One of the cooler non-game products I demoed at E3 2010 last month was Gamesalad, a Mac-based iphone/ipad/Web game development tool made by Gendai Games that aims to put game creation within the reach of even the most casual players. So if you’ve ever played a crappy game and thought, “any idiot could have made this!” Gamesalad will let you either put up or shame you into shutting up.
Geared primarily toward non-programmers, Gamesalad allows you to program games using drag and drop, object-based technology and simple-to-understand pull down menus, essentially opening game development up to the rest of us.
Gendai’s Jon Hunt (G4 alumnus) walked me through the process of creating a game, and within 10 minutes, while standing on E3’s crowded pedestrian walkway, we’d created a working, fun Missile Command clone from scratch, complete with alien cities, exploding warheads and missile bases. I’m sure we could have worked out Frogger and Burgertime without too much trouble as well.
For our Missle Command game (I call it Steveille Command), we programmed warheads to fly from the top of the screen on random paths, and for an explosion to result any time a missile icon touches a city icon. The game’s logic system lets you assign behaviors to digital "actors" using simple pull-down menus or even dragging and dropping, plus, you can combine behaviors to power your 2D game with complicated AI. For example, if you want to make a game like Berzerk, you would import a graphics file of your robot in .PNG (or use one of Gamesalad’s pre-sets) into the system and use the menu to program him to run toward the player’s icon. If that’s too simple, you could program your ‘bot to draw fire by hiding around a corner, then approach when the player is low on ammo. You could set robots to behave differently in pairs or groups of three, or program them to attack each other. You can set aggro ranges and create a stealth game. Really, a digital actor can be assigned any combination of behaviors, allowing the creation of very complex games. You can even edit game scenes on the fly, as the levels are running.
Gamesalad’s onboard physics engine is fully customizable as well, with environments that are easily editable -- gravity is vector based per scene, and each actor has customizable density and friction, all of which are easily changed with an intuitive enough interface for non-programmers to understand.
Okay, great, so you built your fantastic new game, but what do you do with it? Gamesalad also gives you an easy way to publish it to the web or iTunes app store. The company's online games page has a ton of games made with Gamesalad you can try -- from inept tech tests to fully realized titles -- and you can publish to the iTunes store as well, where you can charge for your game, and eventually get rich. (Okay, you probably won't get rich.) Gamesalad allows cross-platforming publishing with a dialog-based interface for publishing to multiple platforms such as the iPhone, the web and the iPad, and takes care of the technical requirements you need for an app store game without you having to worry about it too much.