Mobile Mavens

Are codeless development tools making the mobile indie development scene stronger?

Are codeless development tools making the mobile indie development scene stronger?

The topic of codeless development tools, which allow people without programming knowledge to make games and programs, is controversial.

While some developers argue that it opens development up to a new range of people, others say that the tools are simply not good enough, or that coding is "purer".

But rather than rely on hearsay, and with the popularity of tools like Buildbox and Game Maker only increasing, we decided to ask our Indie Mavens about the tools.

Specifically, we asked:

  • Do you think that the rise of codeless game making tools like Buildbox and Game Maker is making the indie development scene stronger?

 

Ben Murch Co-Founder Perchang

I vote stronger! Much stronger!

If only there were tools like Buildbox and Game Maker when I was a youngster, and something like the App Store to release stuff on... life would have been sweet!

I guess the closest we had was level editors that shipped with games.

My friends and I would make Half-Life multiplayer maps and then hop online to play them.

Still, a fair knowledge of scripting was necessary to do anything worthwhile. If I could have had something even simpler to use, then I could have focussed on making games and honing that craft, rather than spending hours on "How do I make this glass breakable?".

The good thing about coming from that grass-roots background is that I have good understanding in lots of different sections of creating games. That learning aspect seems to be a bit lost in recent years by having tools that do everything for you.

Anything that gets more people into making games is a good thing.
Ben Murch

My background and understanding of how games work has given me greater creative freedom in solving problems that arise in developing games today.

Then again, I don't really know how a microwave works, but I can still use it to make popcorn... so perhaps "lost knowledge" is not an issue.

Anything that gets more people into making games is a good thing in my books. We'll see more creativity, more freedom, and more games! That can only be for the better!

Aaron Fothergill Co-founder Strange Flavour

Having been heavily involved with STOS and AMOS on the ST/Amiga scene in the 1990s, running both the STOS and AMOS clubs and supporting the wave of new game developers who were suddenly finding a way in to the scene, I know from experience that tools like this always help boost the development scene.

Essentially they help game designers that aren’t necessarily strong coders (or who are scared about the idea of learning to code) get over that hurdle and actually try game design.

Most will fail horribly (and become producers or go into marketing…), but all learn something, and a decent number actually find out they can create something playable.

The end result is more games get played and game designers that want to go further have a bit more confidence and experience.

Travis Ryan Studio Head Dumpling Design

Absolutely. Any tools that allow a keen creator to jump right in and express their ideas with minimal barrier to entry is a huge win in our industry.

Obviously as ambitions grow the limitations of these tools surface - you might want to rethink building the next Overwatch in GameMaker - but I believe these limitations are a huge plus for developers, helping to keep focused and within technical means, two traits that’ll set you up well when considering mobile play.

While tools and tech will always evolve, imagination and understanding how to put things together remain a constant.

These sorts of tools go a long way to getting people into that process, which we’re seeing with engines such as GameMaker used to translate raw passion into cracking games like Downwell - Moppin’s first game, self-taught.

Mike Rose PR Manager and Developer Relations Ripstone

Codeless game making tools are why I'm part of the games industry in the first place.

When I was a kid I made hundreds of games using tools like Klik n Play, The Games Factory etc, and they really spurred me on to what to be part of the industry.

So yeah, it'll definitely make the scene stronger, because it'll help bring in people who otherwise wouldn't have been able to make games.

Pierre-Luc Vettier CEO Zero Games Studios

I really have mixed feelings about this.

For sure, having codeless game making tools is wonderful for all talented game designers and artists who want to give life to their ideas and create very cool tiny games or test new concepts.

But in another way, I think these tools will also increase the number of people making very bad clones of existing games you can find on mobile or PC stores, in an already overwhelmed market.

I'm not directly concerned by this, but it's already a difficult task to put original games ahead of competition for many indie studios.

So having people copying your ideas with these kinds of tools (even if the copy is bad) must not be a very good feeling.

Matthew Annal MD Nitrome

Nitrome used to make Flash games for browsers, and it was a part of the games industry that had a similar stigmatism.

People saw games that were made in Flash as being too amateurish and inferior to the 'real games industry'.

A great game is great game regardless of the technology it is made in.
Mat Annal

It was true that there are many, many terrible Flash games out there but also many great ones too.

I don't believe this was down to the technology though as much as it was the marketplace which, in the web's case, was open to everyone.

Mobile is almost as open to all as the web, and while it is true that making it easier to make a game for mobile with cordless frameworks may result in more rubbish apps, it is really already highly flooded, and that's down to the marketplace rather than the technology.

At the end of the day, a great game is great game regardless of the technology it is made in.

The end user will not care what it has been made in and if it used a codeless framework or not... they will just care if it is a great game!

Sebastian Lindén CEO & Creative Director Qaos Games

Yes, I do. I don't think it's a matter of which game engine or technology the game is made with, but instead how the developer (or designer) masters the technology and makes the best out of it.

After trying Buildbox, I think there are still some restrictions in what you are able to develop. However, as more developers and designers start using codeless tools, possibilities are endless.

Any tool that enhances creativity for game development, whether it's meant for designers or developers, will strengthen the indie scene.

