Making Web and Mobile Games with Construct 2

Earlier this month I taught a workshop on games in the classroom for faculty at my university. Several people showed up with their iPads and asked about making games for their mobile devices, inspiring me to revisit my quest for the perfect crossplatform development tool. Building for mobile is a great way to get students excited about a digital project, but making any content for mobile platforms (particularly iOS) can be daunting. My current favorite beginner’s solution is the free version of Scirra’s Construct 2.

Construct 2 is a visual editor for building HTML5 games that export to pretty much any platform. Unlike some of the previous tools I’ve talked about such as Inform 7, Twine, and Inklewriter, Construct 2 is focused on building graphical games with easy tools for adding familiar elements from Mario-style platformers and other arcade standbys. Even basic arcade mechanics can make for interesting educational games when combined with ideas from news and events or any powerful context. There’s also an immediacy in touch-based environments that can be very cool to experience and create.

Building a game in Construct 2 starts with placing 2D graphics (there are lots of free sprite libraries out there for getting started) and assigning them behaviors. Lots of these are pre-defined and can be added quickly, like making a character controllable by pressing arrow keys or making an object react to a mouse click.

Some of the interface elements are similar to Scratch, but instead of manipulating code blocks choices are made by navigating through menus centered around the objects you add to the game. The events page, which uses icons based on objects in the game for easy scanning, is shown above. I recommend starting with the beginner’s tutorial for making a basic top-down shooter for exposure to the fundamental structures of Construct 2: game objects, events, and a layers system that Photoshop users will pick up quickly. It’s a great visual way of experiencing the logic of programming: it’s easy to follow the event tree and see why something is going wrong. The free version is powerful enough for most basic game experiments I’ve tried.

There are several other great tools for building cross-platform interactivity: Corona SDK and LiveCode are both worth a look. This type of game-making could be built into a class as part of a creative final,following the same lines as Amy’s integration of a digital project.

Have you tried making games or other content for mobile? What are your favorite tools and assignments for these types of experiments? Share your ideas in the comments!

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