The sudden boom in “drag and drop” game engines has certainly been interesting to watch. It seems like every other month a new one is Kickstarted or Greenlit into existence. I’m not sure what this says about the current state of game design, but the ability for anyone to create a video game without years of coding knowledge, in theory, is a good thing.
I’ve had my hands in every “newbie” game engine released so far, and the majority of them pale in comparison to Yo Yo Game’s GameMaker. While it’s not without problems, it certainly is ahead of the pack. Valve allowing software beside games on Steam opens a new window for potential game designers to get their start with the promotion of game creation software on their popular digital distribution service.
The newest game maker to be released on Steam is Construct 2. It promises everything every other simplistic game making software has, but can it stand on its own and separate itself from the cookie-cutter path these engines have been committed to maintaining?
Construct 2 is purely an HTML5 game-making tool. Unlike Game Maker, you are quite limited on platforms you can release to. Of course, that’s not necessarily a bad thing if you were only planning on releasing it on the web or mobile devices that support HTML5. But since HTML5 is still in an early, experimental state, I don’t feel restricting users to exporting games in only HTML5 is the best direction. With that in mind, there are also a ton of great HTML5 games available now. Games like HexGL and Cut the Rope show just what’s possible with HTML5 when put into the right hands.
All the technical aspects that make up games created in Construct 2 is done through what are called behaviors and events. Behaviors range from making something solid, adding a flashlight, directional movement and bullet behavior. Adding behaviors to your items is quite easy, as all the basics are already created for you and all you have to do is select the most appropriate behavior from a list of around 20. If you don’t like their properties, you can always fine-tune them yourself. If what you need isn’t found on the list, well, then you’re kind of out of luck. In most cases, for HTML5 games that are platformers or simple space shooters, this is more than enough. But if you want to break the mold, you’ll be more than disappointed.
One problem I have with Construct 2 is that the in-game descriptions and instructions aren’t descriptive enough. Despite several tutorials on the official website, in-app help feels very limited. When you release an application like this, I can’t help but feel that the users hand needs to be held as much as possible given its unique nature. Having to result to user-made tutorials in the web should only have to be resorted to for extremely advanced manipulation, instead of even the most basic actions.
Another thing, it lacks an open code-editor like the one included in GameMaker. That’s a huge turn off for someone like me, who wants to go one step deeper and get inside the game I’m creating, instead of just rearranging things on the surface. Construct 2 calls itself a drag and drop game engine, and that is as deep as the software goes.
There are three editions to Construct 2. The free edition is without any time limitations and allows you to enjoy the majority of what Construct 2 has to offer. If you end up making over $5000 in revenue from a released game made with Construct 2, you will be required to upgrade to the business edition. Given the quality of the tools, I doubt that many game designers using Construct 2 will ever get the point of needing to upgrade to the business edition. However, the personal edition is a must if you like what you see with the free edition. The personal edition adds the ability to create iOS apps, Android apps, PC apps and removes event, layer and effect limits. It also adds project subfolders, event search, object families and an instant preview over WiFi, which allows you to preview your game on a local network. Not only that, but you get 124 sound effects, 8 music tracks, 12 ambient sounds and 3 sprite packs. Most notably of all, the ability to use Construct 2 for commercial use.
To be honest, Construct 2 isn’t a bad game-making tool. It’s just too simple and restricted for anyone other than a 12-year-old trying to impress their playground friends with a game he threw together in a matter of minutes. If you’re looking for a truly simple game maker with all the bells and whistles of the big boys, just stick to GameMaker.