If you know anything about me, you know I like making games. And one of my favorite way of making games is by using HTML5 engines. I just find them to be the perfect mixture of powerful, deployable and easy to use. On this last topic, Scirra’s Construct has long been one of my absolute top picks. But the new pricing model (a subscription model rather than a one-off license) has put me off ever using it again. However, we must not fret, because GDevelop, a free and open-source engine very much similar to Construct, has released its fifth stable release. But how does it stack up to its commercial cousin?
First Things First: Why HTML5
Just for those in the back, I wanted to let you all know why I love HTML5 engines. Sure, they can be a bit more limited than engines like Unity and Unreal. You can’t deploy to consoles, either, and performance isn’t as optimal.
Then why on Earth would you use one? Because it’s easy. Like, really easy. You know how people say “Unity is easy!” and then they spend 6 months documenting how they struggled to make an inventory system? HTML5 engines aren’t like that. The more limited set of tools actually allows you to make stuff faster, and you can publish all kinds of awesome games via HTML5, like that Star Wars – Rogue One: Boots on the Ground game I keep harping on about (play it, by the way, as it’s free).
With that out of the way, then, let’s talk about GDevelop
GDevelop 5 – A Polished, Refined GDevelop experience
Now, that doesn’t mean you can make a game without game logic. And that’s a big point a lot of people don’t take the time to make. You still have to understand how programming works, even if you won’t be writing out the code line by line. But as far as engines go, this type of visual programming is way easier to get into than, say, Unity or Unreal.
The Good Stuff That’s Changed
I first used GDevelop 5 years ago when I was working on my own mobile game Kuatia. I was tempted because I loved the low-code approach which Construct had, but GDevelop was free. Sadly, at the time, the support around Construct was vastly superior, both from the community and in terms of the asset marketplace available.
As a new developer, both of those things are crucial. I don’t want to reinvent the wheel every time I want to introduce a new system to my game, so an engine with a robust marketplace saves me tons of time. And if I’m ever stuck, good community support can mean the difference between never finishing my game, and actually releasing it.
GDevelop has come leaps and bounds in the last 5 years, and the community support around it has grown exponentially. Both the community forums and the Discord are friendly places where people are not shy share their experience to help you overcome an issue. So, in terms of support, I’d consider GDevelop extremely mature.
But Those Assets, Though
The biggest sticking point for me continues to be the lack of a proper asset marketplace. Sure, they have their Game Starters, and if you scour the forums and Discord you can usually find something or other that might remotely resemble what you’re hoping to do.
But when you compare that to the Unity Store, the Unreal Marketplace, or its more direct competitor, The Scirra Marketplace, the difference is night and day. There’s just no easy way to get started on complex projects with GDevelop.
And this not only hinders new developers, but seasoned ones as well. New developers don’t get a helping hand when trying to start a new project, and seasoned developers have no direct way of creating assets to monetize their skills while helping fellow devs. To me, this is still GDevelop’s biggest Achilles’ heel, and until this is solved, it will struggle to get traction.
Final Thoughts – GDevelop Is Ready For Prime Time, But It Needs More Infrastructure
As a stand-alone piece of software, GDevelop 5 is ready for primetime. And in fact, GDevelop has been ready for production development for a while. The problem continues to be the support infrastructure. In a way, the indie game engine community reminds me of small single-board computer manufacturers.
You get tons of promise, and way more processing power and features than with established marques at the same price. But nothing is developed in a vacuum. And I ended up selling my Rock64 and buying a Raspberry Pi Zero W for the same reason I’ll go back to Construct despite this brilliant new GDevelop release: I can get more stuff done, more quickly.
If you don’t mind getting deep in the weeds, though, and you like doing everything from scratch, GDevelop is an amazing piece of software that’s well worth your attention.