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I've been working in the 2d art side of games for a while now, and my full time job keeps me very busy on the art side of things, but I'm becoming more and more interested in learning to prototype my own games.

I know very very little programming, though I did take some in college (in TorqueScript, of all things), and while I could probably take the time to learn it, the learning curve is a bit too steep for me as it's completely separated from my current job.

I'm wondering if there are any game engines out there with an interface designed with artists in mind, where the learning curve might be easier for me, and where my current skill set will be more easily applied. I bought an indy license for Torque Game Builder but it still requires a lot of scripting and finding good, basic, entry-level tutorials is proving difficult.

Basically I'm looking for a tool where I can focus on the art and game design, and where the programming is minimal, or is easy to learn and has really excellent documentation. No idea if anything like that exists, but it's worth a shot. :]

Any ideas?

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closed as off-topic by Noctrine Sep 16 '13 at 19:30

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Ah. I see. I think. –  The Communist Duck Oct 21 '10 at 17:25

15 Answers 15

up vote 15 down vote accepted

My recommendation would be to check out Unity, as it is one of the simplest, yet deceptively powerful, engines I have run across. The engine is well documented, the community is very active and friendly, and there are a number of tutorials available to help you get up to speed.

Update: Although Unity has a bit of a learning curve, I chose to recommend it over other engines for a couple of reasons:

  • Workflow - Unlike simpler engines out there, Unity uses a workflow that is similar in many aspects to what is used in the game industry, meaning that your time spent learning is an investment toward your career, not just learning a tool.
  • Support - Unity has a very active and friendly community, which is something a lot of smaller engines don't have.
  • Power - Unity comes with a lot of features and supports a number of platforms.
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6  
I think Unity is completely overpowered for what he needs. A Game Creator tool would be a much better fit. –  LearnCocos2D Oct 21 '10 at 21:17
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The Game Creator communities are also very help- and resourceful, and their workflow is much less technical. They may not be as feature rich but his goal is to focus on game design & art, so many features just get in the way. –  LearnCocos2D Oct 21 '10 at 21:24
    
This looks right up my alley, actually. :] It might be a little overpowered but the tutorials look really great. –  daestwen Oct 21 '10 at 21:43
    
@GamingHorror "for what she needs", thanks! –  daestwen Oct 21 '10 at 21:43
    
@daestwen: Forgive me, please! It's hard to tell from your synonym and your ident-icon. ;) –  LearnCocos2D Oct 22 '10 at 8:12

For 2D rapid-prototyping, I would suggest Game Maker. It allows a designer to quickly import art assets and turn them into animated sprites, and feature a simple object system which is event based. You can prototype simple games using drag and drop.

Another one I would recommend is Multimedia Fusion. It takes a different approach to programming in which it uses a big event table to handle interactions between objects. There are some simple scripting too.

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For 2D, I think Game Maker is good.

For 3D, I think 3DVIA is the better choice because you can script the engine with a graph.

Unity is very good but you'll have to learn a bit of programming to make it shine.

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can u please detail, by what u said "script the engine with a graph?" –  Vishnu Oct 21 '10 at 9:57
    
I think he meant a graph whos nodes represent actions or bits of logic. Instead of programming you connect these nodes to create the logic of the game. –  bummzack Oct 21 '10 at 15:01
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@Vishnu : bummzack is right. It is more visual so it is often a better fit for artists. I forgot Kismet/UDK but it is an other good choice. Still I would go 2D first (considering your background). –  Lionel Barret Oct 22 '10 at 9:54
    
@both-above: hmmmm, I've not used graphs, but have seen some in 3ds max bounce animations –  Vishnu Oct 25 '10 at 4:19

The Blender Game Engine might also be worth a look. It is part of the free 3d animation and modelling software Blender. It doesn't require any programming skills to create something but is also extendable by using python scripting. This probably only makes sense if you're using blender for asset creation anyway though.

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I'd suggest you check out UDK (the free-to-download Unreal engine and tools). There instead of having to write script, they have a system called Kismet which allows you to 'script' a lot of the typical gameplay events using a drag-drop system. What's more, there's a whole video tutorial series recorded by the good people at 3DBuzz. Ofc it's a 3d engine which might not suit, but there are tutorials on how to create a top-down game with it.