Dan Menard CEO Double Stallion

Having more tools is always better, and having access to more powerful editors is good for experienced devs and new devs as well.

The biggest risk is hitching your wagon to a technology that breaks when you get close to launch.
Dan Menard

Codeless tools are awesome for rapid prototyping and testing out a design at low cost.

The only caveat to these tools is that you surrender the tech to someone else, which means you are tied with their success or failure.

Our studio started with XNA and that was great, but we couldn't do anything about Microsoft killing the framework.

When the stakes are high, and you have paying customers that expect a stable and consistent experience, knowing how to program and having a solid understand of the technology you are working with helps a lot.

The biggest risk is hitching your wagon to a technology that breaks when you get close to launch. That's when performance, memory, localization, etc. begin to matter, and that's where these codeless tools have the least support.

We tend to be cautious about adopting new tech for this reason.

Tanya Short Creative Director Kitfox Games

Codeless tools can help new kinds of people express themselves.
Tanya Short

Twine has been an incredibly empowering gift for writers with an interest in interactive fiction, and is surprisingly powerful if you decide to learn Javascript.

It's a great example of how codeless tools can help new kinds of people express themselves in our artistic medium.

Games would be extremely boring if only one kind of person made them, or only one kind of person played them.

There are down-sides from a capitalist, business perspective, but I think the cultural positives outweigh the negatives.

Molly Heady-Carroll Co-founder & Lead Artist Arcane Circus

Codeless tools make game development more accessible. More developers from different backgrounds means fresh perspectives and new experiences being put into those games.

Codeless tools absolutely strengthen the indie development scene!
Molly Heady-Carroll

Therefore, more accessible tools make it more likely for video games to cover more ground and expand as a medium. So yes, codeless tools absolutely strengthen the indie development scene!

I would also like to give a practical example of how GameMaker has helped us here at Arcane Circus:

In Crap! I’m Broke: Out of Pocket (our current project at Arcane Circus), there are several unlockable micro-games.

Due to Erik’s heavy development workload, it was my task to design, prototype and test these micro-games.

I am a professional 2D artist with an interest in game design: I love to develop tiny, simple games, but I have no interest in becoming a professional coder.

Thanks to GameMaker, I was able to design, develop, export, test and refine the prototypes for the micro games all by myself without having to take precious time out of Erik’s schedule.

This would have been impossible without a codeless game development tool.

Speaking from this experience, I think all disciplines in the games industry can benefit from familiarizing themselves with other element of game creation.

For visual artists specifically, making a couple of games in a codeless tool is a great way to familiarize oneself with the process and possibilities of coding.

It helps you gain an appreciation for what goes into a coding and helps contextualize the discipline that you work in.

This means better collaboration, which can also strengthen the indie development scene.

Simon Joslin Creative Director The Voxel Agents

I wholeheartedly agree with those that have commented that codeless tools enable and empower more people to make games, and thereby are directly responsible for growing the variety, depth and innovation in the indie space.

Without these codeless tools, a few developers I know that had no previous formal coding training wouldn't be making awesome games, own their own, and bringing their ideas to life, and that would be a real shame.

Codeless tools are a stepping stone to more powerful and better environments over the long term.
Simon Joslin

I believe that the codeless tools are a stepping stone to more powerful and better environments over the long term. It can take years to master a simple toolset, and it can satisfy your creative powers for years to come.

I also think it's often a lot easier to execute your ideas when your toolset is restrained – i.e. you do more with less. For less experienced developers, this is actually helpful.

You will only need to learn a more complete toolset when you are feeling constrained and held back by the toolset. But fortunately, with the knowledge you've gathered and mastered, you are now able to tackle a more complex toolset with a steeper learning curve.

I started with Flash personally, and I don't regret learning to make games with Flash. It fared me well when I was just starting out.

It let me learn to execute simple ideas and get them finished, rather than picking off some huge idea that I never would have finished. I learnt a great deal, and now attempt more complex ideas, building upon all that prior knowledge.

Great ideas exist at all points along the complexity spectrum. Great games that push our medium forward come at all levels of complexity, and innovate in all matter of ways; technical/design/art etc.

There's no doubt we've seen a lot of innovation happen since simpler smaller games came back in fashion with mobile, and I would argue the simpler toolsets should take some credit for enabling the rapid pace of innovation.


Deputy Editor

Ric has written for PocketGamer.biz for as long as he can remember, and is now Deputy Editor. He likes trains.

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Kawuma Abel
I quote:
"If only there were tools like Buildbox and Game Maker when I was a youngster, and something like the App Store to release stuff on... life would have been sweet!" - Ben Murch, Rodeo Games

But lets try to be sincere and not get too sarcastic, Ben Murch, Rodeo Games, save for Game Maker, but as a youngster, would you really be able to raise $2700 for the buildbox app, just try to think yourself way back not where you stand right now, or are you simply supporting the cracker community, who are trying to do their best to avail this tool to the youngsters free of charge. Guys. I love buildbox, its a great tool like I had never seen before, and looking forward to more codeless features from the app. but save for marketing sake, you guys are being more exaggerating on its abilities and the pricing.
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