Sunday, September 7, 2014

Construct 2 Game Development by Example (Book Review)

I've been on an extended vacation traveling around the country, visiting old friends, and thinking what I want to do next with this blog. I've written more than 100 posts and published a 400 page Kindle book on Amazon, all focused on Firefox OS.

Well, I'm back, but I'm going to go away for another month. However, I just wanted to review an important book on Construct 2. As you know, I've written several posts on Construct 2 because it is an ideal quick way to write games for Firefox OS without a lot of coding. Drag and drop, fill in a few forms, and you're game is ready for the Marketplace.

However, there has only been one book on Construct 2, HTML5 Game Development from the Ground Up with Construct 2, by Roberto Dillon, published by CRC Press. I've read it but I could never wrap my head around it. It might be because the book covers making odd games that don't really connect. I feel like the author had never made games and the book just seems slow. That's not very analytical, but I just haven't been able to get into it. I find I just don't want to spend the time analyzing why a book doesn't work. One fact that has bothered me is that the version that they provided for Anazon Kindle doesn't navigate very well. It reads more like a PDF. Ugh!

And there's one other book that is cool, called Construct Game Development: Beginner's Guide, by Daven Bigelow, published by Packt Publishing. It looks very cool, but unfortunately covers the original Construct Classic. Unfortunate because the creators have moved on and Construct 2 is the drag-and-drop HTML5 game engine you want to use. Construct Classic was focused on DirectX but the creators wisely moved on to HTML5, allowing you to produce games that can run on not just Windows, but a big list of other platforms. How big? Would you believe: HTML5 for any Web browser, Wii U, iOS, Android, Windows 8 & Windows RT, Windows Phone 8, Windows Desktop, Mac Desktop, Linux Desktop, Blackberry 10, Firefox OS Marketplace (yay!), Tizen, Facebook, Chrome Web Store, and Amazon Appstore.

Lucky for the world, Packt Publishing decided to put out a book on Construct 2 and they chose a great author to do it; John Bura. The book is Construct 2 Game Development by Example and it just came out in June. For some reason, Packt asked me to review it and they sent me a free copy, so take that as a disclaimer. But I would happily pay $21.60 for the eBook from Packt or even happier to pay Amazon $16.54 for the eBook and $39.87 for the paperback from Amazon.

Why am I pleased to see that the author is John Bura? Well, John is one of those amazingly busy guys who do all kinds of things. I know of him from his amazing videos on Udemy ( and in particular, a video class called Learn to Make HTML5 , Facebook, Chrome Store games and more! The class is an amazing 31 hours of lecture broken out into 432 segments. Most of the class covers using Construct 2 but also includes 40 lectures on using FL Studio to make Mega Man game music and even a sequence on Game Salad for iOS. The class is $199 right now but is often discounted and John has a lot of other classes on various game programming aspects.

So when he writes a book, I'm excited because I know that he understands Construct 2 well. I never felt that way about the Roberto Dillon book, but after watching hours of fun and interesting video, I know that he knows! And anyone who likes FL Studio is cool as well. The two products (Construct 2 and FL Studio) are similar in that they help you create things fast.

So what's in Mr. Bura's book? Here's the outline:

Chapter 1 - Getting Started with Construct 2
Chapter 2 - Inputs and Controls
Chapter 3 - Variables and Arrays
Chapter 4 - Game Mechanics
Chapter 5 - Making a Simple Shooter
Chapter 6 - Making a Tower Defense Game
Chapter 7 - Making a Puzzle Physics Game
Chapter 8 - Exporting Your Game
Appendix - Where to Go from Here

Keep in mind that this book is clearly aimed at beginners. If you are an advanced programmer who likes to code by hand, you probably won't read this book. Most of my posts are advanced HTML5 programming based, but I've come to realize that is Firefox OS (and HTML5) is to grow, people who are artists and creatives need to be able to sit down and make a game. 

