Kate Labs gives you the tools to create worlds in 3D using the assets and functions from the games of Kate Barrett. The toolset, recently updated by the designer, gives access to worlds in which to collage from her prolific and idiosyncratic 3D adventure games and make something in that style and unique to yourself. It’s a really generous gift considering how closed off and precious about game design we’re taught to be by most major studios and indie award winners, with rare exception (there’s a reason indie 3d games and modding resemble Unreal and Valve so much).
Loading Kate Labs and seeing what’s inside is like observing someone’s passion project in a way that is neither invasive or unguided, with its tutorials and guides on how to navigate. It’s a level creation box filled with objects and functions that when combined make these block colour play world spaces perfectly representing the sinister playfulness in Barrett’s work.
The great thing with a tool like this is the ease of slipping between play and editing since the player controller leads the creation, which sets any level creator up as a more fluid experience. Except in this case I couldn’t find a way to not spawn objects directly where I stood, so loading without colliders and then applying them in the properties tool is good advice, unless I’ve missed a fundamental and easy way to solve that.
Similar to that there’s a couple of other points where you need to learn by your own mistakes with how not to operate, including making sure you’ve deselected tools to avoid scaling the ground down to a nothing size, and finding your own way to use the camera tools which it’s tough to control at first.
On the flipside, the ease of setting up functions, having a simple set of ways in which to animate/operate/apply sound etc, built in to every single object is something that gives Kate Labs a life that is beyond a tool for placing weird things all over, and actually into a toolkit for making your own living levels. The intuitive paths tool makes that especially easy, and what I used to give my Ghost Car its unceasing need to tread the old ground of the car park it died in.
Using another artist’s tools to create with is a big part of art creation, and education, learning about the techniques and aesthetics that are around you is essential and while Western fine art culture has a history of taking its ego based canon seriously enough to crush kid’s artistic passion before they leave school, Kate Labs is a tool for expressing how fun and off the wall game design can be.