(Feature) Construct 2: Game making for the masses

You may have read recently (because we’ve been promoting it like hell) that I developed a game for Android called “Kuatia” (which you can download 100% free HERE). Now, you may be thinking to yourselves: “but Marcos, I didn’t know you were a programming wizard!”. And the truth is, I’m not. I know my way around HTML, JS and CSS because part of my day job is to develop websites, but really, I’m no Hideo Kojima. So, how is it that I was able to create a game and release it for Android? The answer is Construct 2.

I’m gonna tell you why, but first, a bit of history.

I’ve been gaming since the late 80s, and been involved in computers since the early 90s. I can’t get enough of the stuff. But my approach is always trying to take advantage of existing tech, to stand on the shoulders of giants. I like dipping my hands into several disciplines. I released a heavy metal album which got picked up by two labels and distributed in 3 countries, I made a fairly successful horror short film which has played in 6 international festivals, and have developed a system that translates statistical data into music.

Pictured here: a nerd in the making.

So, yeah, I’m a bit of a geek. But I never delved deeply into game programming. Now I’m in my 30s and have actual responsibilities, like a mortgage and food to put on the table, so I can’t really spend time learning a new programming language to develop games. And I’ve always wanted to do it.

There are a couple of options for people who want to make games but don’t want to program: RPG Maker (which I own), GameMaker (which is expensive for me), TyranoBuilder (which I also own) and of course, Construct 2.

Construct 2 has stuff in common with RPG Maker MV and TyranoBuilder: they are built on JS and HTML5. That means they can export to almost any platform, including home consoles like the X Box.

I’m already developing a game in RPG Maker MV, but I’ve also wanted to develop something quick and easy for a while. An RPG takes months to plan out and write dialog for. So I looked at the options I had for quick game making. It soon became apparent that Construct 2 was the way to go: it seemed really friendly, it had a free version to try out, it had tons of tutorials online, it included free assets and even free templates.

Game actions are controlled by Event Sheets, which require no programming but some programming “logic”.

So I started playing around with concepts and trying out the templates. After some fiddling, the infinite runner template seemed like a good place to start: I like Super Mario Run, I loved Canabalt, so I thought “why not”. The template is merely for the “game” part of the game. There’s no menu screen, no achievements, nothing. Just a cube moving forward endlessly. I started to develop my concept.

I liked the idea of using hand-drawn sprites and backgrounds, as I’m crap as an illustrator and I like the idea of using what I can. It was easy enough to import some random stuff from the internet I was using as placeholder for actual art and soon I had a game running that felt mine.

Not long after that, though, I realized two very important facts about this game-making malarkey: a) I needed to find some real artwork or nobody was going to play my game, and b) Even though Construct 2 requires no programming, some of the stuff I wanted to implement required logic I wasn’t sure how to create.

For the first problem, I hit the internet. It was with no small amount of surprise that I realized that there are endless free resources for aspiring game-makers: spritesheets, tilemaps, complete character sets, music, sound effects. Awesome! I got the stuff I wanted, sorted out the art direction I wanted my game to have, and went to work.

Here’s some of the art featured in the game.

For my second, more complicated problem, I hit the Construct 2 forums. I had some experience with forums before, and my experience was mixed: music forums usually sprouted nothing but hatred, while tech-based forums like the ones for the NextThingCo PocketCHIP was a friendly maker Valhalla. I had no idea what to expect.

I posted my problem and waited.

But I did not wait long; what happened next would introduce me to the best thing about Construct 2: its community. People were really happy to help me solve my problems. They were friendly and gave me suggestions on how to improve my game.

As I’m writing this, my game has been out for 3 weeks. I just pushed out an update that would not have been possible without the help of forum members who sorted out an issue I had with storing information locally on phones. It took hours from me posting the issue to having someone help me solve it.

Not all is rosy, though: implementing third-party stuff is hard. Sometimes, too hard. I’ve been using Cocoon.io’s fantastic compiler to create my Android binaries, but even with all the information out there and the forum help, I was unable to include AdMob ads in my game. I will be trying to add Google Play Games leaderboard and achievements soon, but I’m afraid it will also be too much for me. Compiling in itself was challenging as it depends on third-party software that’s always changing, so it’s hard to find instructions that are updated.

Publishing to Android was its own beast, with unique challenges put forward by Google’s Play Store.

All in all, though, I loved my experience with Construct 2. It has taught me a lot about developing games, the process of bringing a project from idea to publishing and beyond, and just how important the community around something like this is.

Construct 3 is on the horizon now, with a browser-based editor (no more need to download software to your PC, you can work on your game anywhere) and a subscription based payment method (rather than the one-off payment they’ve been using until now).

Construct 3 is in the beta phase still, and you can start developing games for free with it right away by visiting the official website.

Will it be better than Construct 2? Will it be worse? It’s hard to tell just now. What I know for sure is that Construct 2 was the right tool at the right time for me. Thanks to Scirra, I can now call myself a published game developer.

Ticked that one off the bucket list.

(NOTE: This is not a paid ad post. I really just loved using Construct 2 and thought I’d share my experience).

 

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