These days there are many programs and SDK’s to choose from for creating your own game. Some have a steeper learning curve than others, and depending on what you’re making some are simply better tailored for the task at hand. For those looking to do a more narrative-driven game, such as a visual novel, this is no different. This week’s posting will focus on two programs I’ve tried out, and one ultimately came out as winner.
This doesn’t mean the “losing” program is a bad program. I mainly want to address their strengths and weaknesses for other devs out there, especially those starting out and grasping for feedback from other devs who have used them in the past. With that said, let’s get to the nitty gritty!
For my game, I wanted something that could publish onto both PC and mobile platforms. Because of that, I definitely wanted an SDK that would publish onto mobile as well as PC via web browser. Even before I entered my graduate program, I have been recommended Ren’py, but of course at that time the mobile space had just been picking up, and so when I did decide to buckle down to make this game, Ren’py had not yet released a way to publish onto mobile. After some digging, I leaned towards Construct 2 and tried that out for a few days.
(There also is a third program my fellow friend and collaborator Daggertail is using, which is Novelty. I will not be reviewing it though since I don’t use it, but it’s also highly recommended and very easy to learn. It does not export to mobile at this time though.)
CONSTRUCT 2 (https://www.scirra.com/construct2)
The awesome thing about Construct 2 is that its licensing fee is very easy to obtain and follow, depending on what you’re building your game for and where. PC is free to make since it exports with HTML5 and WebGL, however to make mobile games/apps you will need a Personal license (USD $119), and if it makes over USD$5000 in profit you will have to upgrade to the Business license (USD$399). By the way, unlike other services like Adobe Creative Cloud, these fees are one-time only!
The SDK’s site also offers great tutorials for all skill levels, although the ones built into the program itself are incredibly helpful and powerful. Virtually almost every game and app you can think of has its basics outlined in the tutorials; platformers, shooters, top-down dungeon crawlers, etc.
Although an understanding of basic OOC (object-oriented code) is helpful, the interface of the program is very drag-and-drop and menu-based. Much of what you’ll be doing is maneuvering what variable does what and when, and selecting options. It’s very easy to follow and has a good learning curve for beginners to get into.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t have the polish for a visual novel, unless you’re an expert with the program or want to sit down and figure out how to work it yourself. Regardless, it is a great way to make a quick prototype of any game. If you like your end product of your visual novel to have that nice polish and little details, but don’t like to program or dig through too much tutorials to find what you’re looking to do, you may wanna steer clear of Construct 2 until you feel more comfortable with the program.
Simply put, while it can make other games such as those I had listed, it needs more fine-tuning for it to be as efficient with visual novels. I quickly found myself struggling to do what I wanted it to do, and time was not on my side.
But then I found out Ren’py got a patch that could export to Android, and that’s where this next part comes in.
Ah, good old Ren’py. Prior to June of this year, this program only published onto PC. Thanks to its new exporting feature, RAPT, it can now publish onto the Android market as well! Using and publishing games with Ren’py is free, however you’ll need to purchase the fee over at Android’s end for releasing it onto mobile (USD$25; it appears to be one-time as well but please correct me!). If you don’t mind not having a release on the App Store, you’ll be happy as a clam.
Like Construct 2, Ren’py’s documentation and built-in tutorials are incredibly powerful, despite the fact that it’s dedicated primarily on visual novels and other simulations. With more tailoring, you could turn it into other puzzle games as well. Whereas the other uses HTML5 and WebGL, Ren’py is run by Python, but has its own language that the developer can use to create their own games. While only changing interface skins are done with a simple menu, everything else is hard-coded.
If you know basic OOC, you’ll have no problem diving into Ren’py, but if you don’t do much programming at all or are new to it, I would highly recommend tinkering with the tutorial files, and playing around with the variables as shown in their documentation first. Compared to most other OOC’s out there though, Ren’py’s is incredibly easy to grasp. It took me a whole semester or two to get into Lua when I was using CoronaSDK, and I still haven’t scratched its surface.
After sitting down with Ren’py for a day, I was able to catch up with what I had built back with Construct 2 for my game and then some, and that’s including adding my typeface and adjusting the settings! It was such a breeze that I simply haven’t bothered to go anywhere else to make my game.
With that said, the verdict is in favor of Ren’py for this cagematch! Construct 2 is a fantastic program and I still highly recommend it, however if you’re looking to make a visual novel with no fuss to worry about, Ren’py is what you want. If coding really drives you bonkers though, Novelty is a bit of a marriage of the other two – its interface is more menu-driven like Construct 2, but it has powerful features like Ren’py does (it doesn’t publish onto mobile though).
I hope this post has helped your decision on your SDK of choice! Maybe in the future I will do more program/SDK comparisons, but we’ll see. As it is I realized the modern Windows Movie Maker for Windows 8 is horrible, and I had to reinstall a trial of Adobe After Effects in order to do some simple video compilations. That itself has its own learning curve, but I’ve used it several times in the past so it was cake for me.
With that said though, I am open to suggestions! Next week’s post will be something more design-related, so if you like that sort of thing I hope you dig it! Thanks for reading and take care!