Befuddled wannabe games maker
June 25, 2008 5:45 AM   Subscribe

Ignoramus wants to make games for his Mac. Adobe Actionscript, Cocoa... What choices do I have?

I've got an itch to scratch. I want to be like the Oliver twins. I want to make games for my Mac. Thing is, I don't know how.

I know a little BBC BASIC -- that's the limit of my programming knowledge. I want to make simple, 2D games; ones that hark back to the halcyon 8-bit days. Think, 'Chucky Egg'; four colours, and blocky graphics.

My research has led me to two options:

1. Cocoa. (i.e. learn Obj-C)

2. Adobe Actionscript.

It seems that Cocoa is great for applications and such, but when it comes to games programming, it looks to get a little tricky. I'd be easily put off.

On the other hand, Adobe Actionscript seems like the perfect tool for what I want to do -- looks like alot less work on the graphics side of things -- and there's plenty of resources on the net. The thing is, Flash is so darn expensive! £550! Doesn't it come in cheaper versions?

Being a poor hobbyist, it looks like Flash would be out of the question and I would have no choice but to turn to X-Code.

What do I do? Where do I turn? Which tool should I choose? Does anyone know any better?
posted by popcassady to Computers & Internet (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It only costs money to use the Adobe dev environment for flash/actionscript. Actionscript itself can be downloaded and developed in for free with a text editor or other os dev environment. I recommend obtaining a copy of the ActionScript 3.0 Cookbook which tells you how to set up the compiler and is a pretty good tutorial.
posted by norabarnacl3 at 6:03 AM on June 25, 2008

posted by Scoo at 6:15 AM on June 25, 2008

Oops, you said 2d. Game Maker is being ported to the Mac, a beta may be available as early as July. Windows version runs great in VMWare Fusion or Parallels, but you may not want to devote multiple gigabytes for the windows file to run it....

Power Game Factory is for creating side scrolling platformers only, and seems to be in hibernation development-wise, but it's cheap and requires no coding.
posted by Scoo at 6:25 AM on June 25, 2008

Pygame works on Mac OS X and is pretty cool.
posted by hattifattener at 7:31 AM on June 25, 2008

Actionscript is great, but if you're not buying the CS3/timeline version, you're going to be immediately jumping into a lot of code -- which is fine and possibly even preferable if you have experience doing so (it's a pain, imho, to do coding in CS3 itself), but you lose all the nice timeline tools for making animations, libraries, etc. I guess what I'm saying is if you don't have any exposure to OO development you're going to want to get the 30-day trial of Flash and try to at least get your head around as many concepts as possible while using CS3 to help you create scaffolding before you jump into pure AS3 development. Still, I have a feeling that Actionscript is going to be a lot more forgiving to you than objective-c.

There are many options for compiling AS3 outside of Flash -- like norabarnacl has mentioned, the SDK itself is free. You will be missing some of the animation transitions that Flash provides, but you can use a Tweening library for that.

Many people have been happy using FlashDevelop, which is free, but Windows-only.

I'd also recommend flipping through the projects page. osflash lists open source flash tools.
posted by fishfucker at 8:30 AM on June 25, 2008

Oh, and I forgot the extremely cool Scratch project from the MIT Media Lab. The downside here is the lack of ability to create standalone apps on the Mac side, although they have a YouTube like app sharing section on their web site (apps are Java evidently).
posted by Scoo at 8:48 AM on June 25, 2008

I know some guys who make games with Unity, and they tell me it rocks hard. Their games are certainly awesome. However, getting started does require licensing their toolkit, which ain't cheap.

Actionscript is -very- accessible. It's been so long since I learned programming from scratch that I'm having difficulty estimating what it would be like to learn Actionscript and how to compile with the Flex SDK's mxmlc from scratch, but I imagine it's on par with other languages, and the API strikes a good balance of simple/powerful. I just went through the getting-started process with AS (without the flash IDE), so mefi-mail me if you want and I'll shoot you some links/process documentation for getting mxmlc up and running. It's probably the simplest/cheapest option.
posted by Alterscape at 9:13 AM on June 25, 2008

I checked out Pygame, and I really like the look of it -- Python code doesn't look all that bad (Curly brackets make me feel uneasy) and it seems like a useful language to know.

So, unless anyone persuades me otherwise, I think that's the path I'll follow.
posted by popcassady at 11:45 AM on June 25, 2008

the other unmentioned upside of Flash games is the simple distribution channel -- make your game, upload it to kongregate or new grounds and get immediate feedback, plus players. Also easier to monetize via those channels (and mochiads), although the returns are still quite low. if you're building games, you might not care about monetization (and most of the individual indie game devs I've talked to have said you *can't* do it for the money -- it's just not there), but you probably will care about getting an audience to play your game.

if you're looking for utility as far as building a career in games, i'd expect many more people would be willing to pay you for a Flash casual game over a Python one. casual gaming is something like a billion dollar industry these days -- it's big business. I also suspect that you'll get more immediate results with Flash which means it'll be less frustrating for you to pick up. A quick glance at the pygame intro reveals that it operates on what i'd consider a much lower-level than Flash generally does, so you're going to have to manage a lot of stuff that Flash typically does for you -- whereas Flash lets you baby-step into working with more advanced graphics techniques. Still, you know your own capacity for programming and slogging through problems better than i do.

So there's my argument for Flash. Still, know this: Python is pretty damn awesome and is getting to be pretty widely used in web dev these days (if you have any interest), so it's not a bad choice by any means. I like it as much as I like as3. it's a great swiss-army-knife language to know -- you'll have fun either way.
posted by fishfucker at 5:23 PM on June 25, 2008

You might also check pyglet which is newer but, I think, has more potential (on the long run) than pygame.
posted by aroberge at 7:17 PM on June 25, 2008

« Older Flick-pliers? WANT!!!   |   Small ones up top, Big ones down below. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.