PAX West 2017: Trailmakers

Thursday, September 7th, 2017

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Trailmakers 2

I tend to like freeform creation games. Things like Minecraft and Kerbal Space Program are things I tend to spend a lot of time on, due to their open-ended nature. Now a new game, Trailmakers, is jumping into that ring, and I got a chance to try it out at PAX West 2017.

Trailmakers is a game that allows players to create their own vehicle from an assortment of different parts. According to the developer there will be a goal and the need to scavenge the roughly 100 different parts in the final game, but in the demo players were given free access to roughly 20 different parts to create their own vehicle and play around in the environment. There are also preset blueprints, which in the demo were vehicles created by the developers or by players at events, including the vehicle I created during my demo.

Trailmakers 1

The creation system is straightforward and easy to grasp, and the limited selection of parts at your disposal keeps the system from being overwhelming. Engine parts and certain others allow you to select which elements they will control as well as assigning buttons to forward and reverse. The most interesting use I saw for this was on a crawler that someone created, which used alternating pressing and holding the A, D, G and H keys to make it walk.

My demo experience consisted of over an hour of gameplay, most of which consisted of me trying and eventually succeeding at creating a functional quadcopter. It took a lot of building, tweaking and rebuilding, and shows the diversity possible with the construction system. The other vehicles in the blueprints included standard cars as well as helicopters, jet-powered aircraft and insectoid crawlers, as well as some more unique selections. One of these included a buggy with upward-facing thrusters that, when driven carefully, allowed it to scale cliffs and other vertical surfaces and even upside-down.

Trailmakers 4

Each part has its own weight, and distribution of weight and thrust is important to creating a functional vehicle. It would be nice if the game included some of the quality-of-life elements present in a game like Kerbal Space Program, namely showing the player the vehicle’s center of mass and center of thrust.

The simple fact that I spent over an hour with Trailmakers shows how it was able to pull me in. It’s best if you have a specific goal in mind, such as mine to create a quadcopter. Otherwise there is enjoyment to be had in fooling around to see what works, but working towards a goal is more involving and fun. Trailmakers is set for release in summer 2018 for PS4, Xbox One and Steam, with an early access version coming to Steam later this year.

About Chris Melchin

Chris is a computer science student who has been gaming ever since he knew what to do with a Super Nintendo controller. Since then, he's owned every Nintendo console to be released. His favourite games include Xenoblade Chronicles, Persona 4 Golden, and Little Busters. He started watching anime in high school, and his favourite series is Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood. He also writes Vocaloid music for his personal YouTube channel, and has a (slight) obsession with Megurine Luka.




  • Josh S.

    I’m not a big fan of sandbox games, other than things like Super Mario Maker and Chicken Wiggle, which also have a main mode of created levels.

  • An interesting concept. I’ll have to keep an eye on this.