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  • Look, Ma, No Code

    [08.19.14]
    - Nate Ralph

  • Which Is Best for You?

    Construct 2 is a Windows-only application, which will likely put it out of the running immediately for many. That said, it's also relatively cheap: The $119 Personal Edition unlocks the application's full potential for individual users. If you make more than $5,000 on your game (lucky you!), you'll need to upgrade to a business license, which requires a one-time payment of $399. The free version bars you from making any money from your creations, and from publishing to iOS and Android devices at all. You will be able to publish your work to your own web site, as a Windows 8 Metro app, a Facebook game, or the Chrome web store. The free version also includes limits on the number of events, layouts, and effects you can include in your gamesCono doubt some incentive to pony up for a license.

    At $299 a year, GameSalad is a bit more of an investment. But it's arguably worth the extra scratch (particularly if your magnum opus sees some success), as the GameSalad Pro subscription opens up access to Apple's Game Center, iAds, and in-app purchasingComonetization options Construct 2 is sorely lacking. You'll also get the ability to publish to Android and Windows 8 devicesCothe free version only supports Mac, web, and iOS publishing.

    Both apps also offer stores where you can purchase assets like sound files and animated images to spruce up your game (or supplement your lackluster artistic abilities). GameSalad's implementation is far more robust as it accepts user submissions. Neither store is as comprehensive as something like Unity's asset store, but if you're as artistically challenged as I am and want to spruce up your project a tad, it doesn't hurt to take a peek.

    Eat Your GameSalad

    GameSalad is arguably the superior choice here. Once I'd come to terms with all of the nested windows and grown familiar with the nigh-endless scrolling lists, pulling together my own project was easy, and even fun. Your ideas can take shape rather quickly, and the overall simplicity belies powerful, responsive tools. Sure, the price tag might seem a bit steep. But if you're serious about striking out into the wide world of game development and want to lean on tools to get you in on the ground floor, GameSalad will offer the tools to realize your visionCoprovided said vision is simple, and skews toward browsers or mobile devices. Think of it as an investment: Like it or not, free-to-play games buoyed by in-app purchases thrive, and a solid experience coupled with smart business decisions could see your license paying for itself.

    Don't count Construct 2 out just yet, however. Truth be told, I actually preferred working with it. The vaguely familiar interface made the approach comfortable, but I simply found it easier to find what I was looking forCowhether I needed to resize my project, or make some changes to a layer. Pre-set behaviors make experimenting wondrously simple, though you're still free to craft things manually if you like the hands-on approach GameSalad requires. The colorful, image-laden event sheet system was decidedly easier to parse, particularly as my prototypes became increasingly unwieldy. And naive as this may sound, clicking through a few menus and then tapping out commands feels a bit closer to the "real thing."

    And therein lies the rub. Both of these tools are great for anyone who wants to get an idea off the ground and perhaps even get paid, but they're ultimately a crutch. Of course, there's a case to be made for not reinventing the wheel: Why spend months or years learning to code when you could instead hit the ground running and make your dream a reality? I'm no purist, but throughout my time with both of these tools I couldn't help but think that, wonderful as it was to see ideas take form, I'd be all the more impressed if I actually understood how all of this wizardry actually worked.

    But if you're just looking to prototype an idea or scratch that development itch, there's no harm in popping over to either app's web site and taking them for a spin.

    [Nate Ralph is an aspiring wordsmith fascinated by games, hardware, and most everything in between. You can find more of musings in 140-character chunks at @nateralph.]

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