The trouble with most of the other suggestions here is that while they are good systems, they still require you to learn a programming language and if you found TorqueScript too much of a learning curve then I doubt Python (as used by Blender) or some of the other options are going to be any easier (although they are better documented than TorqueScript - everything is better documented than Torquescript :) )

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Yeah, it wasn't that I found torquescript difficult, so much that learning it on my own was hard because the documentation is so bad. –  daestwen Oct 21 '10 at 15:52
    
Nothing garage games makes has any documentation. Stay away. Stay very far away. –  David Young Oct 21 '10 at 19:04

I think you would do well choosing one of the many game making tools. There's little to no programming involved. Some even offer graphical, drag & drop programming interfaces.

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I know you've already marked an answer on this, but just another thought to throw out there: If you have a solid portfolio of art & game design, finding a programmer to help you prototype out some stuff and maybe even make a full game would be a good way to prototype without having to code yourself. Its not exactly a tool persay, but depending on your intent it might be the most effective way.

Obviously with a tool you don't have to worry about depending on or motivating someone else. However it can also release you from having to fight the beast that is code even in something like Unity, letting you handle the creative side with all your effort.

I know as a programmer with the opposite problem, ie looking for ways to make art with minimal effort, I have found working with an artist to be a much more delightful experience than working both disciplines myself and trying to do art through the most minimal tools. ;)

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1  
This is very true, unfortunately the only programmers I know personally are the ones I work with, and my contract stipulates I can't ask them to join projects outside of the company! I also would feel bad about looking for a programmer with absolutely no money to offer them, and without being able to guarantee a minimum time investment on my own part. (Crunch time at the studio tends to take all my attention for a few weeks!) –  daestwen Oct 22 '10 at 0:31
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Well I do game coding work with an artist with pretty similar conditions, we both have other full time obligations, some weeks are super productive, other times its months between anything significant happening, sometimes its one-sided. You might be able to find a similar setup ;). –  Deleter Oct 25 '10 at 23:28

Take a look at Scratch: http://scratch.mit.edu It's a free tool designed for kids by MIT, but it might be exactly what you're looking for. All the programming is done with tiles, so you don't need to learn any syntax. You can import your own graphics and audio, and the scripting is going to be relatively easy (I've taught 9-year-olds to make decent games in two hours.)

-um, and it's free, so there's really not a good reason NOT to try it.

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Definitely look at Flash. http://flashgamedojo.com has all you need to get started!

Also, take a look at Multimedia Fusion or The Games Factory. They both have drag and drop interfaces, but they're incredibly powerful.

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UDK by Epic Games will be the best choice for you;) It has a lot of stuff for artists and you can program on UnrealScript. As I understand UnrealScript's library is mirror of native C++ code. So you'll find some interesting tricks in programming of hierarchy structures, animation, triggers and etc. You can see and control pipeline of your gameplay and art. And of course the programming can be minimal. Because you can "draw" your game with embedded script editor "Unreal Kismet". There are a lot of video tutorials. Enjoy!

Update: I must say that UDK works "from the box". I think it is very good reason to choose;)

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i wonder why no one said anything about FREEWARE AND OPEN-SOURCE Constructor game engine. its mostly also drag-and-drop, has a solid suppport and is easy to learn and use. you dont need to know any programing knowledge beside plain variables and conditions. ty it out http://www.scirra.com

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If you really want to start game development, I think I can share you the starting point I did. First off, I did learn Basic Java Programming, Intermediate and Game Dev by thenewboston (seach this username in Youtube), you can learn many things from him. But before that, I used the game engine RPG Maker XP, VX and VXAce. They are great engines to make small or big rpg games.

You can also check FPS Creator, if you like FPS. But I'd say coding the game yourself is better of an enjoyment than using these...

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All of the other answers are OK, but I'd also suggest you take a look at HTML5. Yes, I know, that isn't exactly a game engine, but it's really simple and has a fast growing community. All you need is a canvas element somewhere on the page, and then you use Javascript to draw on it. I'd go with this rather than with Scratch or Game Maker, because it will actually teach you some usefull programming skills.

There are a number of good tutorials out there, but first learn basic HTML, then some Javascript, and then go here.

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FlashPunk is a very well documented and easy to use framework for Flash. As someone with a background in design I was able to pick up the code very quickly, and it handles a lot of the things that new programmers get hung up on automatically.

http://flashpunk.net/

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come and take a look at App Game Kit. We've been developing it since 2009 and it's great at 2D spites games. It has box 2D built in too.

You can code in BASIC or use the libraries from C++.

www.appgamekit.com

Just the other day someone posted this great Defender remake which he coded in the BASIC script; http://youtu.be/l50amgFImKc

Cheers,

Rick

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