Since we released Eggs in Space, our epic space adventure for iOS, Draw & Code’s app development has mainly been limited to work for clients; it’s been an age since we made a game for games-sake. The time to get creative and have a little fun had arrived, so we vowed to get coding an all-new game: except this time we have had no need to write a single line of code!
So, how can you make a video game without having to wade through code so complex it would make Johnny Five blush? GameSalad – that’s how! This is the development suite that uses nothing but drop-downs, check-boxes or the odd list. This means that it operates much like Photoshop or any other utility. While that doesn’t necessarily make it easy (getting the most out of any programme rarely is), it does mean that arithmo-phobes will feel a little more welcome in the world of game-creation.
After successfully exhibiting at AWE in 2014, for this year’s event we wanted our stand to represent what Draw & Code is all about. As our name implies, we are all about bringing art and technology together, so we had to find a way to do this in our modest patch of the show. This meant incorporating our key technologies into the stand itself and then networking these technologies to create a unified, social experience. Forget solitary virtual worlds or one-dimensional projections – our pioneering techniques will allow AWE delegates to interact with our fantastic 3D experience simultaneously through different mediums.
I would compare it to making electronic music; you may not need to know an instrument, but without taste, dedication and patience, you still won’t be able to make anything worth listening too. So effort and talent are still required, which will probably count me out. Luckily the rest of the Draw & Coders are more than capable of creating video game magic and have taken to GameSalad like ducks to water.
We reckon that a platformer is the way to go with GameSalad, and yes, with the right artwork it would be entirely possible to create something that gamers would shell out their hard-earned pennies for. Old-school scrolling-shooters seem like another genre that GameSalad could tackle with ease. When it comes to 3D and super-accurate physics, it is not the best – but if you want to make Streets of Rage 4 then this is all you need.
Our latest creation is an overhead puzzle platformer, if that is a genre, which features a very mysterious wolf as the main character. We will have to wait a little longer for some screenshots, as there is barely anything to see yet. But it all plays well enough and the level-generating feature works perfectly. We even have a few crude sounds in there, so it’s not far away from being a fully-formed game; a game that has only taken a couple of working days for one person and a couple of hours for two more of us. Remarkable.
So far, the only additional knowledge that we have needed has included a spot of XML and the small matter of being able to draw the sprites, backgrounds and anything else. Only the arty need apply. You can’t take the short-cut of sticking photographs in there either, so do not get into this without being a bit nifty with digital crayons or knowing somebody who could take care of this for you.
Knowledge of tables will certainly not go amiss, which does make things a little more complex for the amateur. It’s nothing that a tutorial couldn’t see you through, but don’t go thinking that it is TOO easy to create your own game, because it’s not.
Not only is GameSalad a great tool for making a full game, it is the perfect way to prototype a game. John managed to get the basics of a game sorted within a couple of lunch breaks, so a full team of developers could prototype level layouts or create a proof-of-concept version within hours.
But wait, it gets better; you don’t need to commit to a lengthy export procedure or to the hassle of porting it from one device to another. Not only that, but you can even play the game instantly on the Mac or PC that you are using to run GameSalad. It’s like when programming made the leap from punch cards to, er, no punch cards. Well, maybe it isn’t quite so revolutionary, but testing a game instantly is certainly a very handy feature that will slash development time for those who like to test every little change.
So, how much will GameSalad set you back? Nothing! Paying for something is sooooooo 20th century! If you want to ‘go pro’ then you can, although if you want the pro-version then it will cost you $300. This allows you to publish to all iOS and Android formats, along with opening up a couple of other features.
If you just want to dip a toe into game development then this is perfect, although that does not make it too simple to become an app developer. What we love GameSalad for is the quick prototyping and testing that it offers us.