Here's a quick breakdown by chapter:

Chapter 1 - Getting Started with Construct 2

This is a brief chapter that introduces you to Construct and tells you how to download it. If you need more information, the Construct 2 site is extremely helpful at The only thing  might have mentioned a bit more about is the licensing terms of Free, Personal, and Business, but you can read about it at I think it's always good to know that you can use Construct 2 as a free version but are limited to a fixed number of events and a few other things. I'm assuming that all the examples work fine in the free version.

Bura doesn't give you a step-by-step guide to installation, but that's maybe okay. It's pretty easy! And you can find it at the Construct 2 site at

The rest of the chapter covers basic concepts of how Construct 2 works and will get you comfortable without actually having to do anything.

Chapter 2 - Inputs and Controls

Most programming books would start Chapter 2 with some game programming, something like paddleball. However, John wisely walks you through the concepts and issues of using a keyboard, mouse, and touch for games. This is something that often just gets thrown in, but it is the fundamental part of every game. If you don't have a control of some kind (keyboard, mouse, or touch), you don't have a game. I particularly like him including touch, which is necessary for mobile gaming like Firefox OS. 

The chapter might be confusing for some because he doesn't use real code examples and doesn't show you how to set up a project so you can test the small examples. But if you read it just for the concepts, you're okay. 

Often readers want to just get started making things, but I like the idea of talking about some basics before you start programming, even when the programming is easier, such as Construct 2.

Chapter 3 - Variables and Arrays

This is a straight-forward chapter that you may think you want to skip if you've had any programming. But keep in mind two things. Not everyone may know about variables and arrays because Construct 2 is aimed at true beginners. And secondly, Construct 2 handles variables and arrays a little bit differently because it is not a straight programming language. You can create lots of games without understanding variables and even more without arrays. And I've noticed over the two years I've been playing with Construct 2 that one of the frequent questions on the excellent Construct 2 forum is "How do arrays work?" So give it a read even if you are a rock star programmer.

Chapter 4 - Game Mechanics

John defines game mechanics as "... how a game works and how a game feels." Again, this book is aimed at beginners and people who are non-programmers (and people like me who are in a hurry). He lists a few game mechanics:
  • Running 
  • Jumping 
  • Score keeping 
  • Shooting 
  • Lives 
  • Health 
  • Physics
You get the idea. Mechanics are something people often know, but I personally love looking at game mechanics and I might even write a book on it using Construct 2 for examples! One of my favorite places for game mechanics actually covers board games, but it is really deep (but that makes sense since board games have been around a long, long time). If you want to see amazing lists of abstract game mechanics, check out 51 basic mechanics at

Anyway, John talks about game mechanics for video games and also touches on emotions, which is good because that's what games are really about. Now I would write a whole book about it, but not for beginners, but John covers the basics. After these first four chapters, you will be ready to create a game. 

Chapter 5 - Making a Simple Shooter

I hope all readers were patient and read through the first four chapters. If they did, they will be well prepared for making a real game. John doesn't skimp here. This is an excellent, detailed walkthrough on how to spawn enemies, shoot them with bullets, and survive! The explanation is crystal clear and very good. He covers keyboard and mouse, but not touch. This is a very simple game and the graphics are just circles and squares, but you can definitely take what he's given you and make shooting games. 

Chapter 6 - Making a Tower Defense Game

This chapter would make me buy the book even if I didn't know what Construct 2 was. There are lots of books that include details on how to make a shooter, but I haven't seen any that explain how to do Tower Defense. That might be because Tower Defense is a newer type of game. John suggests that you Google "Tower Defense" if you don't know what that is, and there are lots of neat Tower Defense games you can play for free. Essentially you have bad guys invading your land and you set up towers to defend your land. This is more of a strategy game than an action game, but each round is quick and its fun to see if your defenses can stop the enemy.

