox game, Garena Blockman GO. In conjunction with that, the Singapore-based company also released Garena Blockman Editor, a free-to-use game editor platform.
In my head, it sounded like an easy task—something that wouldn’t take me more than a couple hours.
But, as you may have guessed, reality turned out to very, very different.
Before we go into what even happened, let’s first discuss Blockman GO itself.
A cross between Minecraft and Roblox
Garena Blockman GO is essentially a gaming app that houses a plethora of various other minigames.
Adopting a system like Roblox’s, Blockman GO is akin to a marketplace of games. Users can choose to just consume the games, or they can also create them and make money doing so.
At first glance, many of the minigames are just straight-up rip-offs of popular Minecraft game modes. I’m talking about Bed Wars, Sky Block, TNT Run, and more.
And, if the name isn’t a dead giveaway, Blockman GO also visually resembles Minecraft’s blocky graphics, though not all minigames are like that.
Being somewhat of a Minecraft veteran, I decided to play one of my most familiar gamemodes—Bed Wars. In this minigame, the premise is simple. Defend your bed, which acts as a respawning device, while trying to destroy your opponents’ beds, which lets you kill them.
One of the hardest parts about Bed Wars is that you’re basically playing in the sky. Each bed sits on little islands, separated from the rest. In order to kill opponents or gather resources, you need to start bridging over to other islands.
This is tricky because one wrong click, and you might end up falling into the abyss and losing your progress.
Luckily for us, though, Blockman GO’s version seems to be a lot easier as it lets you spam a unique bridge button, which just auto-builds a bridge for you.
With this handy feature, I was able to win my first ever game of Bed Wars on Blockman GO. To be fair, it did feel like I was playing against bots (or children), because I had ten kills and zero deaths. I have to admit, that did boost my confidence quite a bit.
But there’s no denying that there’s a demand and a market for games like this. I was surprised to find that more than 999k users had rated the mini game, at least according to the platform.
Though I’m slightly doubtful, I can see how a game like this can be attractive and even addictive. After all, it’s built off a tried and trued gamemode, one that I used to play daily as well.
Free to create, but at what cost?
After getting a feel for the games on Blockman GO, I decided to give making one a go.
Downloading and installing Blockman Editor was pretty straightforward, though I did struggle with logging in. I couldn’t seem to create a Garena account, so I just ended up logging in via Google.
One of the annoying things about the editor is that it doesn’t have an option to keep me logged in. This means every time I open the launcher, I have to log in again.
But that was just the beginning of my problems. The next thing I had to do was actually make a game.
Perhaps my first mistake was choosing the parkour template, rather than the block template, which is much more intuitive.
The parkour template came with a preset, pre-designed map that I had a hard time trying to reconfigure. I was overwhelmed by the interface, with words like “assets”, “rewards”, and more, making little sense to my inexperienced self.
I spent a few nights losing sleep over trying to understand the editor, but eventually I told myself that maybe it was just not for me.
This resulted in me giving up on the idea altogether for a few weeks, until I mustered up the courage to try again.
My next issue? The editor had stopped working at this point. The launcher still booted up, but upon selecting a game to open, it would just freeze up. Uninstalling and redownloading the files seemed to work, though.
This time, I decided to go with the block template, which was decidedly a lot easier. If you’ve played Minecraft, this should be a piece of cake for you.
The block selections are a little sparse, but I’m sure you can create your own assets if you’re a smarter cookie than I am.
After designing a semi-satisfatory parkour map (but in block form) and making sure it actually works, I beta-released the game. I named it “Vulcan Jumps” and created a cover image on MS Paint, and soon enough, the editor announced that it was a success.
All there was left to do now was open Blockman GO, visit the test list, and share the link to my friends.
Except… I could not for the life of me find this so-called test site. According to a post on Blockman Editor’s forum, players just need to access the Testing Center on the game, but it seems to be unavailable, at least on my iPhone.
But then, my managing editor, Sade downloaded Blockman Go on her Android phone, and managed to find the Testing Center, just as the post on the forum foretold.
Logging into my account, she was able to find the beta game I had released. She tried inviting me for testing, but my iPhone still couldn’t connect the room number.
Still, she ultimately did manage to try out the game. While she reported that it ran smoothly, she apparently couldn’t make it past the first jump. Perhaps I should lower the difficulty.
While she was at it, she also managed to spot another game I had tried to publish back in July without beta-releasing it. It says the game is “Pending Review”, but I doubt they’d ever actually release it.
I’ll admit that I had a really hard time using the editor, but to also be fair, that is possibly more of a me problem more than the editor’s.
With that said though, Blockman Editor still has an enormous way to go if it wants to rival the likes of Roblox or Minecraft.
Its Guidebook is sparse and confusing and doesn’t seem to explain the process of releasing a game. It’s not beginner-friendly, but perhaps it doesn’t intend to be, catering instead to those with at least some experience on other builders.
The game Blockman GO itself has potential, though I can only imagine it to be attractive to the younger crowd. This might be somewhat concerning, though, considering all the micro-transactions the game prompts users to make.
As mentioned earlier, Blockman GO also incentivises creators by letting them earn an income using the ingame currency, Gcubes, which can be withdrawn as cash.
This is comparable to Roblox and its Robux system. While this might be seen as empowering, it’s important to note that Roblox has come under fire before for exploiting young game developers, something that Garena Blockman GO will hopefully never be associated with.
Still, with Minecraft costing US$29.99, Blockman GO can somewhat act as a dupe for those who just want to experience playing games such as Bed Wars for free.
Other than that, there’s also a huge range of minigames to try. If you ever find yourself bored, just boot it up and play Demon Hunter, with animations taken straight off Demon Slayer.
Or maybe consider Hero Tycoon, featuring popular totally-copyrighted heroes such as Spiderman, Doctor Strange, and Wolverine. Perhaps one day, you may even see Vulcan Jumps on the front page.