Crayta is complicated and simple at the same time. The Stadia exclusive, launching on Wednesday July 1st, is a game-making platform where you can create your own levels, rules and games and share them with other Crayta players. It looks like Fortnite, uses blocks like Minecraft, but has the creative freedoms of something closer to the PS4’s Dreams. That makes it very different to what we’ve seen on Google’s streaming service so far.
It’s also the showcase for a Stadia feature that’s been a long time coming: state share. In the early days of Stadia, Google pitched it as the ability to leap into a game at the same point as your friend, or favorite streamer. And all with no friend list addition, no laborious game hubs -- it’s all done through a simple web link that can be shared pretty much anywhere you can copy and paste. (In fact, the Crayta team outlined all the ways the game could be shared and launched here.)
Crayta, part party game hub, part game creation tool, sounds like the ideal candidate to beta test state share. The posit is not only to make it easier to share games when you’re playing but also to collaborate with other Stadia users to craft entirely new games. Then, once you’re done, you can share a direct link to your creation, no need to browse through libraries of other people’s creations. For the record, you can do that too.
It works as simply as advertised. I joined states through Discord and messenger apps, and as long as you spelled out your passcode correctly (something that ensures randoms can be kept out of your playthroughs), there’s pretty much nothing to mess up. I think that’s where the Google Docs analogy comes into it. There have been collaborative work tools for decades, but GDocs keeps it simple. State share needs to hold on to this simplicity — and Google needs to put it into more games, even if they’re not quite as complicated as Crayta.
I dipped in and out of a couple of shared games and tutorials last week and was admittedly overwhelmed by the game creation part. Some other Stadia users in the same instance as me were already crafting new game levels, completely up to speed with the system, while I just dumped giant dinosaur skulls around, and tried to craft walls and layers with my Stadia controller, not the keyboard and mouse I could have used. (To their credit, the team has even made a tutorial about crafting worlds with only the controller.)
So I might not be a game creator any time soon, but what about the fruits of these tools? In these early days — the game launches in earnest later this week — there’s already an interesting number of games that have lifted ideas from other games. Some worked well, others, well, less. To its credit, with many Crayta games, it feels like you’re just controlling a Fortnite character in a different kind of game — it’s easy to get the basics down.
(Don’t expect everything to look like an over-the-shoulder shooter, however. The creation tools offer plenty of camera freedom, so you can create that isometric game you’ve been dreaming of.)
The team behind Crayta, Unit 2 games, had several games available to test out at this early stage. There was an Overcooked clone, a few ‘Capture the Flag’ games and another title where you had to overcome a giant wall barrelling towards you and the rest of the competition. My particular favorite is ‘Prop Hunt’. If you’ve never heard of it (and games like it have appeared elsewhere) it’s like a silly version of Prey where you can transform and hide as random objects while other players attempt to hunt you down.
The potential here could be great ideas that are easy to execute with Crayta’s tools. The team has gone to great pains to offer plenty of tutorial content and guidance to help learn the ropes here -- and there’s a lot to wade through.
Some of these early titles worked less well. ‘Huddle for Warmth’, where you’re tasked with destroying air-con units that are freezing you and the world, is pretty muddled and not all that fun. Your health meter is your body temp, and the more you explore the colder you’ll get. With that limited time (you can always heat up next to your campfire), you have to set off into the frozen tundra to trash some air-con.
Whether you spot another player hinges on whether you spawned at the same campsite or got lucky as you wandered around shooting up flares for help. Without someone by your side, unsurprisingly it’s not much fun repeatedly freezing to death. Other games just played a little wobbly — but these are early games on a new tool. I can be patient.
Crayta’s premium edition launches on July 1st, with 500 credits of in-game currency for skins and items. The team is also promising “seasonal post-launch content” through the rest of the year. It’s free to Stadia Pro subscribers, but if you’re on the free tier, the base version costs $39.99.