John shows you how to use touch for this game and that is very useful. Again, he does a great job of walking you through the many steps needed to make a more complex game, but I never felt lost while he was doing that, and that may because he never goes more than a short paragraph without showing you a screenshot of what you must do for that step. A book like this is heavy on the screenshots, but that's what you need because Construct 2 is primarily visual. 

For example, I wrote a recent post on how to do a very simple platform game using Construct 2 and it used almost 30 screenshots! That's a lot and I'm surprised Google didn't complain. You can read my post at So I am saying that he did a good job because it's hard to juggle all those screenshots!

Definitely I am going to follow his chapter and see if I can make a nifty Tower Defense game. But there is another game to come.

Chapter 7 - Making a Puzzle Physics Game

One of the things that sets Construct 2 ahead of just coding it yourself is that it has a lot of physics you can use. What is physics? It's giving each object properties that correspond to objects in the real world. If a ball hits a tall block, the ball will bounce off, and the block will start to shake. If you hit it hard enough, the block will fall over. 

One of the reasons that Angry Birds was so popular was that it was one of the first games that used physics in a really great way. It was fun to shoot birds at the blocky buildings and see if you could do it in just the right way to make the blocks fall and crush the pigs. 

Well, this chapter is how to do something like Angry Birds. No birds, no pigs, but you have a cannon and you have blocks that you will shoot at. And here's a picture from the book to give you the idea:

He adds a goal ball on top of the towers that you want to fall down when your cannon ball hits the towers:

Pretty cool, huh? Like I said earlier, I've seen a lot of shooter coverage in various game programming books (I've probably bought them all), but I have never seen Tower Defense or Angry Birds.

The reason for this is that programming these examples would take hundreds of lines of code but Construct 2 can do it with some drag and drop, a few variables, add this and that, and you're done. 

So there's only three games here, but games two and three are really good examples and definitely not trivial. I can't emphasize enough how well John Bura explains each step as you go along. 

Again, I would never think of creating an Angry Birds type of game but I might now. Of course there are a thousand variations but the physics are there for the taking. Annoyed Protozoa, anyone?

Chapter 8 - Exporting Your Game

As I explained earlier in this post, Construct 2 can create games for 16 platforms and the number is growing all the time. Right now the export for Firefox OS is perfect and the export for iOS and Android needs a little work, but the rest are pretty good. 

Chapter 8 covers exporting to several platforms but some of what he's written has already changed as Construct 2 and the platforms change. But this chapter will give you a glimpse on what to do and where. Construct 2 has great tutorials for exporting to each platform and the tutorials are updated frequently and written by the Construct 2 gurus.

Appendix - Where to Go From Here

The appendix is simply a short talk on how to think about game design and what to do next. No biggy but certainly worth a quick glance. He does give the valuable advice to work on small games that you can do instead of trying to compete with the big game companies. He talks a little bit about his own game company (Mammoth Interactive) and closes with some good tips.

My Summary

I can really recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn Construct 2 quickly and easily. The flow of ideas is good, the games are actually ones you might want to create and expand upon. The book is reasonably priced and you won't be sorry you bought it!

I won't rate this book, I'll just say buy it. Recommended! You can get more information about it from the wonderful folks at Packt at

What's Next for Bob?

I'm heading out in search of a few more long-lost friends and should be back at blog-making by October 1st. Unless, according to Fred Hoyle, October the First Is Too Late. But around then. 

What's better than obscure old science fiction titles? How about The Gods Hate Kansas? 

Which later had a paper back edition in 1964. But I digress.

I'm thinking about doing two different things:

1. Write a real-live RPG in HTML5 native code for the Firefox OS tablet and then use "Responsive Game Design" to shrink it down to a few different Firefox OS phones. 

2 . Start working on a Construct 2 game mechanics series. There's a lot of interesting stuff in Construct 2 that could use some detailed explanation, especially in terms of what techniques work most efficiently. 

Until then, stay tuned, but not iTuned!

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