TL; DR: Buildbox empowers users of all experience levels to become professional video game creators — even if they aren’t into coding. The drag-and-drop Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platform guides them through designing, building, and launching both 2D and 3D mobile games that can be easily linked to ad networks. As Buildbox sets its sights on console game creation, the company is providing even more opportunities for those without tech skills to experience life as a video game designer.
Growing up, I had quite a few Mortal Kombat-obsessed friends who wanted to turn their lifelong gaming passions into fruitful careers as video game designers. Few, if any, reached that goal — of the pals I’ve kept in touch with, one is a professor, another a sous chef.
But after exploring the technology available on the market today, I don’t think they’ve lost their chance. Take Buildbox, for example. The drag-and-drop platform makes it easy to develop games without any programming, coding, or scripting — often in as little as a week.
Professional game designers like David Reichelt, creator of Color Switch, have used the game creation platform to build some of the most popular mobile apps on the market. That’s no exaggeration: In 2016, Color Switch was ranked number one in the App Store and number five on Google Play.
“I think what pulls people in is the love of video games,” said Zack Griset, Director of Customer Success at Buildbox. “There are a lot of creative people out there that don’t enjoy coding but would still love to build a game — and that’s what Buildbox does. It allows people who never thought game design was within their grasp to become a developer.”
Buildbox serves a wide range of customers, including enterprise clients, but the majority are indie developers between the ages of 16 and 40 who have always wanted to build a game of their own. But Buildbox doesn’t stop at game creation — it allows users to launch both 2D and 3D mobile games on the App Store and Google Play, as well as link them to ad networks. In the distant future, Buildbox may even enter the console space, empowering anyone to build games for systems such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox, and PlayStation.
Buildbox was founded in 2014 by Trey Smith and Nik Rudenko. The pair met after Trey, a Doodle Jump fanatic, got the itch to build his first game and began to search Upwork for a developer he could collaborate with.
They enjoyed some early success with a game they created inspired by Doodle Jump. But building the game sparked an idea: What if they could create the PowerPoint of game development, allowing anyone to create games regardless of technical skill?
“Trey wanted to build a game as easily as possible, but he had to go through Nik to handle all of the coding,” Zack said. “So together they started Project Mayhem (clearly, they were Fight Club fans), which was a bare-bones drag-and-drop game creation solution.”
Trey and Nik began hiring developers, and the team steadily grew. Project Mayhem evolved into Project Zero, then Project Zero 2, and eventually Buildbox 1, with each version bringing forth increased functionality. But right around the time Buildbox 1 hit the market, Zack said the industry began to shift.
“Big publishers like Ketchapp started coming on the scene, and they were releasing a game nearly every week,” he said. “They were getting more and more complicated, and some of them were just beautiful. Studios like ustwo were releasing games like Monument Valley, a unique puzzle game that utilized labyrinthine isometry and gorgeous graphics.”
The Buildbox team knew it had to get ahead, so they started work on Buildbox 2, a 2D game creation platform that was an immediate success. “It came a long way from Buildbox 1,” Zack said. “It works in a 2D environment, but if you have the right graphic and position things the right way, you can actually make it look 3D or isometric.”
As the market began its more recent turn toward 3D gaming, Buildbox again took notice. “If you look at the App Store right now, at least two or three of the top 10 games literally have the words 3D built into their name,” Zack said. “So, we decided to shift again.”
In May of this year, the company released Buildbox 3, its most advanced platform yet. With Buildbox 3, users have the option to develop in both 2D and 3D environments, regardless of skill level. Making 3D games is super intuitive using the company’s smart asset library, which is packed with 3D objects and presets that can be edited and customized as desired.
The multifaceted platform even allows users to convert 3D games to 2D using a button on the right-hand side of the editor that transforms objects, shadowing, and the camera’s position with one click. “Buildbox 3 is fantastic — think it’s going to be the future of game development,” Zack said. “It’s still drag-and-drop software, but it also has coding capabilities if you want them.”
Zack said that David Reichelt is at it again with Buildbox 3. The new game he’s creating — again, without any coding skills — will highlight the capabilities of Buildbox’s latest offering.
“I can’t say too much about it, but I can tell you this: It’s going to be similar to the jump from Super Mario World to Super Mario 64,” he said. “I’m extremely excited.”
Zack’s passion for Buildbox is rooted in the platform’s ability to remove barriers to entry. When he’s able to share the SaaS solution with others, he said he especially enjoys the feeling of empowerment he can bestow upon them.
“I’ll say, ‘You can make a game in an hour, export it, and play it on your phone,’” he said. “And then, all of a sudden, the wheels start turning and people get excited. And I love that part.”
He will soon have the opportunity to share the platform with even more users. AppOnboard recently acquired Buildbox, and the newly merged company plans to release a free version of the SaaS solution, expanding its user base. The acquisition will also bring additional developers and funding to the company, accelerating growth.
Buildbox also plans to streamline the platform’s integration with ad networks. Problems arise when ad network companies adjust their SDK and Buildbox is not made aware of the change. “The way it works is we have the ad network’s SDK built into the software, so all you have to do is hook up your ad network ID and then your ads will be played,” Zack said. “But if the ad network company updates it and doesn’t communicate that, the ads won’t work.”
The company’s solution will be to develop and maintain partnerships with various ad network companies, ultimately smoothing out the exporting process. Because Buildbox remains nimble, these types of fixes occur at a rapid pace.
“We’re fortunate to have a really responsive user community providing feedback, and we’re still small enough to make decisions quickly and jump to fix any problems,” Zack said.
As far as what the future holds, Buildbox plans to move into the gaming console space, enabling users to build games for systems such as Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4. Though a lot of people use mobile phones as their gaming devices these days, Zack said video game enthusiasts would jump at the opportunity to build games for consoles without any coding.
Mostly, though, future plans will be dictated by client need. “It’s all about listening to users,” he said. “For example, AR and VR are trends that are continuing to grow, but we’re not going to start building out that capability until our customers are asking for it.”
In the meantime, Buildbox will continue to focus on maintaining the platform and building partnerships with ad network companies.
“The easier we make it, the more people will be able to take their passions and turn them into careers,” Zack said.
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About the Author
Christine Preusler, a full-time Contributing Editor at HostingAdvice.com, covers the hosting and technology space through in-depth feature articles and interviews with the biggest names in the industry. With more than a decade of experience managing and publishing print and digital publications, Christine leverages her communications skills to keep readers up to date on the latest web hosting services and innovations. Her goal is simple — to distill complex hosting concepts into clear yet thought-provoking narratives suitable for developers and tech newbies alike.