During this time of reflection, relaxing, and renewed goals, we like to spend time with our families and friends and unwind after a long year. Eventually, you’ll be asked about technology because you are the resident ‘computer person’ in the family and lately we’ve been fielding a lot of questions about coding. Where to go, which language to learn, what tools to use, etc.
I always start with this question: why do you want to code? The answer to this question will steer you in many directions, such as coding for mobile, coding for IoT, coding for database or websites, etc. The tools, language, and focus of your learning is slightly different for each one, so it’s important to have an idea going in.
For most of my younger friends and cousins, there is a strong desire around videogame development. And to that end, it is almost a 100% focus on mobile gaming because that’s where the casual gamers are at and they see a chance to make a dent with their ideas. So where does a person start to make mobile games if they’ve never coded before?
1. Swift Playgrounds for iOS
This incredible free iOS app is built from the ground up by Apple to teach the Swift coding language in a very fun, game-like environment. Swift is a quickly maturing open source language used in the development of iOS applications and this app will take you through the basics and challenge you along the way. I recommend this app to people just starting out with game coding, and it will give you a great sense of what coding in Swift is about and how you can use it to make games. And because Swift is open source, there are many ways you can apply this code to many other apps, even using it to make an Android version of your app!
2. Hour of Code Tutorials
The Hour of Code is an initiative to get every person to try coding for at least 1 hour. They have laid out a lot of different tutorials for people of all ages to try, many of them being games! If you are new to coding, these tutorials are a great place to start and give you a good idea about how you can manipulate the code to make the games do what you want. Many of the projects have a creative aspect too, which will focus on character design and graphics, which is where I find a lot of people enjoying doing more than the coding. Most successful teams and game developers need people who are both good at code and graphic design to create an exciting experience.
3. Stencyl / GameSalad / GameBlox
If you are having fun with code and are ready to start making an original game with your ideas, it’s time to start building your idea in a game engine. Websites like Stencyl, GameSalad, and GameBlox use block coding to make development easier so you can focus more on the graphics and design of your game world and worry less about the underlying code. By using ‘blocks’ to represent large chunks of code, these tools can make building your game easier by giving you access to complex commands in an easy to use manner by dragging and dropping the code to make it do what you want.
4. GameMaker Studio / Unity Game Engine
A step up from block coding in both complexity and features, these full featured game environments are more complicated but allow you to code and build a more advanced game by giving you access to better graphic and development tools. You’ll notice some of the top games on mobile are created using these tools, so they are very much ready for professional developers but can be used for free by people just starting out. However, tools like the Unity Game Engine and GameMaker Studio require you to learn new code languages and have a grasp for the way everything fits together, so they can be daunting to beginners. As I’ll mention below, there is an almost endless stream of help and tutorials for these platforms, so you shouldn’t be stuck for long. When you get comfortable, though, these tools allow you to take your game to the next level all the way to the app stores so you can unleash your awesome creations to the world.
5. YOUTUBE AND VIDEO!
Regardless of which tools or code languages you want to learn, there are thousands of tutorials on Youtube and video sites that can help you get started or solve problems you are having. Help is just a good search away. The open nature of modern game development means that everyone is sharing tips, sample code, and ideas to help you make more exciting games, so you should never be stuck for too long. From help forums and tutorials to demo games and assets, there is always somebody willing to help point you in the right direction, so don’t be afraid to ask, we were all beginners at some point!