The VICE Channels

    How to Make a Game in 2013: Don't Fear the Code

    Written by

    Colin Snyder


    If the first step to making a game this year is to start playing a lot of games and talking about them with others, your next move is to start coding and filling up your tool box. Relax. You'll do just fine.  

    Creating games can be intimidating, sure. Many people who otherwise consider themselves "creative" don’t see themselves as being capable computer programmers. And as creative software tools have continued being used by more artists, musicians, and designers over the years, game-creation tools seems to have stayed in the shadows, with games remaining the preserve of right-brained elites for many years.

    Of course, that has been slowly changing at the same time--there's now are a plethora of tools for game developers to cut their teeth on. As with many creative software tools, they often come at a steep price. Even the most democratic of game-creation software engines like GameMaker and Unity offer free versions to use, but the cost of using them at full functionality might be too steep for the uninitiated.


    'You can do whatever you want with it'

    Ivan Safrin doesn’t like that. Safrin is a local New York City game developer, and the man behind Polycode, a soon-to-be released open source framework for creative coding. 

    With the introduction of free-to-use tools like Polycode, barriers and the cost of entry to allow people to find their voice in game creation are crumbling. At its core, Polycode is a cross-platform C++ library that puts a lot of stuff you’d need, like 2- or 3-D graphics, sound, physics, or networking into one easily accessible package. It’s a standalone application that comes with everything you need to develop a game in a simple scripting language. Plus, it has a slick, user-friendly interface with visual editing tools for those code-deficient creators.

    Here is Polycode's interface, with a basic platformer game being built

    Want to export to different platforms? You’ll be able to do all of that with Polycode, if not at launch then shortly after, thanks to Safrin and the other Polycode contributors. 

    “Polycode will be released under the MIT license, which basically means that you can do whatever you want with it," Safrin told me. "It is released as open source software in hopes that it will provide free and open development tools to everyone and that people will contribute to its development and help it grow.”

    Safrin built Polycode to be both a powerful C++ engine and an accessible application that anyone can pick up and use. The hope is that it will be used to develop professional games and applications as well as be a learning and teaching tool for aspiring developers and teachers.

    Flixel was created by Adam Saltsman of Canabalt fame. He learned how to make games from Ivan Safrin

    In addition to Polycode, you'd do well to check out some other game tools that might suit you as well. Try to stick close to what you know--if you’re coming from a visual background, pick a tool with a visual interface, like Polycode. If you know ActionScript or Flash, you should check out Flixel.

    If none of this feels within your grasp, try playing some games that will help you understand the process of game design. On the Nintendo DS, pick up WarioWare D.I.Y., where a major focus of the game is giving you the tools and language you need to design your own games. It’s fun and fast paced, and will help you get your feet wet.

    Maybe you’re very proficient at what you do, but you’re not comfortable with making an entire game by yourself. If you want to bring your talent to the creation of a game, you can always sign up for Gameifesto, a social network I created to bring creative people together to make games.

    Either way, the time is now. Your move. 

    Illustration by Colin Snyder. Follow Colin at @scallopdelion